Exposing the Kingston Exhibition

An uneventful night at the fair

Elad Jafni
This youngster enjoys the view of the Kingston Exhibition through some great shades.
This youngster enjoys the view of the Kingston Exhibition through some great shades.
Elad Jafni

“This isn’t very romantic.”

I’m pretty used to hearing that from my girlfriend on a Friday night, but on this occasion I think the Kingston Exhibition bore the brunt of her disapproval.

From the top of the ferris wheel, the carnival that spent last weekend on a dismal rectangle of real estate behind the Memorial Centre looked as cheesy as it did from the rain-soaked ground.

On the grandstand, a sparse crowd watched as workhorses were put through their paces dragging hundreds of pounds worth of cement blocks.

Just past that was the concession area where the combination of candy apples, french fries, and caramel candy is alternately sweet and sickening. If you had already eaten, you might be interested in a Confederate flag bandana.

The midway, with its seizure-inducing flashing lights and toxic combination of differing music styles coming from each ride, is the centre of the action. The thin Friday night crowd was comprised of a few Queen’s students that seemed to be there out of curiosity more than anything.

Kingston-area high schools were well represented as the rides and games area was filled with Limp Bizkids and the girls they sought. A few guys decked out in black dusters seemed out of place, but they were sure to find plenty of new reasons to hate the world. Games that were surely rigged, drunk teenaged girls leaning on their friends, and shouting game operators questioning your manhood for not wanting to win your girl a colurful plush thing are all part of the sad pastiche that makes up any fair or carnival throughout the country.

At the booth housing one of the dart-throwing games, Eric, a 23 year-old carnie from Quebec strikes a deal to get us some bonus darts while we strike up a conversation.

By the time the fair season ends, Eric will have spent six months in various small communities all over Quebec and Ontario. He said that the smallest and quietest area he visited was Renfrew.

Introduced to the business through a friend of the family, Eric has spent 15 years in this line of work. I figured that a handsome young man of his experience would be able to confirm my suspicion that when the fair stops in a small town — Renfrew maybe — the carnies, new in town and in a strange way worldly and well-travelled, often earn the admiration of local young ladies. Coy Eric said maybe and it depends on the guy and didn’t answer the question. He did say that they like to go out whenever they aren’t worn out from 14-hour days.

I had believed him until I turned to see Eric’s partner and life long friend, Sebastien endeavoring to pick up my girlfriend.

Apparently, as she pulled out a cigarette he leapt to her aid offering a light followed by the super suave standard, “Are you single?”


Taking a different tact, he asked, “If I met you at Stages tonight, would you go out with me?”

“No,” she said and I had carefully avoided suffering the ultimate indignity.

She and I left with a tiny panda bear.

As we stepped off the ferris wheel, our night at the fair over, my girlfriend turned and said sarcastically, “That was exhilarating.”

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