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A surprising change in the Dutchess County Fair’s clientele

August 24, 2008

Last year, we went to the Dutchess County Fair with my boyfriend’s friend and his girlfriend. We had a great time and didn’t draw any notable ire, but we saw an alarming number of Confederate flag t-shirts (on people) and bumper stickers (for sale). My favorite, which I’m sorry to say I never photographed and can’t find online, had the flag with these words above and below it: “If this shirt offends you, you need a ‘history’ lesson.'”

My favorite part was the quotes around “history,” which, to me, said a lot more than they were probably meant to.

Not only were these things for sale, but we saw a number of people wearing them. They all looked exactly as I would have imagined had I ever thought about it before, and given that this was the Dutchess county fair in New York, I seriously doubt any of them had any recent ties to the South.

This year, we again got delicious fresh milkshakes and went on dizzying rides that seem like they probably shouldn’t be legal. Having only gone once before, and with a truly terrible sense of direction, I was still able to navigate fine, and everything looked the same as it did last year. Well, almost everything.

The only “rebel” flag we saw was on a sticker for sale and next to the words, “If I had known this was going to happen I would have picked my own cotton.” I’m not quite sure what slant they were going for (certainly not a PC one), but I’m pretty sure it’s different from last year’s most notable shirt.

The other difference this year was that we saw three other gay couples! I was pretty dumbstruck to see two pretty young women in cowboy hats slinking through the crowds hand-in-hand, or the two men a bit older than us walking together in front of us as we checked out the rides. Lastly, on our way back from the long but fast milkshake line, we saw another lesbian couple. One of them had an inflatable mallet, which were up for the winning at the booth where you can “test” your strength.

For each couple we saw, I had an immediate urge to go up to them and say hi. I suppose I feel that the problems we all face as gay Americans in openly affectionate relationships should give us some kind of common bond, and by the third couple I seriously considered running up and expressing how happy I was to seeing last year’s flags replaced with other couples this year. Of course, then I imagined her wheeling around and saying, “What problem you got with the Stars ‘en Bars?!” and thought better of my plan. (Is there a Southern version of the Log Cabin Republicans?)

As a complete aside, there’s a woman who lives in the apartment building next to my office and shares a parking lot with us. She has one of the above-mentioned bumper stickers, which says something about respecting your heritage. Every time I see it I went to remind her that we’re in New Jersey, which was never part of the Confederacy.

Another highlight of the fair this year was those automated swings that lift up and spin around. They were fun without being too intense, but my favorite part about the ride was waiting in line. We were first in line for the next set of people to go on, and after looking at our ride tickets I realized we had two extra, which wasn’t enough to use for anything else. There were two young girls next to us, somewhere around 10, and I gave them the tickets since it looked like they’d have some use for them. They were adorably happy and got really excited, and probably said “thank you” four or five times in the space of a minute.

I told them not to worry about it, but part of me just wanted to tell them not to be haters when they grow up. Or wear those awful shirts.

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