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John Lamb, Published July 18 2009

Lamb: Fair fun comes in two forms

This summer is a special one. Memorial Day fell on the earliest possible Monday, and Labor Day falls on the latest possible Monday.

Yet in these 15 weeks of summer, the Red River Valley Fair and the Downtown Fargo Street Fair are scheduled at the same time.

Both events come to a close today, but there’s still plenty of time to soak up some culture as well as some greasy cheese curds.

While there are some similarities between the two fairs, there are a fair amount of differences:

•At the Street Fair you’re likely to find kids with painted faces. At the Red River Valley Fair, you’re more likely to see neck tattoos. Both say a lot about the person, but I’d just once like to see someone with a rainbow and unicorn tattooed on their neck.

•At the Street Fair you can buy toy animals. At the Red River Valley Fair you can buy real rabbits and chickens, which you could keep as pets or …

•At the Street Fair you can buy purses with Michael Jackson’s image on them. At the Red River Valley Fair you can win a framed picture of Michael Jackson, just as soon as you throw three rings around the bottle neck.

•Street Fair vendors and the carnies operating booths at the Red River Valley Fair couldn’t be more different. Most downtown vendors just sit back in folding chairs waiting for customers to ask questions or make a purchase. Carnies are a tad more aggressive, perched with one foot up on the front of the booth trying to draw in passers-by.

Downtown vendors could take a page from the carnie playbook and start actively engaging their clientele. “Wind chimes! Rain gauges! Hey, buddy. You with the floppy hat. Why don’t you come over here and buy that pretty little gal of yours a wind sock? That is, if you’re man enough.”

•There are plenty of thrilling rides out at the Red River Valley Fair. Downtown is a bit tamer, with the thrills, chills and spills coming when one of the juggling Budabi Brothers was knocked off his partner’s shoulders by a cold gust of wind Thursday night, resulting in a sprained ankle.

•Many stands at the Red River Valley Fair focus on the regional agriculture and livestock industries while the Street Fair has a more global influence. In addition to the Peruvian flute band (playing an Irish tune, no less), Broadway also boasts Ghana Crazy (get it, “Gone Crazy”?), a booth of African-like woven baskets. Too bad there was no Jamaican Me Crazy chicken wing stand or Swede Tooth taffy stand for cheesier world fare.

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533