The Suitcase Lady


July 31, 2012, 9:20 pm

I take great delight in finding the treasure in the trash. And since almost everything sold at the Wisconsin State Fair, food and otherwise, fits into the trash category, the fair is an excellent hunting ground. It’s also a solo expedition, as my husband dislikes smells, crowds and noise.

Armed with twenty-five dollars, I jump into the fray. After visiting the chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows and horses, I search for souvenirs. In my opinion, a good souvenir beats out a cream puff every time. So I visit The Exposition Building with its hawkers and snake oil salesmen. I love the art of the barker, but I do not need a wonder shredder. I still use a splendid shredder that my mother bought at the Fair seventy years ago.

My three best State Fair souvenirs are not stain removers, French fry slicers or wood-burnt signs; they are pieces of folk art. The first is an oil drum lid from Haiti which has been transformed into a lacy landscape of leaves, flowers and birds.

The second treasure is a retablo, or chest of San Marcos. These figure filled boxes are made by artists in Peru and were originally portable shrines. Ironically, I found the Peruvian shrine in the Chinese Pavilion.

The last treasure is a lady…an extremely heavyset, clay lady from Oaxaca, Mexico. To get her home, I had to convince my spouse to pay a quick visit to the Fair for the sole purpose of hauling her out.

She has graced our deck for many years now and has undergone a metamorphosis. She started out gray and gradually turned white. Then, one year, she was entirely electric blue. When the azul faded away, her true terra cotta color was revealed. She’s our fair lady.

I must add a postscript here. Since our friend, Donna, retired from the Wisconsin State Fair, the Fair has lost its lustre for me. Donna was Poultry Superintendent for many years, and I must say that the fowl building rocked when she was the mother hen. I won’t be going to the Fair this year, but I have my souvenirs.

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