All’s Fair When Meeting the Batman

 Last month I mentioned I was planning to go to the Champlain Valley Fair to
meet the Dark Knight. Well, I did. On opening day of the fair I pushed my way past some senior citizens who were way too polite and shoved a few toddlers to the ground who had made the mistake of presuming that I was a reasonable adult who was going to give them their time with the Batman. Yeah, right.

I am happy to report that this wasn’t merely some fashion model or very tall U. S. senator in a bat suit. I know because I asked him a variety of questions carefully calculated to reveal if he we was indeed the Dark Knight.

IMG_0581CB.jpgMe: Do you prefer being called Batman or “the” Batman?

Batman: Originally I was “the” Batman. I prefer that. But in person it makes no sense to add “the.” If you saw me on the street, for instance, and wanted to greet me, you wouldn’t shout, “Hey, the Batman! How are you?”

Me: How does the utility belt work?

Batman: Everything is spring-loaded.

Me: If you were to arm-wrestle the fair’s smart-aleck talking robot, would you win?

Batman: Absolutely.

Me: What about Mr. Cruller, the Koffee Kup bakery dude?

Batman: Oh, please.

I also compared the Batman to the sand sculpture of the Batman, and the sculpture offered further proof that I had met the real caped crusader: They had the same nose.

Just for the record, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Batman at the fair. That honor goes to one of the sheep who was wearing her own specially fitted Bat-Sheep mask. My wife said the mask’s actual purpose was to keep the sheep clean, but when the sheep bleated, she sounded a lot like Christian Bale.

I had a great time at the fair. I ate a Bloomin’ Onion (all of a Bloomin’ Onion), a maple doughnut, maple cotton candy and a maple cremee. Then I considered going on the ride most likely to ensure that I would give back all that food before my body absorbed 700,000 meaningless calories, but my daughter counseled against this: Vomiting in public, she said, would send the wrong message about food, the fair, and being twirled upside down at a high velocity on a ride built on the fly. And so I didn’t. Instead I ate a container of Al’s French fries — excuse me, “frys.”

I also savored the giant vegetables, especially Kevin Companion’s pumpkin the size of an aircraft carrier. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. It was only as big as a Mini Cooper. But it still resembled a villain that the Batman someday will have to commandeer: Gourd Guy, maybe. Or Pariah Pumpkin. Or the Rogue Rind.

This has been a great year for county fairs. Addison County Field Days had to endure monsoon-like rains, but I still appreciated my afternoon there. Sure, the field that served as the parking lot was quicksand, but what’s a little mud at a celebration of our agrarian heritage? One of the things I love most about Vermont is the reality that somehow, despite the onslaught of the digital age, we still appreciate the role the farm has played in our past and needs to play in our future. It was a delight, for example, to see my daughter’s friend, Lucie Alden, with a blue ribbon for a sheep named Coco. Lucy is a part of an Essex 4-H club with a terrific name: the Hay Ewes.

And so while I will have to wait 11 months until I can again revel in the rides and maple and simple joys of people-watching at the fairs in Addison and Chittenden counties, it’s nice to know that the Tunbridge World’s Fair is only four days away. The Batman won’t be there. But I expect there will be some seriously appetizing fried dough

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on September 7, 2008.)

Chris Bohjalian

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