Brutal. Just brutal. In recent years I’ve had incredible luck with my midweek trips to the Iowa State Fair after work, with seven hours of evening fetishing often yielding a bumper harvest of sightings, including a number of genuine classics. In the last three years I’ve gone on particularly active Wednesday nights with some high-profile musical acts performing on the free stages that brought about significant numbers of the preferred demographic of young females. It didn’t take long to realize that this year, attendance among this preferred demographic was down on Wednesday night as there weren’t any acts like The Band Perry and Hunter Hayes giving free concerts. But the sightings patterns can be unpredictable on weeknights so I held out some hope. In 2011, I got off to a slow start but ended up blowing the roof off the place after 9:00, scoring an incredible 97 sightings for the night. In 2012, I was scoring great sightings early in the night but my success cooled after dark, but I still wrapped up the evening with 80 sightings. Fast forward to 2013 where I got off to a slow start and continued to plod along in the middle and late stages of the evening, finishing with 61 sightings, my weakest haul on a weeknight since 2008, and that was a year where I left an hour early because of rain. This is a very discouraging trendline.
If there’s one upside, I did score two of the three best sightings of this year’s Iowa State Fair tonight, a couple small oases among the barren desert. And I guess the other upside, dubious as it is, is that I should be able to write this entire narrative in a couple of hours and it will be QUITE short compared to my usual epic narratives. Anyway, I got on my shuttle bus around 4:30 heading for the fairgrounds. In order to save $5, I don’t go inside until 5:00, even though it requires waiting outside the gate until 5:00 arrives. This year I arrived earlier than usual, as my phone read only 4:43. It was 17 torturous minutes that ticked by like hours as I paced around outside the gate, checking out the girls doing the same thing I was and wondering if I’d see any of them smoking once I got in. Finally, it was 5:00 and I was able to buy my half-price ticket. I excitedly entered the gate hoping for the best but fearing another day like Saturday.
And the first half hour confirmed my fears that it might be a rough night. I followed the same path I did the previous year on Wednesday night, and remembered my first five sightings from that night and where they all took place. I had already visited all those spots and had zero sightings so far today, so I was already five behind. Slowly, as that first hour of the day proceeded, I started stringing together a few mediocre sightings. And that was the story of the day. From a baseball metaphor, the vast majority of yesterday’s hits were singles….in many cases bloop Texas league singles. I would even say many of them were sacrifice bunts but there was never anybody on base to sacrifice!
Finally, though, Sighting #4 on the midway delivered something memorable. Of all the women and girls I saw waiting outside the gate to get in on the reduced admission, one of them looked the most inevitable as a smoker, a late 20s long-haired gal with a combination of blond and red hair decked out in a pink top and tight jeans. She was in the company of a guy and a teenage girl and very much looked like a smoker. At least at this point the younger teen blond wasn’t with her, but the 20-something gal was indeed smoking a cigarette with the boyfriend. As expected, she was a skilled smoker exhibiting the style of a long-time heavy smoker with long drags and combination mouth-and-nose exhales. Beauty-wise she was only like a 7 but I was more than happy to have her at this point in the early evening, and stuck around to watch a few drags. Only a few yards to her right on the side of the ticket booth was a blond young mommy pushing a stroller who was also smoking (Sighting #5) but the original girl was better looking and had better style. I would come upon this girl again later in the night, next time in the company of the teenage girl, but nobody was smoking that time.
The sightings continued to come slowly and by this point I figured it was gonna be another rough night. One of the night’s few genuine bright spots came with Sighting #9 which occurred on the steps of one of the commercial exhibit buildings just outside The Depot. There were two couples standing there and all four parties were smoking. The second girl was a 20-something blond good enough to rate as Sighting #10, but my focus was entirely on the #9 girl, a very cute mid-20s brunette with shoulder-length hair wearing a pink top and jean shorts, and just a whisker chubby which I don’t mind at all. She was such a wholesome-looking girl and I would have bet against her being a smoker if I wasn’t seeing her wielding a cigarette in front of my face. The cutest part of the sighting was that she and the boyfriend were clearly in love, trading ashtray-mouth kisses and lovey-dovey looks after almost every drag. My girl’s smoking style wasn’t distinctive, but there was one drag that really stood out for me as she was only a few inches away from the face of the doting boyfriend, and following a pretty robust ingestion of carcinogens into her body, she belched out an exhale through the corner of her mouth that floated to the side of her own face and the boyfriend’s. Pretty sure he wouldn’t have minded getting hit by her exhale, but she spared him anyway. Now this couple didn’t have the IT factor as my sighting-of-the-year brunette smoker and her nonsmoking boyfriend at the county fair two weeks ago, but they were still rocking my world at this moment. The other couple and the boyfriend finished their cigarettes and proceeded inside the commercial exhibits building but my adorable brunette hung back because she wasn’t quite finished with hers yet. I snapped a photo that wasn’t too shabby, which is good because it was the only photo I’d get all night. About a minute later, after getting every morsel of tobacco possible out of that cigarette, she proceeded to crush it out against the railing of the steps where she was standing. I was now concerned she was about to drop it into a garbage can where I couldn’t ID the butt. But thankfully for me there were no garbage cans in sight. And after looking for about 10 seconds, she just dropped the butt directly in front of the commercial exhibits building entryway and went inside. Perfect! I could tell it was an all-white and was pleased to see it was a Marlboro Light.
I would come across this same group about an hour later on the south side of the grounds. And lo and behold, one person of the foursome was smoking another cigarette….my brunette in the pink top and jean shorts. This time I wasn’t able to watch more than a couple of drags but her second sighting was as desperately needed as the first on such a dismal night. In fact for quite awhile I was expecting her to be my best sighting of the night. It ended up being third best.
My next worthwhile sighting was Sighting #14, which came in front of the horse building where I scored a sighting of a mid-20s daughter smoking in the company of nonsmoking parents. It’s always a cute dynamic, especially when the parents appear salt-of-the-Earth farmer types, as they did here. The daughter had curly and long dark blond hair flowing halfway down her back and was wearing a green top and jeans. Like the last girl, she was just a tad chubby, but certainly not disqualifyingly so. And she also had the look of a long-time smoker, so I’m sure it was not a new experience for the parents to be stuck standing outside while their stinky daughter smoked a cigarette. She spared the parents her secondhand smoke at least, turning her head to exhale. They must have just come out of the horse building as her cigarette was freshly lit, but they began walking away after a few drags standing outside the building. I followed for a short distance and saw a couple more drags from her, but was too impatient and too behind schedule to wait around for butt identification.
Now the free stage musical entertainment last night was new country singer Jana Kramer, who has had a couple of minor hits. However, she used to be on the CW show “One Tree Hill”, so I figured that might be a reasonably strong draw for young girls. At about 7:15 I would investigate that theory by heading to the free stage area to see who was waiting for the show. The seating was less than half full, but there were plenty of young babes near the front stage so there was some hope. Near the back of the seating area, however, was where I found a smoker in the form of Sighting #15. It was a couple of young parents who I had seen earlier on the grounds and who looked like smokers. I got my confirmation as I saw them both illegally smoking in the seating area, with the early 20s mommy nicely presented in curly dark blond hair, a red-and-white-striped shirt, and jean shorts. She was decently attractive but not the kind of girl who set my world on fire. Still, she was what passed for a good find last night.
But from there I proceeded towards the stage to evaluate the mostly female concertgoers hovered in that area. Most smokers head off to a grassy area to the west of the stage and the seating area to light up, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I found Sightings #16 and #17, two 18ish light brunettes, who simply migrated a slight distance to the edge of the cluster to smoke cigarettes, still right in front of the stage. Hot damn! I finally found what I was looking for as in front of me stood these wholesome looking girls who looked like they came straight off the farm in their dark blue jeans with giant belt buckles decorated with gold trim. My initial observations were limited as I was preparing my camera to take a photo, but as I was doing so, I watched them both take final drags from their cigarettes and drop them to the pavement, wasting no time walking back into the huddle of kids near the stage. I walked up to their discarded cigarettes to see a Camel Light and a Camel Crush. I then tried to find them again in the crowd but couldn’t. What a heartbreaker. I knew they would probably be my sighting of the night so I really felt robbed…and I hadn’t even really gotten that good of a look at them beyond the fact that one of the girls looked really wholesome. All I could hope for was that fate would reward me with an encore from them later.
For now though, I pressed on and had continued terrible timing. Even when I saw a cute girl smoking, she’d be at the tail end of her cigarette and I’d only see one drag. Such was the case with Sighting #22. I kept going back to the seating area behind the grandstand last night because there was this adorable teen country girl in daisy dukes who sat there half the night who I kept hoping to see with a cigarette despite the long odds. She never did smoke, but my journeys to the location were semirewarded by the aforementioned Sighting #22. A young couple in their early 20s was standing outside the grandstand (there was a tractor pull inside) smoking cigarettes. The girl was one of the prettier girls I’d see for the evening, a brunette in a sparkly silver tanktop and jean shorts. Like the last sighting (and several others last night), all I got to see was one final drag. It was impressive, with a deep drag and cloudy combination mouth and nose exhale, but the cigarette then fell to the pavement and she broke my heart by crushing it out and following the boyfriend back into the grandstand. The cigarette was a Camel Red, but I was genuinely bemoaning my incredibly bad timing on the night.
I’d do a little better about 15 minutes later with Sighting #26, which occurred in motion on the concourse. A duo of mid-20s gals were walking westward, both wielding cigarettes. One was a brunette so mediocre that I didn’t even count her, but the friend was a dark blond in a pink top and jeans who had a touch of a badass look even without accounting for the sunglasses she was wearing. It was nice to be able to walk behind a girl with a cigarette for a nice distance, observing her motions amidst a crowd where at least some people inevitably objected to her public smoking display. Her style was decent but unsubstantial and I had no problem observing her from a rear and side angle for a good three minutes as she finished smoking the cigarette. She eventually dropped the cork filter to the ground and pressed on, allowing me to identify the butt as a Marlboro Menthol. I raced ahead to get one more look at her and was impressed with her continued subtle “good girl with a bad side” image.
I spent a lot of time circling the grounds of the Jana Kramer concert as it ran from between 8 and 9:30. Unfortunately, the sightings bonanza that was the BlackHawk concert four nights earlier was not being repeated as I only scored a couple of minor sightings during the concert. The singer herself is quite beautiful and was wearing shorts showing off her smooth legs which I found very sexy. And for what it’s worth, this girl looks completely like a smoker. Check out photos of Jana Kramer online and see if you agree. Back to the sightings, I continued to plod along in the hour after dark, stitching together a string of sightings so mediocre I’d be lucky to remember five of them. But I remembered how when The Band Perry concert ended in 2011, the huge crowd of exiting concertgoers was lighting up cigarettes like crazy and I scored 10 sightings in about five minutes, so I wanted to be there when the Jana Kramer concert dismissed tonight.
I saw a crowd moving from that area around 9:15 and figured the concert must have let out a little early. I was heading the direction of the free stage so I’d be facing the crowd exiting, but was sidetracked at the center of the grounds by Sighting #41. In a cluster of three was a late teen light brunette girl…..holding a Black ‘N’ Mild cigar. It’s a funny pattern among my fairs. Almost every year at my county fair I score sightings of pregnant smokers….and almost every year at the Iowa State Fair I get a cigar sighting. But I have never gotten a cigar sighting from a teen girl quite this wholesome-looking. We’re talking about a girl with her light brunette hair hanging over her shoulder in a braid, and correspondingly soft features to go with it. When I laid eyes on her and saw her insert that plastic-tipped cigar into her mouth for a very lengthy 5-6-second drag, my “finally!” moment for the entire Iowa State Fair had arrived. She was standing up so I was able to admire the awesome body that went along with the face, draped in skin-tight pale blue jeans which couldn’t have possibly been more sexy on her. She turned her head to the left to exhale and I made a point of changing positions to walk past it, getting literal goose bumps as I smelled the stinky cigar smoke and knew that this wholesome 18ish girl was responsible for the stench.
Unfortunately, nothing at this year’s Iowa State Fair can occur without a buzzkill qualifier, and I would soon get one as she handed the cigar to the guy sitting on the bench across from her, who proceeded to drag from it himself. And moments later, the OTHER guy sitting on the bench next to him got a drag of his own. She was sharing the cigar with two guys, which needless to say was not the ideal arrangement. Still, I stuck around until girlie extended her hand to get the cigar back, defying expectations again as her adorable face wrapped its lips around that plastic cigar tip and ingested another very significant snootful of smoke, which she proceeded to exhale stinkily throughout the reasonably busy location. She took two drags, and then handed the cigar back to the guy. At this point, I had to walk away as this was a key time to score some potential sightings with the Jana Kramer concert wrapping up and I couldn’t wait for a cluster with two guys out of three participants to finish a less-than-half-smoked cigar.
And so I did, reluctantly walking away from the best cigar sighting I’ve gotten in two years to explore the departing concert crowd. And my instinct was right as a group of four teenage girls was approaching, two of them wielding cigarettes. It took a split second to realize it was the girls from Sightings #16 and #17 who I had seen before the Jana Kramer concert smoking just off to the side of the crowd in front of the stage but who had only one drag left on their cigarettes when I got there. The girls who I said would have been my best sightings of the day if I had seen more of them earlier at that point did just become my best sightings of the day. I was intrigued how the two smokers in the group were dressed so much alike, both with those dark jeans with big belt buckles and gold trim. They looked like the kind of jeans that 4-Hers wear when showing livestock, a scenario that was entirely possible regarding their activities earlier that day. They also wore black tops and tied-up headbands. As for their looks, they were both cute. The girl on the right had shoulder length light brunette hair and had just a touch of chubbiness. From her face to her body image, she was the near-spitting image of this Brittany girl I dated for several months in late 2011 and early 2012, herself a smoker. They seriously could have been sisters. But the girl on the left beat her out. She was absolutely adorable with a tender, wholesome face that easily exceeded the beauty level of anybody else in the foursome, most closely comparable to a young Alicia Silverstone. And like my cigar smoker, she also had her light brown hair hanging over her shoulder in a braid. Her headband was the colors of the American flag.
As for their smoking, the styles varied as well. I would say the girl who looked like Brittany (not to be confused with ISF #5 “Brittny by the way) was probably the better smoker, taking longer drags and producing cloudier exhales, while the cuter girl with the braid took shorter but more frequent drags with smaller exhales. It was heavenly walking behind them and smelling their exhales while admiring their asses in those tight jeans. Walking westward on the concourse, it was the girl with the braid who finished her cigarette first, piggishly dropping the still-smoldering all-white butt to the pavement only a few feet in front of a cop who was looking straight at her and continuing walking. I knew one of these girls smoked Camel Lights and the other smoked Camel Crushes, but I didn’t know which brand went with which girl. I stood there until the cop looked the other way and then checked it out. My favorite girl was the Camel Crush smoker. I then picked up my pace and began following them again, catching up rather quickly. The Brittany lookalike took her final drag about a minute later and then also dropped her still-smoldering butt to the pavement without crushing it out. As expected, hers was a Camel Light. For the first time tonight, I was feeling genuinely good. The girls were heading west towards the exits and the shuttle bus, so I figured they were leaving for the evening. I turned around to go back to the center of the grounds and see if my other wholesome teen cutie was still working on that cigar.
It was only a couple-minute walk and my timing was perfect as she was still there and had just reclaimed possession of the cigar, which now appeared to be mostly smoked. But the group then began walking away to the south side of the grounds. I followed, watching that incredible ass in that tight pale blue denim wiggle forward, with the stub of a very stinky cigar only inches away from it. She proceeded to take no fewer than five consecutive drags from it over the next minute or so, much shorter drags than the monsters she took when the cigar was just lit. While she was sharing this thing with the two guys, it was abundantly clear that it was HER cigar as she maintained possession of it for about 60% of the time and smoked about that much of it as well. Still, as with before whenever I got the most passionate about this sighting, one of the guys would hold out his hand to request the cigar and my heart would sink. They ended up getting immersed in a huddle of fellow late teen friends and since there was so little left of the cigar anyway, I pressed forward. This was still my second best sighting of the night and will certainly make my blog as a singled-out greatest hit next spring, but if the girl had the cigar to herself it would have probably been among my ISF top-10.
From the south side, I went northward to a beer gardens on the northeast that usually has some activity. And reinforcing my perspective on who were the best girls of this year’s Iowa State Fair, the same foursome that included the Sightings #16 and #17 girls who I assumed were leaving only about 15 minutes earlier were back, and my favorite girl—the quasi-Alicia Silverstone lookalike—already had another cigarette going. I was impressed by how heavily she appeared to smoke for a girl who didn’t look much like a smoker. The friend, who looked much more like a smoker, was soon enough extracting a fresh Camel Light from her own pack. These girls, who may have been 18 but were too young to drink, hovered in front of this bar listening to the music and behaving a little more rowdy than they were before, apparently to the chagrin of another group of nonsmoking teens just off to their side who appeared a little intimidated. I was able to take a bench and observe and had a front-row seat to the smoking performances of my favorite girls of the evening. I was resigned to the fact that the other two girls in the group were nonsmokers, but was taken aback by what happened next, the craziest moment of this sighting or any sighting at the 2013 Iowa State Fair. My adorable light brunette with the braid grabbed hold of her nonsmoking brunette friend and playfully pulled her back, proceeding to insert her cigarette in the girl’s mouth. Not sure what the context was, but the nonsmoking brunette proceeded to wrap her lips around the filter of the cigarette and take a quick drag while in a headlock, inadvertently making herself Sighting #46. She wouldn’t take another drag, willingly or unwillingly, but the move made me fall in further in love with my cutie with the American flag headband. I stuck around on that bench and watched the two smokers finish their cigarettes, at last feeling as though I will walk away from this year’s Iowa State Fair with at least one great memory.
Unfortunately, things were winding down fast. Like last year, the crowd started to rapidly thin after 10:00 and it was now 10:15 and I didn’t even have 50 sightings. It was rapidly slipping away from me and I was zipping through the main arteries of the grounds and through the midway hoping to at least get a narrow boost to my anemic numbers for the evening. Sightings came few and far between even compared to Saturday night and there was little to get excited about among what I was seeing. The first even minor break from sightings mediocrity came around the 11:00 hour when I saw a pair of early 20s blonds on the concourse, one of them, Sighting #57, with a cigarette. She had no real IT factor but was at least above-average on the beauty spectrum. I took in a couple of drags and felt no burning desire to stick around, so I pressed on hoping to at least match or exceed my 64-sighting haul from the Wednesday night of 2009. But as 11 turned to 11:15, and 11:15 turned to 11:30 with next to no sightings on the fast-emptying grounds, it became obvious it wasn’t gonna happen.
So that’s why at around 11:35, I decided to go all in when I spotted Sighting #61, my final sighting of the night, progressing westward on the concourse with a freshly lit cigarette. She was an adorable 18-19ish brunette (also wearing a headband…not sure what was up with the headbands tonight) wearing a pair of jeans and a red T-shirt identifying her as fair staff. She was clearly a high school or college-age temporary worker at the fairgrounds exiting for the evening and having a smoke while chatting on her cell phone. The girl lacked a burning IT factor but she was undeniably cute and I thought I’d take the opportunity to follow just to her left where I could watch her drags and still smell her smoke. Probably partly due to her cell phone call, she was a slow smoker taking infrequent drags that drove me kind of nuts, and I also underestimated how obvious my stalking of her would be on these empty grounds as I caught her looking over her shoulder at me about three times. I tried to hang back a little further but was apparently still telling on myself. She was approaching the gate and the cigarette was still going, and I really wanted to get a butt ID on this one. Unfortunately as she approached one of the gates, she came to a dead stop and turned around looking my way. I knew I was busted at that point and dared not press forward ultimately stopping at a crossroads as if waiting for somebody. She then went out the gate, still smoking her cigarette, and crossed the street into the neighborhood where I had no intention of pursuing her just for a butt identification. I kind of felt bad that she may have thought I was stalking her for more ominous reasons, being a solo young gal at that hour of the night in a pretty thinly populated fairgrounds. This is what a fetisher has to go through in the year 2013 to enjoy a decent smoker girl sighting though.
From there I got aboard my shuttle bus very disappointed in the Iowa State Fair. Last year, I had a weak Saturday but redeemed myself with a respectable Wednesday haul, wrapping up the 2012 ISF with 189 sightings. This year, despite doing a little better numberswise than last year on Saturday night, I finished the 2013 ISF with 175 sightings. Keep in mind that this compares to 240 sightings in 2011, so we’re talking about a 7% decline from 2012 and a 27% decline (!) from 2011. And the number of blockbusters and epics I scored this year compared to two years ago or even last year when I still salvaged three classic sightings is also way down. Like I said I really don’t like where this is going and fear some of the stories I’ve reading about the collapse of smoking among today’s young people is coming to pass, even in the Upper Midwest which has weathered the storm better than some other parts of the country. Those crazy good numbers from 2011 (and 2010 before it for that matter) were probably an aberration, but there were still many times in the past week walking through the sightingless wasteland of the Iowa State Fairgrounds where I told myself it’s getting really rough out there. And I wish I could say I was confident that I’d redeem myself at the Minnesota State Fair next week, but between smoking restrictions at 18 designated smoking areas, along with nearly $8-per-pack cigarettes in Minnesota these days, I have serious concerns there too. All I can do is hope like hell for a pleasant surprise like I got at my county fair, which seems awesome beyond belief compared to this week’s ISF.