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  • It is every child's dream--the day the fair comes to town. With their oversized stuffed animals (birds, bears, etc.) hanging out of the tents without any shame and colorful metal poles swinging one way and another way, accompanied with gilded gold details that may or may not be real, the carnival is the place where a child's dream of what the world should be is made incarnate.

    Every year, the fair would come to town. First it would swing by grassy lawn behind St. Mary's and then it would move about fifteen miles away to the quaint downtown area of Birmingham. The guarded rails and gaudy style always seemed to clash with the artsy, yet reserved atmosphere that the city designers (and residents) were constantly striving to maintain. We usually made it to at least one of the two stops. I always wanted to try more food than my mom would let me. In particular, the elephant ears were always incredibly tempting. Elephant ears. The name alone was enough to start my head spinning. What could these strange creations look like, let alone taste like? I would see people walk away from the stand-alone deep friers with a sense of jealously rising in my heart. How come they got to indulge themselves in the glory that was a giant dish of fried pastry, sprinkled with sugary white powder, while I was stuck here with my...gum. And water. And grapes as a snack that we'd brought from back home. Although I suppose I was thankful for my mother's insistence when we were not the ones getting sick on the tilt-a-whirl.

    I was quite satisfied with my carnival experience. After all, who would want more than a couple blocks or so of this magical delight? When I moved to North Carolina in 2009, it wasn't long before my friends were pushing me to join them at the state fair. 'What is a state fair?', I wanted to know. I had no idea what they were talking about. 'Kind of like a carnival. Except really, really big. And with pig races.' Having no idea what they were talking about, I decided to give it a shot. The little city that greeted me as a crossed the entry bridge, grasping ticket in hand, was entirely overwhelming. A far cry from the quaint carnival that had graced my hometown, this barrage of every excess imaginable was a offense to my senses. The colorful lights flashes in my eyes that framed giant neon signs for any sort of deep fried anything, while the sounds of the crowd consumed my head until I was swimming in a swirling sea of colors, lights and obtrusive noises.

    The concept of a carnival is a strange one. Meant to transport people to an alternative world, where adult responsibilities are whisked away and replaced with childlike fantasies. Behavior (and spending habits) are excused for a night. To let oneself surrender to the gilded horses, and squealing pigs is perhaps the most difficult thing of all, but allows one to fully enjoy the immersing experience that is the carnival.
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