Oh Texas, My Texas.
I’m a born and raised Texan. I’ve spent 23 years calling the Lone Star State my home. Even in my previous travels I have proclaimed myself a Texan over an American. However, I have never been to what is perceived as the embodiment of Texas, The Texas State Fair in Dallas.
The State Fair is revered to be quintessentially Texas. There is fried food, livestock shows, beer, country and western music, and huge blonde hair. You can buy ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots and belt buckles, if you’re so inclined. However, in all my years of Texas-ship, I have yet to experience anything like it.
Unbeknownst to me, in my own backyard there was something so foreign. I walked past booths selling Deep Fried Jello and Deep Fried Pulled Pork FUNYUN® Dings, whatever that means. I wandered through barns filled with spectators gaping at llamas performing routines. I gawked at a hog the size of a sedan. He wasn’t moving, but I can’t imagine the energy it took for him to even think about it. And I spent entirely too much time petting soon to be steak dinners. But my god do cows have the sweetest little faces.
Then I was struck with an odd thought. The Fair is supposed to be representative of Texas, my home, and I was experiencing it like new. I mean, what an objectively silly place. I was oblivious that this was the Texas preceding me in my travels. I think it was amusing more than anything to see this exaggeration of what I know to be my Texas.
The food was the most striking. There was just about every “Texas Food,” represented all for at least $12, and I can’t say I ate a single bite. Look, like anywhere, cheaper and more authentic food can be found only streets away from touristy areas. And that okay-at-best, overpriced barbecue at the Fair, could be avoided by a short walk to finger-lickin’ good Texas brisket, from some local guy that’s probably willing to throw in free cobbler if you mind your manners. And I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Fair is inauthentic. It’s just a caricature of Texas.
I walked away from this Texas-land feeling almost like I had stepped out of a Mel Brooks movie. Everything wasn’t just bigger, but so comically huge-r that it was hard not to laugh. Personally, I found the Fair to be silly. I mean, it was a museum of Texas stereotypes. However, it encouraged me to have a think about my previous and future travels, and currently held perceptions of certain cultures.
I realized I’ve undoubtedly misjudged or stereotyped other places based on whatever their version is of the Texas State Fair. I mean as a Texan, I can definitively say that is not an encompassing representation of the people here. I’ve since tried thinking of what other country’s fairs would be based on stereotypes I know. And honestly, they’re just as ridiculous. I can only imagine Amsterdam-land, where everyone is riding bikes, wearing wooden clogs and smoking weed. Or perhaps Australia-land with kangaroo performances and shrimp on the barbie.
However it’s swung, surprisingly the State Fair lent perspective to how Texans, or any culture is perceived. I now know why when I meet non-Texans their first question is if I ride a horse to work. Sure, it’s called a Jeep and I’ve been told it’s powered by horse. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve unknowingly exacted this mild offense against someone else. So, for someone who tries to be as accepting as she can be, I was perturbed by my naivety.
The Texas State Fair taught me to enjoy similar affairs at face value. Perhaps I should think of them as special events, as opposed to an experience that can act as representation of a country.
One more thing, I think these events are there to show just one part of a culture. It’s like a partial quote. The word slicing helps emphasize a point, but removes the substance. I absolutely know people whom are ranchers and farmers, that raise cattle and love to go two stepping. Some of whom are in my family. But the Fair is a reminder to not take these events so seriously, because I could only see glimmers of authenticity poking through the grand production.
I intend to carry this mindset through my travels. I want to approach every culture with a fresh start. And in every new place I'm threading memories, I want to remind myself there is so much more to a country, their cities, and its people than one day spent hitting attractions on a top ten highlights list. I hope above all else, this will remain as encouragement for me to seek the authentic everywhere I go. I’d love to have adventures at cultural events, like the State Fair, but I also want to know what life is like without the pomp and circumstance. I want to know the genuine gems of culture that will provide me background to their "State Fair."