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The Hillsdale County Fair pro­vides a variety of food. Nic Rowan | Col­legian

When I took Physical Wellness Dynamics the first semester of freshman year, the “food journal” section had the mis­fortune of coin­ciding with the Hillsdale County Fair.

For a class of freshmen tasked with recording every­thing that went into our bodies, this was depressing. The fair offered us ele­phant ears, funnel cakes, fried Milky Ways — every­thing the slideshows in class warned us against ingesting.

Our pro­fessor, Assistant Women’s Bas­ketball Coach Matt Hilkens, knew this and told us to dis­regard the curriculum’s warnings against junk food, at least for this occasion.

“Go to the fair. Eat an ele­phant ear,” he said. “These are things you should be doing.”

A lot of people do. In addition to its animals, monster trucks, and cheap trick rides, the Hillsdale County Fair boasts 44 venues where fair-goers can pur­chase a variety of fried delights. These booths have fried oreos, fried cheesecake, fried mush­rooms, fried cookie dough, fried butter — and so on. Ad nauseum, for some. 

While buying a basket of fried cheesecake this week, I asked the man behind the counter if he sold a lot of it.

“No, that stuff is dis­gusting,” he said.

“Oh, well, what do you sell a lot of?”

“Fried cookie dough,” he said. “I don’t even try to count how many baskets I sell every day.” 

The kid behind me in line was getting anxious. He turned to his brother.

“Hey, can we walk down to the animals?” he said. “This whole place smells like cigs.”

He’s right. On a hot day, the fair smells like a section of the Jersey shore boardwalk sloshed its way into a field in central Penn­syl­vania. The savory smells of processed meats and fried dough waft their way into the animal stalls, and weave them­selves into the cow manure and horse hair. The added puffs of cig­a­rette smoke blan­keting the whole affair unify these opposed odors into some­thing not entirely pleasant, but cer­tainly fitting. Like rain in Savannah.

Incon­sistent smells aren’t the only clash the fair enter­tains. When I was walking the grounds with senior Hannah Niemeier and author Joy Williams on Tuesday, both noticed that depending on the signage at the various booths, you can buy either CARAMEL CORN or CARMEL CORN. Perhaps the first refers to the sticky sweet treat, and the second informs the buyer that the popcorn was made by sisters of the Carmelite order. Or maybe Hillsdale County Fair vendors don’t have to pass a spelling test. 

Whatever the case, the popcorn tasted good.