Pie in the sky? At the Fair, fried dough comes first.

The Champlain Valley Fair, opening in Essex Junction a mere six days from today, is a beloved Green Mountain tradition for many reasons, but the main one is this: It’s the only place in Vermont where you can vomit from a speeding swing ten stories up in the air.

Chris Ashby, director of marketing for the Champlain Valley Exposition, is a seasoned pro when it comes to discussing what the Fair calls “the ten best days of summer,” but even he found it difficult to dial down his enthusiasm when he was describing for me the newest addition to this year’s cavalcade of rides: The Sky Flyer.

“Do you know the Yo-Yo?” he began. “It’s sometimes called the Flying Swing. You sit in a chair and you’re twirled around a circle maybe 20 or 25 feet in the air. Well, the Sky Flyer is one of those swings, but you’re 100 feet in the air!”

I know the Yo-Yo well. Once before at the Champlain Valley Fair, when my daughter was little, I went on the Yo-Yo with her and her friend, Ellen. We were each in our separate seats, which resemble the chairs in which you put a toddler on a backyard swing seat. Perhaps because I had just eaten a slab of fried dough the size of a Mini Cooper and enough fried onion rings to stuff a beanbag chair, I exited the Yo-Yo feeling a little. . .off. I started to sit on the grass, but then realized I would be better off on my hands and knees, both so that no one could see that I was seriously green and to protect my shirt in the event all that fried food was destined to see the light of day once again. Inevitably, that was when two really delightful readers of this column saw me and wanted to chat. They wanted to chat a lot. Me? I was afraid to open my mouth and risk vomiting on their sandals.

In any case, this is the first time that the Sky Flyer has come to the Fair. (Note: If you google the term “Sky Flyer,” you may find another ride, which is also called the Sky Flyer. To see the correct Sky Flyer, visit the Reithoffer web site. Reithoffer is the company that brings the thrill rides to the Champlain Valley Fair. Even they categorize it as a “Spectacular” ride, and I’m pretty sure that only those attractions that can induce vomiting from skyscraper heights earn that vaunted distinction.) So, I am really excited and will be among those climbing aboard the Sky Flyer at the Fair next weekend.

Unlike in past years, however, I may steer clear of the fried dough before getting in line. This is not a safety precaution. There is simply other fried food to sample. Ashby told me he is particularly excited about a cookie stand that will be deep-frying Nutter Butter and chocolate chips cookies, as well as the traditional fried cookie favorite, the Oreo. And if I decide that I actually want a vegetable – though vegetables are the wallflowers of fair food – there is always a southern food kiosk offering fried okra.

And, of course, I may just binge at the sugarhouse. I love the sugarhouse. So does my wife. It’s only a matter of time before someone starts deep-frying Vermont maple syrup cookies. When that happens, we will have found the true meaning of life and I will have to be dragged from the Champlain Valley Fair by the draft horses.

In the meantime, I will be plenty satisfied by the new rides and the fried foods. And the miniature horses. And the giant pumpkins. And the racing pigs. And the Mutts Gone Nuts. And the insult clown.

It’s a lot to look forward to.

One warning: If you see me at the Fair and I am in line for the Sky Flyer, stand clear. Centrifugal force can be potent – and chances are I have just eaten a half-dozen fried Nutter Butters.

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This column appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press on August 19, 2012. Chris’s new book is the novel, “The Sandcastle Girls.”

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

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