Oklahoma Dystopia: Or 2020, the Year with No State Fair

I awoke from my most recent harrowing surgery to a bleaker version of our already-bleak state, one where it had just been announced that the Great State Fair of Oklahoma, the annual tradition of trash and treasures for the slack-jawed Okie in all of us, would not be happening in 2020 due to the dreaded Coronavirus.

On various dented davenports and divans across this obese land, the greasiest of tears filled the bloodshot eyes of a once-proud people with nothing better to do this September other than wait in the overflowing unemployment lines.

Last year was the first time I was actually able to enjoy the beloved fair, immersing myself in the decrepit squalor of pure Oklahomania that surrounds us all there, with mortal dangers on the midway that are far worse than any cataclysmic virus that’ll attack my precious body and its fluids, ranging from ill-stored corn-dog batter to Snow White’s razor-sharp ice-skate settling some unrelated business out in the parking lot.

Flaunting this newfound feeling of vim and vigor, I spent a full day there in 2019, exploring the ins and out and outs and ins, going to the places I shouldn’t and romancing the carnies you wouldn’t, making love to fresh squeezed lemonade and roughly manhandling a slice of pizza covered in baked scorpions, culminating in a ride through the world’s most unhaunted haunted house.

It was worth it to finally experience the State Fair the way it should be, like a true goddamn Oklahoman, give or take a tracheostomy or two. But, regardless, I can’t be upset at park officials for actually taking the initiative that our own local, state and national governments won’t and putting the lives of the people far ahead of whatever dollar signs they claim the fair will bring to these dying city streets.

And, if I’m being honest, while I was looking forward to another easy paycheck of whatever writing the 2020 fair would bless me with, be it an exhibition hall full of hot-tubs, an edible monstrosity against God or, simply enough, the saggy breasts of a lumpy middle-aged man in a stained Trump muscle shirt, I’m more than sure it’ll all be there in 2021, more virulent than ever.

As I staggered out of my hospital bed, the multiple IV attempts were bruising effortlessly. I looked out of the seventh floor window, towards the fairgrounds, and I remembered standing in the barren parking lot a few weeks ago as a worn and torn medical face-mask blew across my lonely path; I think they’re now doing Covid testing out there.

I reckon that if we can make it through this sickly bastard of an infected year, soon enough, those trash barrels at the fair will be wildly overflowing instead with half-eaten funnel cakes and other celebratory refuse as garbage wasps swarm around angrily, waiting to comically sting children unmercifully.

That’s the Great State Fair of Oklahoma I want to return to in 2021, the way God truly intended it to be.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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17 Responses


  1. The Fair sucks. Has for years. Won’t miss it.


    1. The only reason I’ve been is because my daughter likes it. Otherwise, I can overpay for bad food at any number of restaurants I want to.


  2. Good to hear you have recovered yet again, Mr. Fowler. Keep it up.


  3. The lipid profile of the state just improved by several points.


  4. Louis, apparently your test for the virus was negative. And you’re up and around after your surgery. That sounds like great news to me.

    Of course this cancellation of the fair is a wise move. Encouraging sweaty people to pack themselves together tightly, purposefully ignoring and even flouting the advice and common sense of social distancing, would have been irresponsible in the extreme. (This is where some people will insert blather about their Constitutional right to freedom of assembly.)

    I’m still holding my breath (literally) for the likely spike in new infections in the Tulsa area this week.

    I’ll still miss TLO’s OK State Fair Photo Contest.


  5. Well Hell, no need for a second stimulus check! Nothing to spend it on now.

    Could we just rally the cinnamon roll truck to set up somewhere in OKC independently?


  6. TLO should have a contest to name the top 10 places to people watch for erstwhile fairgoers. My entries…
    1) Old Paris Flea Market
    2) Yukon garage sale
    3) Wheeler District Ferris Wheel


    1. Walmart


      1. I’ll see your Walmart and raise you Dollar General, Antlers, Oklahoma


  7. Well, since the OK State Fair board has allowed former attractions and buildings to deteriorate or be demolished, the only thing they had left to remove was the fair itself.


    1. agreed.

      Ever since the fair lost everything that made it interesting I haven’t been back.
      I still cannot fathom why so many landmarks were just eliminated with very little effort to save them. Other State Fairs don’t do this.
      I miss the monorail, the speedway, the space needle, the aircraft display, the locomotive, the big log building , the arch, the waterfall at the flower building, etc.
      The OK state fair now resembles one of those crappy summer carnivals held in the parking plot of some random run-down strip mall. There is nothing unique or special about it.
      it is a good place to see what the local gangs are up to tho.


  8. I’m trying to understand the Oklahoma logic of cancelling the State Fair in September, but the plan is still to have school as usual, or at least right now that is the plan in Edmond. I guess it is too dangerous for large groups to congregate outside, but fine for large groups of kids to congregate inside gyms, cafeterias and classrooms. Plus no reason to think about the teachers and staff, except of course when they are blamed as the carriers.

    Perhaps the risk is worth it to the parents not to have to figure out a way to juggle work to provide supervision to the kids doing distance learning. Plus you must have high school football, or there goes the social fabric that is Oklahoma.

    Not saying distance learning is the answer, but there is going to be some massive hysteria towards the end of September and October when the usual crud goes around and every kid is going to be tested. You just thought March and April were strange times.

    If public health safety was the reason to cancel the Fair and cause some serious economic hardship on those working the Fair, or the many companies that expect that revenue, why are schools planning on conducting business as usual? If Kevin Stitt is correct and as he constantly says that Oklahoma is open, why did the Fair Board decide to shut it down.

    History will show who was correct, but many people are going to sufferer the consequences today of both opinions. To the average citizen it is just hard to know who to trust and the consequences now of the actions of those we elected. Guess we have to hope for the best.


    1. School on, but not State Fair? Cost-benefit analysis.
      Kids are not as severely affected, so risk level is literally is more like the flu for the kiddos. Losing the fair for a year, big whoop, but losing more instruction for kids, big deal. And not everyone has the connectivity to do online learning. I hope teachers and health care workers are first to get a vaccine once one comes out; the Oxford Univ vaccine may be out this fall, already.
      I agree with the concept of outdoors being low risk, but State Fair is actually about 70% indoors (made up statistic). People first think about the midway and food vendors, but think also about all the indoor exhibit halls, the arena, and show barns. I think the Fair needs the revenue from the indoor exhibitors and arena events to pay for the rest of the deal, so can’t just cancel those.


      1. Risk level may be low for school kids themselves, but a classroom is an ideal site for spreading the virus.

        If an infected kid unknowingly brings the virus into the classroom and infects others, and then those other kids bring the virus home to infect mom, dad, and siblings, and then those infect granny and others in the extended family, and the adults infect their co-workers…

        Kids being unable to go to school during the pandemic is one of its worst results. It’s a real dilemma. I have no idea what the best answer is. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

        How have other countries that have done a much better job than the USA in limiting the virus deal with opening schools?


    2. This is an apples and oranges comparison.

      With schools, contact tracing can easily be completed for any students, faculty, or administrative staff to stop the spread of Rona quickly. The school districts know who is entering and exiting their buildings (especially because of the policy changes from school shootings, but that’s another discussion) so the level of anonymity of spread of the virus is reduced greatly.

      The state fair is a business entity. Chevy isn’t going to be stepping up to sponsor an event that could easily become a hot zone of Rona related infections and/or deaths. I’ll throw my own statistic out there, the buildings probably represent 60% of fair going activities with the main building being the Bennett atrocity that is full of mattress dealers and the handwriting analysis booth. For both inside and outside fair activities you have to factor in social distancing, proper mask wearing, and common sense which all leads to a very high risk event because the lack of education that the average Oklahoman has on health and science issues. If there was an outbreak of individuals infected at the fairgrounds it would be difficult the contract trace because of the number of people visiting. It would also be hard to determine who was at the fair during a particular time period. My own belief is that the OK State board would have gone ahead with having the fair regardless of the health risks, but since they are trying to generate revenue you can’t do that with a lack of sponsors, vendors, and entertainment willing to share that risk.


  9. Well, at least it will help keep the crime rate down.


  10. How do you complement an Oklahoma carny? “Nice tooth.”

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