Fair game - pets and beauty pageants

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

First it was a barking dog. Then came the two hermit crabs. Now we have two goldfish in our animal menagerie.

Our pet population has increased by two fish thanks to the SEMO District Fair. Our daughters, Becca and Bailey, both won a ping pong ball carnival game. Both girls received water-filled plastic bags with each bag containing a goldfish.

As a result, we had to get small plastic aquariums and assorted landscaping for our new pets.

I never knew that live goldfish could be given away, literally fair game.

I've always associated the district fair with farm animals like cows, pigs and mules. Until now, I've never thought of the fair as a goldfish farm.

I always pictured stuffed animals as the perfect carnival prizes.

Of course, if you have to add a pet, it's best to get a fish. They don't make a sound and you never have to take them for a walk or give them a haircut.

I'm not sure what our dog, Cassie, thinks of our new orange pets. She would probably eat them if she had a chance.

Some goldfish live for over 50 years. But experts say most goldfish in homes live less than five years. Getting them as carnival prizes probably shortens their life span even more.

I'm sure no one asked the goldfish if they wanted to attend the fair. But at least they weren't on the menu.

Prize or no prize, it costs money to get your family through fair week.

As a parent, you look forward to walking around the fairgrounds with your smiling children. That's how they look before they get tired, hungry and cranky.

Every year at this time, families all across the region think of filing for personal bankruptcy because their savings have been wiped out by cotton candy, funnel cakes and countless carnival rides. That doesn't even include the cost of admission or shelling out money for fair concerts.

Thanks to fairs, there's plenty of cash running through our economy. It's holding onto the currency that's tough.

When your daughter is in the fair pageant, there are added costs, too. Everything from makeup to hair to a pageant dress require the participant's family to dig into the wallet.

Becca decided to participate in this year's pageant because a good friend of hers was in the pageant.

As I learned on Sunday, there are a lot of girls in Southeast Missouri -- from tiny tots to college students -- who love dressing up as a princess.

I felt sorry for the three judges. They had to choose from long lines of gals in pretty dresses who seemed to have cornered the market on curly locks and hair spray.

Becca didn't win, but she still looked like a princess to our family.

On her application form she mentioned that one of her goals in life was "world peace." The master of ceremonies made no mention of world peace in reading from Becca's application sheet.

Becca said she had mentioned it. I'm not surprised. She's seen enough movies to know that beauty contestants are supposed to be for world peace.

Sitting in the crowded fair tent Sunday afternoon, most people in the audience wished for less humidity and cooler temperatures. In that arena, world peace just had to wait its turn.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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