In all fairness…
I am writing this column right smack dab in the middle of the Jessamine County Fair.
I’m sure that many of you who have attended this year have probably spotted me walking around at the major events and taking in the people, places and things through the lens of my camera.
Truth be told, a few of those News Guy sightings likely occurred near a food vendor’s trailer indulging in a fried delicacy that a good doctor would scold me for.
Then there are the games. Those wondrously alluring little huts and trailers with all the stuffed, framed and inflated prizes to consume the lustfully wide young eyes. My eyes are not all that young or wide anymore, but those games still make me grin.
Maybe there is a pinch of confidence man in me somewhere.
Whether it is throwing darts with dull tips at balloons that are just a hair under-inflated, firing at a target with an air rifle with a barrel that may or may not be slightly crooked, shooting an over-inflated basketball at a hoop that is perhaps undersized and ever-so-slightly oval in shape or throwing a ball at a stack of bottles that could potentially be weighted, I love them every one. I like how the real skill is figuring out the mechanical workings of the game, and not just how to play it, but how to play it.
I like the way that you usually don’t win that stuffed Batman with one ticket, you win it with eight after the first seven are spent figuring out how far to the left or right you have to aim in order to actually hit the target.
Or sometimes you simply win it when a stiff gust of dumb luck blows you across the line of carnival engineering. You know, the kind used behind the back with a wink and a grin back in the good old days when you could do such dastardly things and not worry about the “Today, I’m Offended By You” crowd coming after you because someone didn’t get a prize.
I fear those good old days are on their way out, unfortunately.
As readers may be aware, carnival games have been under legal fire over the past decade, and I really do hate that.
The folks opposing their existence have managed to lump “games of chance” such as carnival and fair contests in with gambling, therefore trying to restrict the games’ legality because they feel that the limited likelihood of winning when playing is akin to gambling or playing the lottery.
The million-dollar (or two million ticket) question: “So?”
I have a bit of difficulty with the parallel between the ring toss booth at a carnival or fair to illegal gambling. Gambling can build up into a compulsive addiction that leaves people in varying degrees of destitution. Even in these ridiculous times in which we live, I cannot envision anyone on this side of puberty pursuing a stuffed Tasmanian Devil to the point of losing all of their worldly possessions to the Skee-Ball gods.
Unless, of course, that Skee-Ball player is an adolescent male with an eye on an adolescent female that thinks the stuffed Tasmanian Devil is cute. Then there may be semantics to argue.
I say leave the carnival games alone. Those games have been going on in tents and booths the world over for a long time—some of them for over a century. Why mess with them now? Why must our modern society feel the need to sterilize everything that has gone on for generations simply because there may be a bit of dirt under the fingernails?
Let folks laugh at each other over their incapabilities to land a plastic ring over a glass bottle. So you can’t send the puck all the way up to the bell when you slam the hammer down at the strength tester? Eat some Wheaties and try again next year. Or just pick up a duck instead.
To everyone who exits the fair with a stuffed or inflated prize, good for you. Enjoy it greatly, because the day may come when the only game of chance you can play to win such treasures is getting the machine to read your bank card’s strip or chip.
To me, that’s just not fair.