Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Herewith a fair-to-midway prescription for enjoying the Arlington County Fair.

Carefully plan your visit as you dress up in your best finery. (Kidding!) Ponder both the traditional treats—the funnel cakes, the display of community booths –and the new enhancements for the event set for Aug. 7-11 at Thomas Jefferson Community Center.

Added this year to the cotton-candy confab that attracts 50,000 (billed as “one of the largest” freebies on the East Coast) is a sponsored 5K walk/run on Sunday. There was a digital-age County Fair Idol Contest in which high school kids competed via Facebook “likes” for a chance to perform at the fair’s Thursday night opening ceremonies.

There’s also a fresh agenda of good deeds for the green-minded. “Our fair was one of two county fairs in the country that won a $10,000 recycling grant from Keep America Beautiful and Alcoa,” I was told by fair chairperson Tiffany Kudravetz. “We’re doing a lot more in recycling–more bins, better signage—and in informing the community– educational presentations, volunteers on-site to facilitate the increased recycling efforts– and doing some composting as well.”

I advise bringing your patience if you’re willing to arrive by shuttle bus from the I-66 and Quincy Street parking garage or other sites. Stubbornly committed drivers can find anarchistic parking in nearby residential backstreets (but I’m not betraying my secrets).

If you want to catch the piglet races, you should check the schedule. (Our porcine performers need a rest, too.) Same for the Harlem Wizards hoopsters, who at least are in the spotlight voluntarily.

If you’re like me, you’ll gauge your interest in the local musical talent based on cleverness of the band names. Atoms Apart?GoodBrotha Clyde Featuring Satellite Society? Burn the Ballroom? I’m sold.

Do plan on at least one on-site meal that throws calorie-counting to the winds. Arlington’s rich stew of easy ethnic experimentation makes it tough to make up your mind. I suggest you walk alongside the T.J. gym and promenade by the full array of vendor sights and smells. Then let your spouse or date decide.

Those who’re too sober-minded or chronologically advanced for the pony rides and tilt-a-whirls, note that you will find no sign reading, “You must be this eccentric to enjoy this ride.” So I’d steer you instead to the cavernous cool indoor exhibition hall where every interest group in the greater Arlington family is waiting to vie for your attention.

Between shows by grinning cloggers and the Arlingtones barbershop boys, you can deepen your understanding of why it takes all kinds to make a county.

I counted 165 groups on the roster. Everyone from Americans for Prosperity to the Arlington Green Party; from Aid our Veterans to Northern Virginia Magazine; from the Beekeepers Association of Northern Virginia to Massaging Insoles. The ever-dedicated Washington-Lee High School alumni again shame their absent Yorktown and Wakefield counterparts.

On the scene in person are luminaries from every local political org, nearly every religious denomination and many country offices. There’s a slew of professional associations and entrepreneurial contractors and retailers.

There will be a caucus of candidates and bumper-sticker suppliers for whom every month is November.

The fair is also a chance to vent your spleen to everyone from the county treasurer to the USS Arlington Commissioning Committee.

Allow two-three hours. I guarantee you’ll bump into friends.