Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back in Weyburn

We are back in Weyburn after our exceptional holiday and I know it won't be long before we wonder if it was all a wonderful dream.

Here are some facts and opinions about our trip:

We traveled 8702 kms (5221) miles. We thank our old, reliable van for getting us to NYC and back. It has almost 400,000 kms on it so we have to wonder how many more trips it has in it.

The least we paid for gas was $3.23/American gallon and the most we paid was $3.75/American gallon.

The top 5 shows we saw were:
1. Book of Mormon
2. How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
3. Sister Act (for Bob)/Priscilla Queen of the Desert (for me)
4. Priscilla (for Bob)/ Sister Act (for me)
5. Oklahoma (seen in the round in Washington, D.C.)

We ranked the fairs to in this order:
1. Iowa
2. Wisconsin (for Bob)/ West Virginia (for me)
3. West Virginia (for Bob)/ Wisconsin (for me)
4. Illinois
5. Ohio
It was a shame that the other two fairs we planned on stopping at were
canceled: North Dakota due to massive, heart-breaking spring flooding
and Indiana due to a horrendous stage collapse with five deaths the
day before we got there.

Best fair foods :

1. Paul Bunyan burger
2. corn roasted in the husk
I have been misleading you by showing all the unusual foods sold at the fairs in that we never ate any of them except for the deep fried cheese and the deep fried buckeyes. Our "adventurous" tastes ran to kettle popcorn. lemonade, and burgers. I dare confess here that I have never had a corndog in my life and I never intend to. As we drove home the last day, we realized we hadn't even bought an elephant ear which is always a favorite of ours at the Weyburn fair. Oh, well, next year!

Best hotel: the Edison in New York
We stayed at hotels in Chicago and Washington, D.C. but they
were cheap and inadequate compared to the Edison

Best campground: K.O.A. in Middlebury, Indiana (Bob)/
Vagabond Campground in Park Rapids, MN (me)

Top 5 Highlights of the Trip:
1. Chinatown, Manhattan Rotary meeting
2. Book of Mormon on Broadway
3. Amish Country in Indiana (getting more commercialized all the time
but still a lot less commercialized than Lancaster County in PA)
4. architectural boat tour of Chicago
5. Bronx Zoo (Bob)/Tenement Museum (me)

Best Quilt Shop: Surprising Bob did not have a winner in this category.
The Old Country Store in Intercourse, PA (me)

Thanks for reading my blog!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Aug. 15: Incredible Iowa Fair & Another Butter Cow

Today we were at the last fair on our agenda, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, and it was certainly a case of leaving the best for the last. What a fair! Bob and I agreed that the layout, the stages, the food joints, the commercial areas, the carnival were second to none. The grandstand is the old, old building in the first photo.

We were wandering around and ran into the Iowa State Fair Queen and got this photo of her plus one of her and me together ... the Queen and the King, get it? However, it isn't an overly good photo of me so I'll just show you this one of her by herself. What a charming young woman.

We could have skipped the sighting of our third life-size butter cow but a man we met at breakfast was so excited by it that we felt obligated to have a look. This fair has had a life-size butter cow for 100 years and this year they had this replica of the first one ever done. Try not to think about how much butter has been wasted, er, used, to make 100 cows through the years.

In another building the local food bank had made a can cow to promote the need for donations.

Bob checked out the carnival while I checked out the weird foods and the quilts.

I loved this next one. Is the vendor trying to get people to believe that there is a healthy corndog?

Quilting ladies, this fair's competition was unbelievable. There had to be between 600 and 700 quilted pieces exhibited. The quilts were beautifully grouped and displayed behind picket fences which prevented anyone from touching them while having them at eye level. I took many, many photos.

After looking at the quilts, I spotted this sign and had to check out what was happening.

The local quilt guild which has over 500 members sponsors a sewing event for the whole length of the fair. 45" by 60" quilts are made for charity with about 270 - yes, 270 - made each year. Anyone can come in and quilt for as long as they have. The lady explained that some come for 15 minutes while others stay for 8 hours. I only had enough time to sew one binding on one quilt, but I was pleased to be part of the process.

Des Moines is very close to the little town of Winterset which is famous for three reasons: it's John Wayne's birthplace, it's where Fons and Porter have their quilt shop, and it's in Madison County which is peppered with covered bridges. I did a little shopping at Fons and Porter. I was the only customer and there was only one clerk, but while we were chatting, Marianne Fons came in with another one of her clerks. They had been over at the local ice cream shop picking up treats for their afternoon break.

We only took time to see one of the covered bridges. The little, windy road to it was scenic and the bridge was pretty. Our van was coated in Iowan dust by the time we got back onto pavement.

As we near the end of our holiday, we have been reflecting on the diversity of the places we've seen and the experiences we've had. What fun!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Aug. 14: Not Where We Thought We Would Be

Most of you have heard about the terrible tragedy at the Indiana State Fair last night. An incredible, horrible storm brought down the grandstand stage, killing 5 people and hospitalizing 40. Today stories are emerging of heroic fairgoers working to help trapped people and to create order in chaos.

We were scheduled to be at the Indiana Fair today but the fair was closed for the day to acknowledge the tragedy, and rightly so.

My driver drove on and we ended up at the Illinois State Fair earlier than planned. We drove through rain to get to it, but the weather at the fair was perfect with blue skies, hot temperatures, and cooling breezes.

This is the third of the four fairs we've attended that has had a sky ride. We took the ride over the fairgrounds in Wisconsin, but haven't in Ohio or here. The price is reasonable at $6 for a return ride and the ride carries you across the whole fairground.

Each of the fairs has had large commercial exhibit buildings and this is the one from this fair. The fairs still have large agricultural and carnival components, but the vendors that sell items are unending.

And what is it about state fairs and life-size cows made of butter? This is the second I've seen and the Iowa fair still to come advertises that it too has a butter cow. I took photos of this butter cow from all angles and thought you would like this angle best! At least this fair didn't have a sign saying the butter would be recycled.

One of the cool things about this fair is its ethnic area which has food booths from different cultural backgrounds. I ate from the French one and Bob ate from the German one. Once again we resisted the more absurd fair foods.

Yes, Bob King, lifetime lover of Coca Cola, had no desire to try the deep fried Coke. I don't blame him.

Instead we headed to one of the agricultural booths where you could get a quarter of a watermelon for $2. We shared. This was also the booth that sold "egg on a stick" for $1. Stuck into styrofoam there was an empty stick and a sign that said, "Please do not take this egg. It is for display purposes only." Now I picture the missing egg being eaten by a less-than-intelligent thief who has not figured out that the egg was probably touched by a 100 grubby fingers.

I checked out the quilts while Bob went over to the carnival. They were displayed unusually in that they were layered behind glass with only about a 12" length of each one showing. The only one totally viewable was the Best of Show. It was exquisite with a combination of applique, embroidery, crochet, and quilting.

Should Bob and I be tired of fairs yet? We're not. In fact, we are sad that we have only one more scheduled and by tomorrow evening that one too will just be a memory.

Aug. 13: Wonderful West Virginia

West Virginia has always had a special place in Bob's and my hearts, especially the area around Lewisberg. The scenery in the state is stunning and the history pre-Civil War and during the Civil War is fascinating. During our many trips to this area we have met people who are memorable and dear to us. We were so happy to be back! If Park Rapids is my favorite place in the world, then this is my second favorite place. And, sorry Royal Easter Fair of Sydney and Agricultural Fair of Weyburn, the State Fair of West Virginia is our favorite fair.

It's an incredibly well organized fair with lots to see and do. I climbed into the grandstand to take this photo of the midway.

Bob had a chance to visit with his brother Doug at the fair for Doug runs King Concert Lighting which does the grandstand staging. You can see by the phone attached to Doug's ear that it was a working day for him.

This is the grandstand stage with some of Doug's equipment set up.

While Bob and Doug visited, I went to check out the blue ribbon quilts. The quilts were hung very high, but row upon row of them made quite an impression. I have lots of photos of the best quilts plus photos of the dahlias and other flowers as well as photos of the cabinets full of eggs that were being judged (that seeing to be a popular entry), but the internet is loading my photos very slowly tonight so I'll resist posting many.

I can't resist putting the next photo in though. Lyn, I am pretty sure this is the pattern you and the other Stitchers used for your row quilts.

I really don't know if this fair had weird fair foods or not as Bob and I headed right to our favorites: corn roasted in its husk and Paul Bunyan burgers. My battery died before I got a photo of the burger. It has a meat patty, a ham slice, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and a special sauce and it is delicious. The booth has sold it for 40 years and Bob attended the fair for the first time 39 years ago. He and that burger have a lot of history. A service club roasts corn over a wood fire and serves it up with butter and salt. Yum. That area of the fairground is always teeming with people who have butter dripping off their elbows and bits of kernel hanging from their chins. Everyone just grins at the shared experience.

It was difficult to move on this evening; this state is just too good to leave.

Aug. 12: Megalopolis

It's totally amazing to be in an area of the world that is so densely populated. Today we left New York City, stopped for a visit in Philadelphia, went through Baltimore (where Bob and I looked at each other and unamimously decided NOT to break into "Good Morning, Baltimore"), and ended up in Washington, D.C. These cities are in such close proximity.

I won't say we visited an "old" friend in Philadelphia for that would be an insult to Linda. Instead, I'll say we visited a friend from a long time ago and it was so good to reaquaint.

We had tickets to the musical "Oklahoma" at a great theater in the round in Washington. The production was SO GOOD. WCS did that as its first musical under Colleen's direction and it was amazing how many lines I remembered before they were spoken. There was very creative use of props and Bob was in awe of their lighting system. It was a wonderful evening and we learned a major lesson: people in D.C. dress up way more than people do for Broadway shows!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Aug. 11: Around the Island

I'm just editing today's post upon our return from "Book of Mormon." We were standing in line next to the stage door (see above) and I noticed a young man standing just outside the line talking on his cell phone. He looked like a wannabe actor; you know, Converse runners, muscular arms, cute haircut, that look. I was feeling sorry for him thinking he wants to be a Broadway actor and can't even afford to see a Broadway show. Then he says "excuse me," goes past us through the stage door and the next time I see him, he is IN "Book of Mormon." There was my brush with fame and I missed it.

The South Park boys can write as many musicals as they want and I WILL SEE THEM. "Book of Mormon" was hilarious, irreverent, entertaining, terrific! It won the 2011 Tony Award for best show and it wins the Kinger Award for the best of the seven we saw. Bob concurs.

Rob, do you want to golf with Dad? You can do it here right on the water and you and Dad won't even have to look for water balls. Isn't this creative use of the Chelsea Pier?

Bob and I went on a three hour Circle Line boat trip around Manhattan Island. We had done this when the kids were little so let's just say we hadn't done it for a very long time. I have resisted showing too many photos of magnificent NYC because we want to meet Lyn and Colin here someday and I fear that if I show too many photos, they will say, "why meet the Kings there. We've seen everything!" Speaking of the Booths, Elizabeth, Megan stayed at the Edison when she was here.

We loved seeing the city on such a beautiful day; the skies were as clear as what we get in Saskatchewan.

The sign below and all its mates disgust me. Isn't Manhattan supposed to be a cacophony of honking? Even the Times Square area is pretty quiet which isn't something we had experienced on previous trips here. I liked the noise as a contrast to home. Vanessa, maybe you and I will have to turn Staveley into a honk zone (as opposed to a barking dog zone) so that it's still a contrast to NYC!

I had a bagel for lunch from the best bagel shop in Manhattan.

When we left the Circle Line tour, we split up as I spotted a Salvation Army thrift shop which Bob saw no reason to visit. No treasures for me, but it was interesting. Then I walked in the Clinton area, west of the Times Square area and I came across a few beautiful little gardens, each about the size of my yard. Lucky are the urbanites that live near them.

Then I headed to the Museum of American Folk Art branch up by Lincoln Center. Actually it isn't a branch now as the main museum next to MOMA closed with $34 million of debt. This museum is really small but had a lovely display of star quilts.

There was a farmers market going on nearby and a few of the booths were selling garden flowers. Leah, cut my glads and zinnias immediately and sell them; we can split the lofty profits 50-50!

Tonight is our last Broadway show. It better not disappoint us1