This was a review I planned on posting last week, but life unfortunately got in the way. It's not easy moving forward, but life must go on and I have to perk up and be happy again. To start, I'm going to talk about a trip we took to the New Jersey Meadowlands State Fair on July 2nd. By now, this fair has moved on, but I thought this was the perfect way to get back into the swing of things. Besides, it was a really fun day.
The Meadowlands State Fair is basically one giant carnival that takes place annually in the Metlife Stadium parking lot. For those unfamiliar with Metlife, it's home to the New York Jets and Giants. That doesn't matter, but it gives you an idea of how big this venue is and just how much they can pack in.
I had to take a picture of the general admission entrance, specifically the banner, because it's so stupid on so many levels. First of all, pronouncing "Jersey" as "Joisey" is just insulting. I don't know one person who pronounces it like that. The only time I ever hear "Joisey" is when I'm watching Boardwalk Empire or an old Bonnie & Clyde movie. Nobody says that! If they do, they're joking around. Maybe that's what the fair was doing, too. I get the play on words, but I go back to second-guessing them when I see they put the "Joy" in "Joisey." In the word itself, there is no "Joy!" They're spelled differently! I get what you're trying to say, State Fair, but I don't like it. However, you did give me something to talk about so, for that, I thank you for the Joy.
I have been to the Meadowlands State Fair plenty of times, but mostly when I was a child. My Mother used to bring me and we'd walk around with her cousins. Back then, I was bored. I didn't want to see a hypnotist or tiger shows. If it involved me, sitting down, and having to listen to a grown-up speaking, I had no interest. I wanted to go on the rides! I wanted to eat zeppole's and stay up past my bedtime. That was all I cared about on those Summer nights in, let's say, 1994. But as an adult, that's all changed.
As soon as we walked in, we knew we'd be checking out the hypnotist show. I didn't believe in it when I was a kid, and I didn't believe in it when I walked through the entrance, but maybe that would change now that I'm a more open-minded adult. I figured, I'll give it a chance. I don't see how anybody could make people fall asleep and do crazy things with nothing but the power of their voice, but I'd give the man a fair opportunity to impress me. Do you think he did? Keep reading..
We had time before the 7pm show, so we walked around the venue. The first thing that caught our eye were the white tigers. Whoa. It's hard to believe that I wasn't into them as a child, but maybe I just overlooked them. I can't imagine any kid not being impressed by these beautiful animals. At this point, they were caged up, resting before their big show, but they were clearly visible and absolutely gorgeous. When you see lions and tigers (who just said "and bears?") on television, you forget just how big they truly are. Then, when you see them up close and personal, you realize that, if you went one on one with one of these creatures, it's game over. You lose, every time.
There were plenty of amazing animals on hand, including this elephant whom you could hop on and ride around in a circle. I love elephants, I think they're so much smarter than we give them credit for. They're massive, majestic, and magical, but there was no way I was riding one. I know I did as a child, but I couldn't do it as an adult. I had flashes of "When Animals Attack" running through my mind as I watched him slowly trek around the gated area. I don't know what a happy elephant looks like, but this one looked sad. It didn't appear as though he wanted to be there and I felt bad for him. I don't know how well they're treated by their wranglers, but I've heard enough carnival and circus stories to know that some are abused. I had that feeling with this elephant and I just couldn't pay somebody who I suspected of wrong-doing. I have no evidence and I'm not making any claims, but my gut told me differently. Poor guy, he just wants to be home in Africa, not giving piggy-back rides to grown men and women.
The petting zoo was pack and always is no matter where one is. We all love feeding animals, especially ones we don't regularly see. This little guy was off-limits, but how cool is he? A baby kangaroo, specifically called a Joey, hopping around and looking for a fight. I love kangaroo's and always wanted to go to Australia to see them in their natural habitat. I'm intrigued by the way they kickbox. I've seen them knock grown men out. That's pretty impressive. I'm happy this little guy (or girl) was caged because I wasn't looking for a fight. I was looking for a quarter to feed the goats.
The goats are always aggressive when they're looking for food, but these goats were a bit overly aggressive. There's no way they could have been that hungry because there were at least 75 other people feeding them at the same time we were. They were just gluttons for pellets. I can't blame them, it's free food and, really, I don't know how filling those tiny pellets really are. They may be like grains of rice to those guys.
This was the oddest goat I had ever seen in my life. He's downright scary. Just look at him!! He has FOUR horns! I never knew a goat could have more that two horns, but this dude proves me wrong. He's crazy looking! Actually, he looks like the devil and I thought he was some type of evil hybrid designed by the insane carnival workers in an attempt to take over the world. But really, he's just a "Jacobs 4 Horn" goat and, as the sign says, they're one of the oldest breeds of sheep. Sheep? Have I been feeding sheep all this time and calling them goats? I literally didn't read that sign until now. I feel dumb, now. I should go back and edit everything I just typed, but that's not happening. I'll be the idiot.
For as much as we wanted to eat a whole bunch of junk food, we decided to wait and get a good spot for the hypnotist. First, we had to sit through this band. Oh my God, they were annoying. I'm not going to say they were bad, because I wish I had half their musical talent, but they're not Bon Jovi! They're the Heart Breakers and that's exactly what they did. My heart broke for them because they were wayyy too into their performance. There were, maybe, 25 people watching them and you would have thought they sold out Metlife Stadium. I give them credit for giving it their all, but they were over reaching. There's a difference between showmanship and me feeling bad for you. I was ready for the hypnotist to come out and make me forget that I sat through their rendition of "My Girl."
There he is - hypnotist Steve Baynor! This guy has been working the Meadowlands State Fair since I was a kid! He's been around forever. I remember jam-packed crowds filing into the tent to find a seat, or at least a spot, to see this guy work his magic. After all that time, nothing has changed. He is definitely the top attraction at the State Fair and is supposedly the main event for good reason. I guess I was about to find out why.
Before he called anybody up, my thought was "okay, he obviously pays people to pretend their hypnotized." But, instead of having people raise their hands, he simply asked the first 15 people, over the age of 16, to come up to the stage and grab a seat. He didn't pick anybody and, even after they sat down, he didn't want to look at them until he was ready. I was already impressed, but he had to actually make something happen, now. Granted, I could have gone up there myself, but even I know you have to be open to being hypnotized in order for it to happen and I knew it wasn't happening for me.
He started speaking in a deep, dull, heavy tone that would put just about anybody to sleep if you were lying back in a comfy bed, but I never expected to see this happen! It didn't work for everybody, but some people were falling over into their neighbor's lap. And these people didn't know each other because, after they introduced themselves, he purposely separated friends and sat them next to strangers. If you were faking for attention, would you go so far as to put your face in some stranger's crotch? I was starting to believe in Steve.
Would you look at that? They're all out cold! From here on, it appeared that Steve actually had them in the palm of their hand and could make them do whatever he wished. First, he told them that they were in below zero temperatures. The next thing you know, these people we shaking. Some grabbed on to the person next to them for warmth. Then, when he told them it was sweltering heat, they appeared to be sweating. It was surreal! At one point, he told them to imagine him naked whenever he said "hypnotized." I have no idea what they saw, but when he said "hypnotized," they faces dropped and their eyes popped out of their head. I don't know, man!! It looked pretty real to me!
Apparently this little kid, who was in the audience, fell under his spell as he spoke and Steve brought him up on stage. I'm convinced he was faking because, when asked to do anything, he didn't. The rest of the group stayed knocked out and did everything they were asked, but I think the boy bit off more than he could chew. He was supposed to stand on his chair and scream, but never did. As for the rest of them, one thought they won 700 Million Dollars, another thought the sky was falling down and screamed for us to run, and the last came up on stage and performed a Lady Gaga song. I have no idea - no CLUE - as to how any of it all went down, but it was absolutely hilarious! It looked real, it felt real, and I want to believe. I think it's all in the power of the subconscious. I don't think Steve Bayner can travel that much for this long without having some type of skill. I was impressed and have a fabulous time!
There was food everywhere and, like every good carnival, it has to be junky. Nobody's looking for a salad at the Meadowlands Fair. If you are, you're not going to find it. It's a carnival, so expect lots of cotton candy and caramel apples. We couldn't wait to dive into these stands, but we were saving the best for last. Next up, the rides!
There were fun houses, roller coasters, bumper boats, ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirl's, but we specifically bought a $20 book of tickets just for the Haunted Mansion. The Holidaze was originally created to focus on the Halloween season and all that comes with it, so you know there's no way I'm going to pass up a "Haunted" ride. They're the best! It doesn't matter what season we're in, there's no wrong time for a haunted attraction. Right?
Wrong!! You just rode the ride! That's it! It was, without a doubt, the WORST ride I have ever been on! I don't know why I expected anything better, but I did. There was plenty of open space and darkness that could have been filled with props, animatronics, or sound. They could have done something, but they didn't. They took our 10 tickets and put us in the dark for a bout 35 seconds. The only thing we saw, besides pitch black darkness, was what I have pictured above. Embarrassing!
The other rides featured are what you'd expect to find at a carnival and, although we didn't ride them, they appeared to be in good working condition. Unlike the horrible Haunted Mansion, an insult to the Disney classic, you got what you saw with this attractions. In fact, many of these same rides are featured at the Jersey Shore boardwalks. That's one of the reasons why we didn't ride them. They're common, so we chose to use our final 10 tickets on a rest for our legs.
I don't know what these high-wired contraptions are actually called, but I call them "The Carriers." I chose to ride this attraction because I didn't feel like walking all the way back to the front and I wanted to avoid the annoying carnival game workers. The last time I went to the Fair with Eileen, about 4 years ago, they annoyed the hell out of me. This year was no different. "Win her a prize, buddy boy. She deserves it, buddy!" Then, after I ignore them because I'm not wasting 5 bucks on a 50 cent Spongebob, they say "Ah that's okay, her next boyfriend will win her one." Ohhhh man that's irritating. It's not easy letting them get away with that, but you gotta know the game. That's the point! Get me mad, make me spend my money on a stupid game, most likely lose or spend more until I win, and I get my pride back for $25 in the lining of their pockets. It's almost genius, but like Super Mario in stage two, I broke through the blocks and took to the sky to fly right over their chomping! #nerdalert
It was the perfect time of day to be riding one of these carriers because the sun was setting in the distance and made for a beautiful sky. It was also dark enough to see the carnival start lighting up below us. I tried to get a picture of myself with the rides in the background, but I look terrified. You know why? Because I was! I started to think about the wires breaking and Final Destination came to mind. But, even worse, I imagined dropping my already cracked Iphone! That was enough playing around so high up. The phone, tightly clutched in my hand, went back into my pocket and I waited for it to come to an end. But in all seriousness, it was a cool ride!
We and our phones survived the carrier, so we rewarded ourselves with some food. We were going to go with our traditional cheese fries but, what's this? A Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger? I've heard of these before, I remember reading that Google offered them to their employees. I thought, ew, who would ever eat that? But when you see the ad and you realize it's right there in front of you, ya just gotta try it! But, of course, you have to get rid of that lettuce and tomato! I like my cheeseburgers plain to begin with, but nobody needs that healthy stuff on a Krispy Kreme Burger!!
Oh. My. God. It's amazing! At first, I had no idea how I'd even eat the damn thing. It's huge! I thought it was half a donut on top with the other half on the bottom. But no, it's TWO full donuts with a burger sandwiched in the middle. I couldn't fit my mouth around it, so you have to squish the donuts down and just embrace the messiness. It's sticky, it's greasy, it's delicious!! I don't know how I ever doubted this and Paula Deen for creating this. Anybody who's mad at her for being a racist should just try this before casting stones. She shall be forgiven!
You'd think that a Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger would be enough ingredients for my middle-aged heart attack in the making, but Drake says I only live once so I'm going to make sure my time is deep fried! As soon as we saw the station, we knew we'd make our way over to it. Now, to be honest, there was quite some time between the burger and the deep frying, but not enough to act like I'm some health nut. I'm obviously not. Go back and read my last few posts and you'll see how much I love Summer junk food. In this case, I'm talking about Deep Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly!!
Another hot, messy, junky sandwich that is almost too good! I was pretty full by the time we ordered it, so I didn't appreciate it then as much as I do now, but damn it's good. I'm trying not to sound like too much of a fatty, here. For as skinny as I am, I know there's an obese 26-year-old living inside of me and he's itching to describe this in every little detail. It's simply awesome and for as good as the photos look, they don't even come close to doing this justice. Cue the Homer Simpson drooling..
Off to the Big Cat Show..
It was dark by this point and the last show of the night starred the Big Cats! I thought the tigers were big until I saw the lion, Handsome, come out into the arena. Wow!! Even though I knew there was no way he'd be able to escape, I couldn't help but imagine what would happen if he did. There were little kids sitting by the guard rails and he just stared at them as if they were tasty treats. When he looked at us, with those demon eyes of doom, we could tell how quickly we'd become dinner if we were alone with the king of the jungle. Absolutely ferocious!!
But, for as carnivorous as we know them to be, they were nothing but gentle giants with this handler who has been training them for years. He taught them tricks, fed them, put his head right next to their mouths and, when Handsome wouldn't leave, he literally pushed him off of his stool. Handsome growled, but it looked like he was never in any danger. I can't believe it's that easy! I wouldn't try it, because I'd get Siegfried and Roy'd, but there is an obvious relationship between man and cat. Pretty phenomenal. Although, I truly believe they'd turn on him in a second if they were hungry. They're wild for a reason.
Before we left, we stopped by the Bulk Candy Store to stock up on some candy that we, of course, did not need whatsoever. But because we're like kids in a candy store (too obvious?) we had to grab a basket and fill up. What did they have?
They had classics, they had favorites, they had the popular, and they had a few oddball items that you don't find everyday. We went for a variety, but avoided the chocolate. It was 90 degrees that day. I highly doubt there was any chocolate that wasn't melted. In fact, even the Fruities were sticking to the wrappers. They're some of my favorite candies of all time. I used to live on the Fruit Punch Fruities when my Dad had a stand down in Keansburg, NJ. He was giving them out for free, but when he went to get a new box, I had already finished them off. They're so good!
We threw in a few more things, but avoided those Gummy Chicken Feet. Yuck! That just sounds gross. They didn't look much better. I'm sure they tasted no different than a gummy bear or gummi strawberries, but I didn't like how they were three-toed webbed feet. Gave me the willies. So we took what we liked, threw in a few things we wanted to try, and called it a day. We had a pretty big bag and it only came out to $10. That's a steal! I was expecting it to cost us well over $20, but I was pleasantly surprised! Good way to end the day!
Overall, the NJ Meadowlands State Fair is a great attraction and one that I appreciate coming to town every year. Granted, it has its fair share of scams. Don't pay $2 to see the lady who is half snake. Don't waste your money on that disgrace of a Haunted Mansion. Don't give in to the taunting tent workers, and don't spend more than $20 on the rides. If you're cautious of your surroundings and understand that, at the end of the day, it's still a traveling circus designed to take your money, you'll have a great time. Just don't be fooled into believing everything you read. Is the world's smallest woman really sitting inside a tent in East Rutherford, NJ? I don't know, but I wasn't spending anything to find out. It's an amazing time, but being smart is important when it comes to saving money. You're going to spend it, so why not do so on great food or donate to the Big Cat Foundation? You're not going to remember the circus freaks for anything good, so fatten up your bellies and give yourself something you'll never forget. You do it the right way, and the Meadowlands Fair is an absolute hit!
FYI, I know this wasn't the best post I've ever written. I have a few more photos and stories that I skipped, but I'm still trying to get back into the flow of life and The Holidaze is included in that rut. Hopefully you enjoyed it enough to bare with me as I continue to rise up and get back to a sense normalcy :)