2019 Local County Fair


Tuesday

Another fair season officially got underway on Tuesday, July 30th at around 6 p.m. as I crashed the gates of my hometown county fair in Minnesota.  I’ve been keeping expectations low for this fair season generally, but especially for this venue as plenty of trendlines are going the wrong direction.  It’s a struggling rural community with a declining population, they just passed a Tobacco 21 law which doesn’t really matter since nobody under 21 smokes anymore anyway, and tonight’s grandstand performer was someone very few people would have heard of which likely meant small crowds.   If I could salvage something at all memorable tonight, I’d consider it a victory.  So how’d that go?

A tick better than expected.  I only got 13 sightings overall, which isn’t exactly a stellar start to the week, but with the crowds every bit as modest as I expected and the beer gardens outside the concert area three-quarters empty during the show, I certainly averted disaster.  It’s always a bit of an adrenaline rush to walk through the gate that first night and to pick up one of the local gyros I’ve been devouring for decades, but the buzz wears off pretty quickly when I start making the rounds without any reward.  A downscale early 30s couple was sitting outside the main bathroom structure, which has long served as something of a de facto smoking, and they both lit up cigarettes.  The woman was just good enough to qualify for the first sighting of the year.

From there, the few and far between sightings in the two hours before I sat down for the concert were mostly young moms in their late 20s and early 30s, usually only modestly attractive without any IT factor but giving me just enough satisfaction in knowing that smoking still has some relevance among younger women under 35.  But I had a heartbreak when a standout early 20s blond, one of the most gorgeous girls I saw all night, had a boyfriend light up a cigarette while she just stood there holding a stuffed bear she won in the midway, never partaking in the cigarette herself.

As I headed toward the grandstand I walked past the Tom Thumb mini-donut stand, a source of a few choice sightings in the past, most prominently the adorable late teen employee from 2016 who made that’s year’s top-25 list.  This year, a decently attractive mid-20s natural blond was sitting behind the stand smoking a cigarette.  She was seated but I could tell she was quite tall and her long legs were draped in nice-fitting leggings.  She was only average on the beauty spectrum, but she was still a nice find and I was able to linger and see a couple of her drags.  After the mini-donut stand closed at 11, I was sure to be lurking near it and, sure enough, the blond stepped out and very quickly fired up another cigarette.  I wouldn’t doubt if I see her smoking again on subsequent nights of the fair.

I had six sightings by 8:15 before I went into the grandstand for the show that began at 8:30.  When I saw the slim crowd in the seating area for the show and across the chain-link fence in the beer gardens, I pondered the prospect of nothing memorable happening all night.  Worse yet, I was seeing friends and family left and right, including a cousin of mine roaming around the beer gardens who would have been joined at the hip with me the rest of the night had he seen me.  More on cousin interference later.

The grandstand performer was rookie country singer Ashley McBryde.  In one sense, she’s kind of an underdog worth rooting for as she doesn’t at all fit the profile of a glamorous starlet, overweight and not particularly attractive, regrettably defiled with considerable tattoo coverage.  And she had a few songs I really liked.  But the fact that she was the main event on a night at my county fair–which used to be able to pull in top country acts at the peak of their chart popularity–is very telling about the escalating difficulties in booking live music in the era of the “summer music festivals”.  McBryde has had two singles on the country charts with only very modest success….as in cracking the top-40 but not the top-30.  All of the acts that are having chart success are all priced out of the budgets of the county fair circuit because the record companies have organized these “summer music festivals” every weekend all over the country.  It’s one of many depressing trends in a popular music industry that has largely been incorrigible, and putting out a dramatically declining product, for at least a decade.  Whatever the case, the crowd was indicative of a singer who’s never cracked the top-30 on the charts.

The concert was about 15 minutes along and I was speculating I might get zero sightings the entire show aside from my 40-something male cousin inside the beer gardens who lit one up!  But then an angel appeared from the outfield…..a beautiful mid-20s dark blond who sat down at a picnic table outside the grandstand with a guy who was clearly her boyfriend or husband.  Her long blond hair flowed down her back onto a modest but attractive black tanktop with pale blue jean shorts on the bottom covering a nice ass and flowing into a perfectly toned set of tanned legs which she styled to perfection crossing them on the bench.  The couple had a funnel cake covered with strawberries and cream, which was insanely coincidental since in the past week I’d been writing a fictional story involving smoker girls eating funnel cakes covered in strawberries and cream!  This beautiful blond gave off a smoker vibe right away, but I figured tobacco use was unlikely to transpire right away since they were about to eat.  But the beauty of being at these concerts at the county fair is I had all the time in the world and could be patient and wait her out…..

Ashley McBryde cranked up the guitars for her most uptempo and best song of the night, and the blond began boogeying to the music as she ate the funnel cake and talked to the boyfriend, raising her currency as the IT girl of the night.  About five minutes passed before it was clear she was done with her share of the funnel cake, and then it happened as she opened her purse….and out came the Camel Crush pack.  She proceeded to place the all-white into her lips, performing an extended unlit dangle while foraging for her lighter and speaking to her boyfriend as the cigarette bounced between her lips.  She finally sparked up and was it ever worth the wait, a blast of smoke bursting from her face and flowing toward the boyfriend who was still eating the funnel cake.  She proceeded to plug away at the cigarette with impressively timed drags and consistently cloudy exhales, some of which went into the boyfriend’s face.  I kept thinking the boyfriend might light one up himself after he finished eating, but he never did, which made this beauty’s performance all the more electric for me.

I was sitting alone and attempted a number of photos while I sat admiring her impressive show, but I had three things going against me including distance, the fact that it was after sunset so the photos would likely turn blurry, and a chain-link fence directly in front of me that was nearly impossible to work around.  I got several pics, including some where you can see her dragging, but none are by any means great.  Her show didn’t last long given how quick of work she was making of the cigarette, but it was pure bliss to watch on this night with so little going on.  She took two quick final drags and then dropped the cigarette to the grass and stepped on it.  After she was done, the boyfriend sat next to her and they cuddled for a bit, his arm around her waist as she leaned into his shoulder, at one point leaning up to kiss him with her ashtray mouth.  It was a sweet scene from a young and very attractive smoker the likes of whom we don’t see much of anymore.

The fact that they were sitting here for several minutes after they finished eating–and after she finished smoking–gave me hope they’d stay out there for the whole show and give her a chance to smoke another cigarette.  Unfortunately, the guy seemed to be getting restless, at one point appearing to ask her if she wanted to go into the grandstand seating, and when she didn’t go, he apparently talked her into leaving.  It was sad to see her get up, but damn was it nice to see those long, smooth legs and those nice-fitting jean shorts one last time before she walked away.

The rest of the concert produced almost nothing, save from a brunette in the beer gardens getting one drag from a cigarette smoked by a male in her group.  Plus it was getting chilly in that grandstand.  Year after year, the temperatures seem to plummet for the week of my county fair, and while the sunny and 75 temps were perfect for the daytime hours at the fair, it cools off considerably after sunset and with the breeze sitting in that grandstand seating, it was uncomfortable in my short sleeves.  That made it easier to exit the concert a bit early, even though doing so would produce no additional sightings, at least not before a most unfortunate encounter with my cousin and her husband.

I know all kinds of people in this county of 30,000 where I grew up, so the high possibility of a long sidetrack is a cost of doing business here, but I took it on the chin hard shortly after the concert officially ended when I was exiting the midway and heard “Marrrk!” shouted by a male voice.  I turned around to see my cousin’s husband, and went to talk to him.  Nice guy….and usually someone you can break away from in about five minutes when I see him at the fair…..but he was super chatty tonight….right in time for my favorite girl of the night and her boyfriend to appear on a bench behind him to eat something else.  I kept hoping she’d light up again after eating and that standing there engaged in small talk with family, her smoking would eventually be in the background.  Unfortunately they wandered off before she lit up, and I wanted so much to follow thinking eventually she would and I wanted to be there when it happened.  But I couldn’t leave.  Worse yet, a cute 20-something brunette lit up in the distant background, but was too far away for me to get a great look at…and there were people walking in front of her at moments that denied me the chance to study her style points.  It was really getting frustrating and as the minutes ticked on, I was jumping out of my skin to get away.  I finally did, but at least 15 minutes of key fetish time were denied to me, very possibly denying me a second act to my favorite girl of the night, and things were already starting to wind down by the time I broke free.

Another contributing factor to my county fair’s decline is that the midway which ran till midnight and kept the place full of young people started going lights out at 11 starting five years ago.  Tonight, it was only 10:45 and the midway was already dark, portending a very early night before the place depopulated to the point of no longer being worth staying.  Thankfully, I’d get one more quality sighting before night’s end.  Last year, there was a 19-20ish duo featuring a long-haired light brunette with glasses and a blond who smoked together three separate times, and only narrowly missed last year’s top-25 year-end list with their body of work.  I recognized them again tonight hanging with other friends, the light brunette with a very distinguished look and a shapely body covered appropriately for the cool weather in a black sweatshirt and black leggings.  The blond, who’s a bit fuller-bodied but not overweight, was in a white sweatshirt and her own set of black leggings.  They were standing on a block of food vendors when I first saw them and I made a mental note…..

It was about an hour later when the grassy area near the main bathroom building, where they went to smoke the previous year, was lit up with the glow of a cigarette cherry that I observed in the hand of the light brunette.  I sat at a nearby bench and watched from afar, a bit surprised that she was the only one with a cigarette and not the blond friend, who was with her along with another attractive dark blond friend who had a young daughter.  It was sexy to see the cigarette protruding from the light brunette’s fingers next to those snug-fitting leggings though, and to see the cherry go bright red when she took a drag.  Her exhales were thin, at least from the distance I was at, but that often means the girl has more smoke sticking in her lungs, which I suspect may have been the case here.  And lo and behold, it would become a shared cigarette sighting as after a handful of drags by the light brunette, she passed it to the tall blond, who has IT factor all her own and is almost as attractive to me as the light brunette friend.  Her drags also impressed, and her exhales were cloudier and much more visible.  They passed it back and forth to its completion but the light brunette in the glasses smoked the majority of it.  It was the blond who dropped it to the grass though, before the group walked away.  After they left I swooped in in hopes of finding the butt to identify the brand but it was took dark to see much of anything where they stood.

I had guessed these girls were 19 or 20 last year when I saw them smoking three times, and when I saw them migrate from their cigarette break to the beer gardens area, it appears my timeline prediction was right as they were now old enough to drink with the big kids while last year were stuck by the 4-H building hanging with the under 21 crowd.  This doesn’t really work to my favor moving forward though since I don’t fetish inside the beer gardens at this fair, but I still think there’s a decent chance I see these girls smoking again in the remaining four nights of this week’s fair.

There wasn’t a ton else to report.  I saw a couple of vape spurts from teenage mouths but those Juul pods are so stealth it’s hard to really know how prolific they were.  I didn’t see many, but then again the teen crowd wasn’t very large tonight.  I suspect it will be larger on at least some of the subsequent nights.  On my final lap of the grounds, I saw an early 30s blond and her husband smoking….nothing earth-shattering but good enough to count.

Overall tonight, I got one really good sighting of a girl I hadn’t seen before and another nice show from that duo of returning favorites.  Despite the soft opening night number of 13 sightings, I’m pleased with that haul, grading on the unfortunate curve of the 2019 smoking culture.  Wednesday night’s grandstand show skews much older with a trio of country acts popular in the 90s.  I’ll likely enjoy the music as that was my era for country, but I doubt it will bring a very favorable demographic to the fair.  The grandstand acts later in the week and on the weekend should be a little better in drawing large and demographically favorable crowds, but nobody this year has my hopes too high.  One night in the books and it exceeded my low expectations.  If that keeps happening all five nights I’ll consider it a successful county fair.

 

Wednesday

Once again I had low expectations heading into Night 2 of the county fair on yet another chilly July night.  Wednesday is “senior night” at the fair and they typically book retro country acts geared toward older fairgoers, as was the case tonight.  Obviously this was not a formula for a demographically favorable crowd of smoker girls, yet I did okay, and okay in a way that was better than merely avoiding disaster.  I got 14 sightings overall, one better than on Tuesday night, even though there were no individual sightings that impressed as much as the night before.

I got to the fairgrounds around 6:30 and the crowd was larger than the previous night, although it skewed older with it being “senior day”.  I spent about an hour and a half exploring and didn’t come up with much, getting only three sightings before heading to the grandstand.  One of them was a tall, skinny, and attractive late 20s mother who I’d seen smoking at the county fair each of the two previous years.  I recognized her right away, or at least I thought I did.  Her hair was blond now, but I gotta say it wasn’t working for her the way it did when she was a brunette.  She never struck me as at all trashy-looking the previous two years, but she looked a bit trashy tonight while smoking outside the bathroom structure decked out in a T-shirt and jeans with her two kids running around nearby.  Two years ago I snuck in a photograph of this girl and she had a decidedly more glamorous look about her.  It might have just been seeing her unkempt hair in a ponytail but it was a bit of a disappointment, as was my positioning which prevented me from seeing more than two drags as I slow-walked my way past her.

I got my gyro and 7UP and headed up to the grandstand around 7:50, and immediately got an unexpected surge of activity.  Standing near the fence inside the beer gardens was an attractive mid-to-late 20s blond in a white blouse and blue jeans smoking with her boyfriend.  I was a bit late to the party though as by the time I got close enough to see her she was taking her final drag and dropping the butt to the ground.  Still, it seemed encouraging that she would be hovering near the beer gardens fence and firing up more cigarettes during the course of the concert so I had good reason to be optimistic that what I saw was just an appetizer.  I was mostly right about that but the girl did give me plenty of fits for the evening.  More to come on her…..

Almost after blondie extinguished her cigarette, I could see another duo of young women in the back of the beer gardens smoking.  Unfortunately, the back of the beer gardens is so far away from my seat that I had a hard time making out their faces.  From a distance they looked late 20s, with a more glamorous dark brunette with a fairly dark complexion wearing a black tanktop and dark jeans.  Her friend was a blond in a white blouse and jean shorts, slightly chubbier than the brunette but still looking good.  I could only see the blond smoking from the back and never saw her again.  I would see the brunette smoking again, and at one point she walked closer to the fence to give me a slightly better look, but before long it would be so dark that I lost both of them in the crowd never to be seen again.

The early hopes for a decent showing of sightings during the concert were thinning as the evening went on, but at least the concert was to my liking with 90s country hitmakers Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin, and Collin Raye on the stage.  Each singer had some songs I liked and disliked in their 90s heyday, but they put on a high-energy show and drew a larger crowd then expected, larger that Raye did for his solo show at my county fair in 2017.  As for smoking, there was a modest amount playing out inside the beer gardens, but much of it coming from women just outside the bounds of attractive enough for me to count.  And then there was the aforementioned blond in the white blouse and jeans I got to see one drag from when I walked into the grandstand.  She would become the biggest sighting of the night, but she definitely took a frustrating path to get there….

After a good 20 minutes completely out of sight, the blond and her boyfriend showed up…only to walk toward the back of the beer gardens.  Cigarettes were soon smoked, but from way too far away to get much out of, aside from seeing the cherry glow when she dragged and impressively filthy cloudbursts when she exhaled.  About 15 minutes later, they were about 10 yards closer in the center of the beer gardens, smoking another round of cigarettes.  This was better and I was able to admire those deep drags and impressive cloudbursts a little more, but I was still disappointed that they weren’t closer to the fence where I could see more.  The couple would sit just inside the pavilion talking to a couple of friends as the concert neared its finale, and I knew time was of the essence if I was gonna get a worthwhile close-up here, and thankfully she delivered in the clutch….

The concert was dismissing and there was a bottleneck of people exiting the grandstand.  Right around then, the blond came out by herself and flicked to life a cigarette….near the fence….where I could see her best.  But now my hope was to actually get out of the grandstand and claim a bench just outside the beer gardens where I could see her smoke at even closer range.  And I pulled it off, cheating a bit by descending the bleachers rather than exiting out the walkways, but it paid off as I found an open bench near the fence and was able to watch blondie smoke the second half of her cigarette from within a few yards away, and right in time for another 20-something blond I hadn’t seen that night come out to smoke a cigarette of her own.  The new blond was decent and had a pretty nice style, but the star was definitely the white blouse blond who was the flagship of this sighting, her features beautiful but weathered from what was likely several years of pretty heavy smoking.  She put the cigarette near the corner of her mouth and pulled in the carcinogens intensely, the cherry glowing bright before releasing those beautiful cloudy exhales into the night sky.  I salvaged a good five drags from her, more than I expected when I got there, from that upclose vantage point before she dropped the cigarette to the ground, bookending tonight’s concert experience nicely by having a smoke the second I walked into the grandstand and also as I was leaving, with two more deep inside the beer gardens just for good measure.

Given my low expectations going into the night, anything I got beyond this was just gonna have to be considered gravy, and thankfully there would be a few more moments of modest to decently satisfying material.  First came a second act from the two 21-year-olds who I saw the previous night outside the bathroom area, and a few times last year as well.  The two BFF cuties were standing together sharing a cigarette again tonight, their asses again draped in the tight-fitting spandex of their leggings just as they were Tuesday night.  Just as was the case the previous night, the long-haired light brunette with the slender body and the glasses was smoking first, and presumably she’s the one carrying the cigarettes because I always see her with the cigarette first between the two of them.  Their location is a real challenge for my observations, particularly since I’m nervous that they’re on to me and I don’t want to lurk too closely.  So I hovered further away than I preferred and the girls had their backs to me far more often than not, but I got to see a few drags by the brunette and then see the cigarette passed to the blond.  I still think I’m leaning toward the long-haired brunette being my favorite of the two, but they both have some IT factor, attractive and quality smokers with sexy bodies of differing body types, the brunette a tight little package but the blond fuller-bodied, yet body filling those leggings out with sexy feminine curves.  I walked away sooner than I wanted to, but after two fair seasons and multiple cigarettes between them, these girls are really putting together a quality body of work.

Next I’d return to the fence of the beer gardens in hopes of seeing the blond in the white blouse and jeans again.  While I wouldn’t see her, another party now occupied the same space just inside the beer gardens fence.  The star of the show was a tall late 20s or early 30s redhead in a black blouse and red pants who was smoking a cigarette.  A blond who looked a few years older but was still attractive decked out in a tanktop and shorts came out next with a cigarette, but it was still unlit and apparently nobody had a working lighter, so the tall redhead used her own burning cigarette to light the blond’s cigarette and then handed it to her.  Moments later, another late 20s gal came out and got the same treatment, the redhead using her cigarette to light yet another person.  The third girl on the scene disappointed, her face not overly attractive and one side of her head shaved in an extremely unattractive way, which was unfortunate because she was rocking a pair of white shorts that fit her beautifully.  I almost counted her because of the white shorts, but I just couldn’t do it when I looked at her face.  I stuck around for a couple of decent drags by the tall redhead and then took off.

One of the stories of this summer has been how challenging it’s been to locate the teens Juuling, and that trend continued tonight.  The kids walked around with these things cupped in their hand, took extremely stealth drags when placing their cupped hand up to their face, and then exhaled very thin streams of water vapor that you have to be very close to even see.  I don’t know which sucks more…..seeing teenagers and young adults mess around with these Juul pods and getting depressing about how they’ve replaced cigarettes….or not seeing them and thus being in the dark about how prolific they continue to be among young people.  For whatever reason, I had a much easier time picking it out last year.

But there was at least one teenage girl on my county fairgrounds tonight whose nicotine delivery system came the old-fashioned way.  Near the crowd of teens that gathers near the 4-H food stand where kids line dance to country songs late at night, I noticed a teen boy with a cigarette in hand standing in a group of two guys and two girls.  I didn’t even have time to be annoyed about my first impression seeing the guy with the cigarette because he immediately handed the freshly lit cigarette to a petite blond teen standing next to him.  Just based on her petite frame, I’d have figured this girl was about 13 when I first saw her take a drag from her cigarette and exhale, but a closer look made her look more like 17 or 18, with a cute face, dark blond hair, and a pair of glasses that made her look studious and a little nerdy.  On top of everything else presentation-wise, she also had braces covering her teeth, which is something I always associate with middle-schoolers!  I’m pretty confident this girl was at least 17, but she sure ticked off a lot of boxes for presenting herself as a young smoker.  Unfortunately, her clothing was frumpy yet weather-appropriate decked out in a white sweatshirt and a pair of baggy athletic-style pants, but the fact that she was likely underage and mercilessly taking down this cigarette handed to her by the guy moments earlier made the unsexy presentation easy to get past.  Her drags were timely but a bit shallow indicating she was probably a relatively new smoker, and it was unavoidable that her exhales splashed the two guys standing closest to her.  Not sure if it was her cigarette originally or if she just took it from the guy who I first saw dragging.  Either way, neither he nor anybody else in that group would be touching her cigarette again…..

I found a bench to observe this group, unfortunately with my back to the smoker girl for most of the show once again, but still able to see and occasionally smell her exhales.  She was modestly attractive, not enough to stand out in any crowd but pretty, with her petite size and braces really giving her some bonus points even beyond the generally endangered species of a teen cigarette smoker in 2019.  Now the other brunette in her group was a more conventionally sexy brunette in a tanktop and jean shorts and I was elated at the possibility of the cigarette working its way to this girl’s mouth, but that never happened.  I’d have loved to stick around for the butt ID on this one but the group was beckoned closer to the 4-H stand for a line dance.  They took off and by the time I saw them again the cigarette was gone.  I saw her again in the remaining 15 minutes I was on the fairgrounds but without any additional cigarettes.

While I was briefly thrilled at the score of an 18-ish girl at the fair smoking a cigarette, it was depressing to think back to 10 years ago, with 2009 being the first year where my fetishing at the county fair elevated to its current level of aggressiveness.  Ten short years ago, seeing teen girls smoking openly at the county fair was a certainty, not a matter of if you’d see an underage smoker but how many you’d see any given night.  We all like to lament the loss of the good old days of smoking from decades back, but even 2009 looks like paradise in comparison, and all the more so as I reflect on some of the specific sightings moments I got at the county fair that year.  A girl like this one would have been a cute find in 2009, but certainly not a big deal.  In 2019, a girl her age lurking amongst her crowd of teenage friends and smoking a cigarette was a very big deal, and it’s heartbreaking that things have fallen that far in just a decade.

It was after 11 p.m. now and once again the place was winding down fast, the midway going dark at about 10:50 hastening the exodus.  But I’d get one more quality moment in the remote north side of the grounds near the farm equipment and cattle barns walking past a young couple with a girl who looked about three years old.  The mother was a slender brunette in a red blouse and black leggings who looked about 23 and was decently attractive.  On first glance it looked like she had a cigarette tucked behind her ear, but when I got to a decent vantage point, there was nothing there.  My eyes must have been playing tricks on me, I told myself, yet still kept my eye on her as I walked past.  Sure enough, she stopped for a moment with her back to me and appeared to be concentrating on something in front of her face. In seconds, a plume of smoke burst from her face.  I turned around and observed her from the rear side for several yards, smoking her cigarette with some decent style points and cloudy exhales, her Hispanic husband/boyfriend not partaking in her smelly pastime.  It was a nice surprising ending to a night that worked out better than I originally guessed it would.

I left the grounds at about 11:20, satisfied with what I had seen tonight but still disappointed that what I had seen tonight was considered satisfying.  This fair has been declining faster than all of my state fairs, so the pinch is really felt when making comparisons to glory days of not so many years ago.  In 2010, I got 144 sightings at this fair over five nights.  That declined to 79 last year and with only 27 on the first two nights this year the odds are I’ll be down again overall.  But dealing with the cards I’m dealt, it’s nice to have a few images both nights that got my adrenaline pumping.  Friday is expected to be the biggest attendance night this year, but I have no idea what kind of crowd to expect from Christian rock group Casting Crowns and am I’m not simmering with confidence about it.  Still, the more bodies that enter the fairground gates, the more likely some of them are to be attractive young female smokers, so I’ll embrace whatever population growth I can get.

 

Thursday

I had another night at the county fair that I can’t complain too much about in the context of 2019.  My three evenings have been remarkably similar in that there has been a star performer each night and a couple of additional extra-base hits as well.  Last year it wasn’t until the third night that I got my first great sighting of the 2018 fair season, so at least in terms of quality I’m a little bit ahead of last year.  Also similar night to night has been my sightings count.  I got 14 on Tuesday, 13 on Wednesday, and 15 on Thursday.

The night got off to a good start when I got a sighting on a residential street where I parked my car.  Ever since I was old enough to drive, I had free garage parking at my grandma’s place across the street from the fairgrounds, but as of last spring my grandma had to go to the nursing home.  But at least over the first three nights of the fair, I haven’t had to park too ridiculously far away, always finding a spot in the same general area on the same street.  Tonight, an oddball family was getting out of the car across the street, and it was hard to discern who was who as there was a gray-haired man who looked about 50 and a moderately attractive woman who looked early 30s.  Maybe it was his wife and he was just quite a bit older, but the kids in their company were also several years apart, the oldest looking mid-teen and the youngest about six.  Whatever their dynamic, the adult male and female were both smoking, and the woman was decently attractive.  I followed in her trail of smoke all the way to the fairgrounds gate.  It’s not too often I get my first sighting of the day before I even enter the grounds.

The sightings trickled in for the next hour or so before I went into the grandstand for the evening show.  I saw a duo of moderately attractive 30-somethings, one white and one Asian, in tanktops and shorts smoking on the south side of the grounds on my first loop around, followed by an alternative-looking but moderately cute 20-something wearing a flattering flower print dress and sporting that bluish-gray hair that’s popular among so many young females these days.  A duo of decently attractive 20-somethings who appeared to work in the carnival in some capacity were sitting in the grass near the bathroom area smoking on a break.

With six sightings under my belt, I went to take the seat for the concert shortly after 8:00.  The grandstand act tonight was Hairball, a Midwestern-based rock band that alternates costumes for the various 80s rock acts they cover.  It’s a popular regional band, but my county fair is hitting below their weight scheduling them for a grandstand performance usually limited to national recording artists.  It’s a sign of the times that the Minnesota State Fair last year and now my county fair this year is giving such prime real estate to this local band that used to be limited to street festivals in small towns and free stage shows at bandshells.  Anyway, I didn’t know what kind of crowd they’d draw but figured it would likely skew older.  It did to a degree but there was potential in the crowd and beer gardens for some quality material.  Unfortunately it mostly turned into a litany of frustrations and missed opportunities….

Almost right away when I sat down, I could see a cute and young-looking blond in the far back corner of the beer gardens with a cigarette.  She was a long distance from me already, but then she sat down on the grass and I lost all visual of her.  Realizing it was still at least 20 minutes till the concert started and there being little chance of me losing my seat in the grandstand, I walked outside and around to the north side fence of the beer gardens hoping to get a better look at her.  I did get a better look but it was only a nominal improvement because she was sitting with her boyfriend in the grass with her back to me.  She was cute though, mid-2os with her long blond hair flowing down her back in a thick braid, decked out in a tanktop and black shorts.  I definitely wouldn’t have guessed she was a smoker.  I lurked beyond the fence awkwardly and took in a couple of drags, which were solid.  Unfortunately the show was cut short as two other 20-something blonds came right into my line vision and lit up cigarettes of their own.  That helped my sightings count but they were standing in front of the girl I wanted to see and they made eye contact with me immediately, giving me no choice but to leave and head back to the grandstand.  I’d see the blond with the braid inside the grandstand later on, but only briefly and not smoking.

There were some cute 20-somethings in the front part of the beer gardens and I kept close tabs on them during the Hairball show, but two of the front and center girls that interested me most didn’t smoke….they vaped….repeatedly…for well over an hour.  It was so frustrating, as was the near-complete lack of activity in the smoking area.  On two occasions, once early in the show and once at about the halfway point, this mid-20s couple showed up and stopped in the middle of the smoking area, the female half of the couple an absolutely gorgeous long-haired blond in a tight pink top and even tighter dark blue jeans.  She gave off a definite smoker girl vibe and her boyfriend, who was almost a full head taller than her, also seemed like a smoker.  But after a brief period of hovering in the smoking area, they walked away.  The second time, the girl even started digging into her bag, making me think tobacco consumption was a near-certainty, but then they walked away with nothing again.

It was about 9:45 and I figured the concert would soon be over.  I wanted to get some mini-donuts before the grandstand crowd departed, and since the smoking area and beer gardens were so dead, it wasn’t a tough call to leave early.  My timing was great, because a late 20s blond with a long ponytail and a Tom Thumb mini-donut hat was quickly walking toward a port-a-john with a recently lit cigarette hanging from her mouth, exhaling through the dangle as she walked.  She stepped into the port-a-john with the cigarette still in her mouth.  I took a nearby bench to try to get a closer look when she came out, and she would in less than a minute, the cigarette still in her mouth.  She walked back to the Tom Thumb stand and I followed as best I could, catching a few of her drags near the rear entrance to the stand, but I didn’t get a particularly close look at her.  Luckily for me, I was going to get mini-donuts in the first place!  I waited a few short minutes and walked up to the window in time to get helped by the young lady I just saw smoking.  She was attractive, albeit with the weathered look of a long-time heavy smoker.  She took my order, and the other blond inside the stand who I saw smoking twice on Tuesday night handed it to me with a sweet “thank you”.  Neither of the women were perfect 10s by any stretch, but the streak of the Tom Thumb donut stand producing attractive young smoker gal workers continues.  I’d see the late 20s gal walk out again later in the night, once again dangling a cigarette from her mouth as she walked.

I was in close vicinity of the grandstand entrance with my bag of mini-donuts in hand and decided to lurk outside the Hairball concert and peek into the beer gardens to see if anything had changed.  I had outstanding timing when I left the grandstand a few minutes earlier, and I had absolutely storybook timing when I went back in.  Sitting on a bench in the smoking area, the lead singer of Hairball was telling the crowd that he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer but had gotten treatment and was currently in remission.  As the crowd was applauding, I looked inside the beer gardens just on the other side of the fence, noticing a very familiar looking blond beauty.  Just as I put together that it was that gorgeous blond in the pink top and tight jeans who had eluded me twice during the show, I saw her place a cigarette into her mouth and take a drag.  Magically, I had a front-row seat on this bench and she was right there smoking on the other side of the fence, less than three yards away, and doing so as the band’s lead singer was talking about surviving cancer!  She was so beautiful, one of the prettiest girls at the fair, with an outfit that accentuated her beauty and her bodily curves, but definitely had the features of a smoker which I had picked up on right away when I saw her earlier in the night.  Now it was confirmed as she took deep and well-timed drags and being as courteous as possible with her skyward-directed exhales, although given that most people surrounding her were taller than she was, including her boyfriend, they were all forced to choke on her secondhand smoke despite those efforts at courtesy.  I got to see five drags from close range before she dropped the cigarette to the grass and stepped on it.  I was thrilled to have gotten the opportunity, but I sensed there would be more.  I couldn’t just linger on this bench looking inside the beer gardens, but what I could do was go back into the grandstand and reclaim my seat which overlooked the area she was standing in case she lit up again.  I didn’t expect to go back into the Hairball concert tonight, but I was on my way now.  And I wasn’t at all disappointed that the concert was going long.

I got up to my old seat and kept close tabs on the gorgeous blond who turned my night around.  About 10 minutes passed and I knew the concert would be winding down soon so time was of the essence.  Unfortunately, the blond had her back to me for a while, but I was thrilled when I saw her digging into her purse and handing the boyfriend a cigarette only moments later.  I thought for sure she would light up again too, but didn’t right away.  I still had a good feeling though, and it was vindicated a few minutes later when I saw an all-white placed in her lips.  Adorably she looked up to the considerably taller boyfriend, her unlit cigarette bobbing up and down in her lips as she spoke to him, and then eventually brought the cigarette to life when it met the end of her lighter.  She was turned into my line of vision again with full lighting illuminating her gorgeous face.  I had gotten a close-up sighting of her on the previous cigarette but this one was almost better as I got to see it farrow to finish, her nicely timed drags glowing in the evening sky and her exhales reliably coming out of her mouth and nose at upward 45-degree angles.  With her purse now hanging over her shoulder pressed against her chest, her ample breasts bulged inside that tight pink top that went so nicely with dark jeans that hugged her beautiful hips and ass.  The presentation was just stellar and I got to see almost two full cigarettes smoked from her before she crushed it out under her feet.  The girl that had teased me twice earlier in the concert had made good on her potential and really came through in the clutch.

The concert still wasn’t entirely over but I left before the glut of people did.  It was about 10:15, later than most fair concerts dismiss and I wandered to the drinking fountain for a sip of water, noticing an attractive early 30s dark blond in black shorts sitting on a bench smoking.  I wasn’t in much of a position to lurk but I’d see her later inside the shaved ice stand where she worked.

After my drink of water, I wanted to check out the departing concert crowds and see if I could get another glance at my favorite blond in pink.  But before I even got back to the grandstand, she was coming to me!  The blond and her boyfriend were walking past me and quickly got in line for barbecue.  After they ordered I could see they were going to sit at a group of benches nearby and I readied my camera.  It would be a blurry evening shot but I wanted to get some image of this girl for the record, capturing a rear shot of her and the boyfriend walking away.  Not much, but a needed visual.  I took a mental note of the table they sat at and proceeded to take a half loop of the grounds, just enough time to give the blond time to eat.  When I came back about three minutes later, she was still eating her barbecue sandwich, but I took an adjacent picnic table in hopes she’d smoke again when she finished eating.  She was distracted in conversation with her boyfriend and another duo of friends who joined them, so I opted for a risky set of pics of her sitting on the bench.  They’ll probably be blurrier than I’d prefer but the thumbnail I’ve seen of it looks serviceable…..certainly no worse than nothing at all to remember her by.  I couldn’t hear much of her conversation but at one point she reminded her boyfriend, “That’s my grandpa’s birthday”, which I found a cute little anecdote for such a sexy smoker girl.  It seemed to take quite a long time for her to eat that pork sandwich and I could tell her friends were getting restless.  I was getting restless too, but likely for different reasons.

I was encouraged to see the boyfriend with a new cigarette and figured that after such a big serving of barbecue, blondie would probably want something to wash it down with.  Between her attempts to find a garbage can and clean her hands she was walking all over the place, but in a few moments she was standing with the boyfriend in a clearing and she was plucking another cigarette out of the pack for herself.  Unfortunately I still didn’t see the pack which didn’t come fully out of her purse, but before I knew it an unlit cigarette was again dangling from her lips.  The last great image I’d get from her tonight was seeing the flame from her lighter applied to the end of her cigarette, an eruption of filthy smoke blasting from her face and into the night sky as she took her first drag from the dangle.  I was confident the couple would stand in this spot and give me yet another farrow-to-finish sighting, but unfortunately they started walking to behind the food trucks to a dark and isolated area near antique tractors, presumably believing they were smoking in a forbidden area.  Or it’s possible they were just heading toward their car because they could cut through the area they were going into the parking lot.  Either way, a girl that I pegged as a hot smoker the first time I saw her gave me fits of frustration for more than an hour and then made up for lost time considerably, providing me my best sighting of the fair so far.  She didn’t look familiar so it’s unclear whether she’s a local that I might expect to see more of on Friday and Saturday night, but even if I don’t, she’s the girl to beat from the 2019 county fair after three nights.

With the concert having gone long, it was already 10:50 and I wanted to make a midway run before its inevitable close at 11:00.  With teen smoking near zero, the midway has been a bust all season and has been trending down for years.  At the end of my pass, a modestly attractive late 20s dark blond was entering the midway with a freshly lit cigarette, and even made eye contact and said hello to me in passing.  But it was after the midway went lights out the area produced its big sighting of the night.  Earlier in the evening, I caught a passing glance of a tall and slender 18ish girl in a red top and black pants who was smoking.  She looked at least half Hispanic and wasn’t memorably gorgeous but wasn’t unattractive either, and I had to give her props as one of the few teen smokers to be found this year.  As the midway went dark, I recognized this same girl again amongst a mixed-gender group heading toward the midway exit.  I figured it would be worth my time to follow having seen her smoking earlier, and before I even had a chance to give it much thought, I spotted a pack of Newports in her hand.  A cigarette was soon plucked out and she was walking northward with her group, holding it for many yards before pausing to light it up.  I had to watch from behind but was pleased to see a blast of smoke erupt from her mouth after the drag, and I was able to walk through it seconds later and smell the mentholated aroma of what was expelled from her lungs.  She would be the only smoker of the two guys and two girls in her group, all heading hastily toward the parking lot in a way that limited my time to observe.  But as they headed toward the darkness in the lot, I spotted two additional drags from the light brunette, both with cloudy follow-up exhales that were beautifully visible in the night air.

That would be the end of the smoking portion of the evening, but on the final couple of passes I took down the main loop of the fairgrounds, I got a delicious dessert for the evening when I spotted a cluster of teens seated on these benches near the food trucks.  This attractive 16-17ish dark brunette was decked out in a bare midriff pink top and a pair of very stylish black leather shorts.  Leather is second only to smoking in my fetish pecking order, and this was the sexiest pair of black leather shorts I’ve seen.  Too often, leather shorts are overly bulky and frumpy but this pair was smooth and perfectly sculpted her ass, waist, and crotch.  I took a seat to admire her for a few moments, and just like the wild coincidence of my favorite smoker girl on Tuesday night emulating my recent fictional writing about a smoking character eating a funnel cake with strawberries and cream, the same character in the same recent fictional story I wrote was also wearing a pair of black leather shorts that perfectly sculpted her ass.  I’m hoping the rest of this story starts coming to life in the next two nights at the fair because there’s nothing more satisfying than when fetish fiction becomes reality!

I left the fairgrounds at about 11:30 with some spring in my step, with tonight being my favorite night of the three so far.  I can’t complain having had three nights at the county fair in 2019 that all featured marquee moments, including a homerun each on Tuesday and Thursday.  I have 42 sightings so far, which is less than stellar but not too far outside expectations.  My overall numbers have been plummeting in recent years, with last year dropping to 79 over five nights.  I’m on track to fall below that this year, but it’s possible a highly populated night could keep my numbers elevated to at least last year’s level.  Friday night’s grandstand performer is Christian rock band Casting Crowns.  I didn’t know what to expect from them in terms of crowd size but the fair organizer said they’ve sold the most advance tickets for them of any of the performers, which is kind of crazy to me as I didn’t think there’d be that degree of interest in Christian rock in my decidedly secular hometown.  Very curious to see how it goes.

 

Friday

Based on positive early indications for Night 4 at the county fair, I allowed myself to raise what have been low expectations thus far, and I got bit for it.  The early hype was that Friday evening’s grandstand act, the Christian band Casting Crowns, was selling a tidal wave of reserve seating and was poised to sell the place out.  It seemed a little too good to be true as my home county is not particularly religious and I had a hard time imagining there’d be many young people into Christian music.  Turns out my instinct was right as the crowd wasn’t nearly as massive as predicted and skewed older, with virtually nothing of significance sightings-wise coming from the concert portion of the night.  It was easily the weakest night of the four thus far, and one of the weaker nights I’ve ever had at my county fair, producing only nine sightings.

The night also had more sidetracks and distractions than any other night in recent memory as I ran into no fewer than three old high school classmates and got into extended conversations with each of them.  Did I miss a flurry of sightings while engrossed in these conversations?  Probably not, which is why I didn’t feel like jumping out of my skin to get away from them the way I have on previous occasions where I’ve been cornered by family or friends at this fair.  Still, I was probably out of commission a good 45 minutes tonight and more likely than not missed something I would have otherwise caught.

It was after my first lengthy detour with a former classmate that I finally got my first sighting of the night.  As I walked in the direction of the livestock buildings, a couple was emerging with cigarettes in hand.  They looked late 20s, but the guy was tatted up and trashy-looking.  His girlfriend had a decidedly softer and more wholesome look.  She had long blond hair and was wearing a white blouse and dark blue jeans, a half-smoked cork filter between her fingers walking through one of the more heavily populated stretches of the fairgrounds.  Unfortunately I only got to see one drag as she was gonna snuff out the cigarette before migrating deeper in the crowd.  While that was sort of a metaphor for the night overall, the way she snuffed out the cigarette was intriguing….right on the leg of her jeans.  They were dark jeans so the discoloration wouldn’t have been as problematic as on a lighter shade of denim, but it was still fascinating that a young woman would defile her clothes this way with a cigarette.

I got two more mediocre sightings before migrating into the grandstand just after 8:00 to find a solid but unspectacular crowd in the grandstand along with a much more distressingly paltry crowd in the beer gardens on the other side of the fence.  Even the low-turnout Tuesday night performer had a bigger beer gardens crowd than this.  The second of the three former classmates found me and chatted me up when I took my seat, and it was just as well because there was nothing going on below, with reality setting in that a dismal night was likely ahead of me.

Exactly two smokers of note appeared during the concert, both of whom I’d seen before.  The first was last night’s Tom Thumb Donuts smoker who walked into the port-a-john with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.  She was back tonight standing in front of the port-a-john and smoking a cigarette, but this time having to wait for someone else to come out.  Her drags were impressive and one exhale went straight down from her mouth into the cleavage of her low-cut tanktop.  She finished the cigarette before the occupant of the port-a-john exited and gave her a chance to go inside. I get the feeling this gal is a pretty heavy smoker

The other player during the grandstand show was the blond who snuffed out the cigarette on her jeans about a half hour earlier.  I was pleased to get a follow-up from her, but unfortunately it was from the back of the beer gardens where I could barely see her.  I saw the light-up and one subsequent drag, but beyond that she was too far back and had someone standing in front of her when smoking the rest of the cigarette.  And with as far back in the beer gardens as she was, I lost her completely after dark.

And that was it for the worthwhile smoking during the concert.  The band Casting Crowns was about what I expected, performing pleasant-sounding but unspectacular music punctuated by lengthy and heavy-handed sermonizing in between songs.  They seemed perfectly harmless and if they bring joy to listeners of faith, more power to them, but they were not my thing and I exited the grandstand by 9:30, about two-thirds deep into their show.  Unfortunately it was during this time frame when I ran into Ryan, a long-time bugaboo at the county fair who gets into extended conversations at inopportune times.  In this case, I missed some of the departing 10 p.m. concertgoers before we parted ways, but given how few in this audience were smoking, I doubt Ryan cost me a half dozen quality sightings.

Not long after breaking away from Ryan I had my heartbreaker of the night.  My dream scenario going into this night was to see a number of good young Christian girls and young ladies out in the smoking area puffing on a cigarette while praising Jesus.   That certainly didn’t happen, but I took a mental note during the concert of a cute 17ish light brunette wearing a “Jesus Freak” TV shirt who had features that boosted my radar of her possible smoking status.  As bad as you think the story ends, it’s actually gonna end worse.  The girl was standing next to her blue-collar dad in line for a concession stand, both wearing “Jesus Freak” T-shirts….and both dragging from their Juul pods.  I’ll give the teen Juuler credit for one thing (beyond doing it publicly in front of her dad) in that she produced the largest exhale of vapor I’ve seen from a Juul pod, which usually ejects an extremely scant quantity of vapor on the exhale.  What would have been a storybook “father and daughter in Jesus Freaks shirts smoke cigarettes as they leave Casting Crowns concert” sighting instead gets updated downwardly for the modern times to something entirely lacking in sex appeal.

Thankfully a few food vendors up the block, an actual cigarette was being smoked by a mid-20 blond who stood next to her apparently nonsmoking boyfriend with cigarette in hand while deciding on what menu item she wanted to buy.  After placing her order, she handed the two-thirds-smoked cigarette to her the boyfriend to hold while she waited in front of the vendor’s window.  The blond was mid-20s and a bit of a plain jane, but had a cuteness about her and an outfit of a white tanktop and pair of light jean shorts that made her seem too wholesome to be a young smoker.  When her order was ready, the blond reclaimed the cigarette from the boyfriend.  She took the only real drag I saw from her and it was solid with a cloudy follow-up exhale, but then quickly dropped the all-white butt to the ground.  The next time I walked past where she stood I checked out her littered butt.  It was a Marlboro Menthol Light, which I’ve always found to have attractive coloring with the white filters and the green rings.

The night had one more moment I could generously qualify as an extra-base hit just because of how exotic it was.  I sometimes encircle the open-air pavilion where they play BINGO just to see if there are smokers on the outer seats.  There are on occasion, and while they’re usually older ladies, you’ll sometimes see a younger woman smoking on the bench on the edge of the pavilion.  Tonight, I happened to see a late 20s Hispanic woman who had an unlit cigarette between her fingers that I presumed would soon be lit.  I had to get creative to find a place to observe and only when I sat down did I see her light the cigarette.  She was modestly pretty but had a surprising ethnic flair to her look, a look that tends to reduce smoking prevalence to footnote-like levels among Hispanic women with limited Americanization.  Whatever the case, she put on an interesting show here, standing up off the bench and hovering a few feet behind her BINGO card, attempting to be as courteous as possible while smoking her cigarette.  On two occasions, she took a drag while standing, leaned forward at the calling of the latest BINGO number and checked her cards for a match, while holding the cigarette smoke in her lungs the whole time.  After sufficiently playing her card she leaned back up, turned around, and exhaled.  Quite a workout to smoke a cigarette while playing BINGO, but I admired her quirkiness adding a minute or so of personality to an evening producing so very little.  She only smoked about half of it before crushing it on the ground and saving the rest of the cigarette for later, indicating she was perhaps a pretty heavy smoker and conscious of any possible way to save some money.

And that was it.  There were a couple extra modestly attractive 30-somethings after 11 p.m. who I counted but had no emotional attachment to and barely qualified for my list  I knew it was time to leave when I passed the teen huddle by the 4-H building where the kids line dance to piped-in music and found a cluster of cute and hip teen girls passing the Juul pod around.  In just two years, it seems to have become unthinkable for a hip young teen to be seen dead or alive with a cigarette.  I suppose maybe it’s a situation where the same kids experimenting with Juuling are trying the occasional cigarette in social situations and are thus not going uninitiated entirely, but for purposes of this public setting, opt to take the easy route and vape/Juul the night away.  Whatever the case, it’s hard to see how five years from now there will be many attractive smokers at all because the would-be replacement smokers are all primarily vaping or Juuling while the last generation of actual smokers (a declining number through last decade and this one) ages out of their peak attractiveness years.  Hard to imagine what any hypothetical microcomeback of cigarettes would look like actually.

So after three nights where my sightings exceeded expectations, I had a fourth night that badly undercut expectations.  With nine additional sightings from tonight, that puts me at 52 total sightings for the 2019 county fair, which would mean I’d need a robust 27 sightings on Saturday to match my previous-record-low 79 sightings I got last year.  The crowd showing up for country group LANCO has a tall order in front of them and it seems like quite an ask for a group that has had only one real hit along with a couple more minor hits.  Sometimes these country acts geared toward younger audiences surprise with how many people they turn out so it’s a roll of the dice.  There are a number of specific issues as to why this fair is declining more than most in my summer tour and I expect it to continue to, and a night like tonight really reinforces that speculation.

 

Saturday

The last significant night of my county fair in 2019 was more bust than boom.  While it produced 17 sightings, technically my strongest-performing night of the five, the numbers were disappointing considering how young the crowd skewed, especially in the beer gardens during the LANCO concert.  The localized nature of my county fair in a state with extremely high cigarette taxes is perhaps too anecdotal to glean far-reaching conclusions about the relevance of smoking, but it’s nonetheless chilling to see how steep of a decline smoking has been at this fair in the last five years and I suspect it will be at least somewhat backed up by what I see in my other fair venues.  I’ll go briefly to the fair on Sunday and it’s possible I’ll pick up another sighting or two, but in all likelihood what I saw through Saturday night will be the extent of what I get at the county fair in 2019.

I got there early on Saturday (before 5:00) to meet up with long-time friend Corey who I used to hang out with more at the fair until he got married and had a kid.  Now he only comes on Saturday afternoons pushing a stroller, which is convenient for my fetishing since I can spend a couple of hours in his company, send him on his way when his kid starts getting sleepy, and then have the evening to fetish.  It worked out that way again tonight and I actually got three modest sightings of late 20s and 30-something mothers smoking while I tagged along with him and his wife and kid.  At 7:00, they were gone and I was encircling the grounds in pursuit of sightings.

I didn’t see anything spectacular before heading to the grandstand, but on the periphery of the midway I got three separate sightings, the first a young couple smoking outside the mini-circus at the back of the midway where the 20-something wife took four solid drags before I walked away; the next of a family cluster that included a 20-something dark brunette in a matching black blouse and shorts who I saw take the last couple of drags from a cigarette; and about 50 yards from there a couple near the bathroom area with a modestly attractive dark blond in a red blouse and jean shorts smoking with her presumed husband.  Nothing to write home about and perhaps wouldn’t have been worthy of consideration 10 years ago, but with the current slim pickings it was worth making a note of.

From there I picked up my gyro and walked up into the grandstand for the upcoming concert.  The crowd was good but not great for the show, but the beer gardens seemed to hold a lot of promise with a younger-skewing crowd full of some first-rate hotties.  Surely, I figured, a fair number of them were bound to smoke.  Unfortunately it was mostly a complete bust, with only a handful of girls actually lighting up in the densely packed beer gardens, a terrifying indication that even the early-to-mid 20s set never has and never will touch tobacco.  Of the few girls who did smoke, the beer gardens would produce one devastating heartbreak and one pleasant surprise.  I’ll start with the heartbreak….

Before the show started, this couple that looked about 30 came out to the most perfect front-and-center spot inside the beer gardens for my sightings vantage point.  The dark brunette wife/girlfriend was decked out in a black blouse and skin-tight white pants that sculpted her feminine form gorgeously.  I instantly got a smoker vibe from her and after about five minutes of standing there, she started digging around in her purse….and digging…and digging.  I was convinced she was foraging for her cigarettes and lighter….and she produced a rectangular yellow box from the purse which she stuffed in the left back pocket of those tight white pants.  It had to be a pack of American Spirits I thought.  I was too far away to know for sure but was 99% convinced based on the markings.  Then she went back to her purse and dug around some more, presumably in search for her lighter.  But after another minute or so, she and her husband walked under the beer gardens canopy….and disappeared for the rest of the night.  I thought for sure they’d be standing in this perfect spot for the entire show and she’d be lighting up multiple cigarettes, her body sizzling in those white pants.  Instead I wouldn’t see her again, smoking or not.  She may well have stayed in the beer gardens and migrated to the other end, but with the darkness and the massive crowd during the show, there was no chance I’d see her if she wasn’t up front.  This was easily my biggest missed opportunity of the night.

But as I was gritting my teeth about that, I got a pretty sweet consolation prize.  Ever since I was a teenager, I was aware of these two sisters from my home county named Miranda and Molly, both very attractive.  Miranda was the older sister and I recall from stalking her old Myspace page back in the mid-2000s when she was 18 or so that she was a smoker.  Miranda must not live in the area anymore as I haven’t seen her in many years.  As for younger sister Molly, she’s probably about 30 now, is still single, and still lives in this county.  Almost every year I see her at my county fair, and despite looking like she’s smoked three packs a day since she was about eight years old, I’ve never seen her smoke, even when in the company of smoking friends.  Would that change tonight?  Sort of….

Near the front of the beer gardens a cluster of 20-somethings that included Molly was among the many groups of young people at the concert tonight pissing me off by not smoking.  Molly was talking to a very attractive mid-20s long-haired blond in a black tanktop and dark jeans but after keeping tabs on them for about 15 minutes and not seeing anything I was losing hope.  But lo and behold, the hot blond friend had Molly hold her beer while she foraged through her purse.  Moments later, an all-white cigarette was dangling from the blond’s lips and she lit it and reclaimed the beer from Molly.  As soon as I saw Molly handed the beer, I figured that meant she wouldn’t be getting a cigarette of her own, which was consistent with my past observations of Molly never smoking.  The blond friend was smoking hers with generally soft drags and minor exhales, leading me to believe she only smoked a little while she drank.  It was still nice to put a face that pretty with a cigarette on a weak night like tonight, but the moment I had been waiting to see for a good 15 years but had nearly become resigned to never seeing was suddenly happening as Molly reached out for a drag from her friend’s cigarette.  I didn’t know what to expect but Molly knocked it out of the park with an intense drag that make the cherry glow bright red, producing a dense exhale of smoke.  Unfortunately she handed the cigarette back to the friend and would never get it back but what a great feeling it was to finally see Molly smoke, if only for a drag.  While Molly is probably not a regular smoker, the ease and depth of the one drag I saw leads me to believe she’s at least a semiregular social smoker.  In this day and age, I’ll take it.

Molly’s friend finished off the cigarette, and her style points improved in the moments after Molly’s drags as well, with longer drags and cloudier exhales.  I was pleased it was dark because it helped distract me from the nasty tattoo ink the friend had all over her arms, which was reducing her stock for me despite being the only genuinely pretty girl in the beer gardens smoking.  She finished the cigarette and the beer gardens would cease to produce anything else worth mentioning for the rest of the night since she never lit up again inside the grounds during the course of the show.   The next best beer gardens sighting came from a duo dressed alike in candy apple red blouses and dark jeans.   I couldn’t get a good look at their faces from the distance but one was brunette and one was blond.  From afar they looked early 30s, so when I saw the blond light up and smoke a cigarette I couldn’t it….but I had to take that back when I saw the red-bloused blond in question outside of the beer gardens walking around.  The gal I guessed was about 35 looked more like 50 up-close, and even if my standards are dropping because of how limited sightings are, I’m still not gonna be counting smokers in their 50s unless they look like Jennifer Aniston.

As for the LANCO concert itself, it was just okay for me.  If I hadn’t known they were considered country before I showed up to the concert, I’d have never believed they were a country band because the music seemed aggressively pop with no fiddle or steel guitar to be found anywhere that I could tell.  They did a cover of the uber-twangy mid-90s John Michael Montgomery song “Sold” and even managed to make that sound not country.  I guess I’m happy for any low-profile act who starts at the bottom and manages to get a few hits on the charts before fading into oblivion, but there’s little indication to me that these guys will have any staying power in country music moving forward.  Anyway, their limited set made for a short concert and they were all done around 9:45, which was fine by me since I had zero momentum going in the grandstand smoking area and beer gardens so I was desperate to change locations and get different vantage points of the grounds.

Within a minute or so I was lurking around the main bathroom structure on the fairgrounds which is a popular destination after concerts for fairgoers who need to relieve themselves.  An attractive blond who looked mid-to-late 30s was standing near the dumpster foraging through her purse, presumably waiting for her husband to come out, and eventually fetched out an all-white cigarette.  I wasn’t in a good position to lurk so I did a couple of mini-loops to see how long it would be till she lit it.  Unfortunately when her husband came out of the bathroom, she lured him to the grass on the side of bathroom building so she’d be out of sight before she fired up her cigarette.  I was still able to get creative and circle back to take in a few drags of the sighting of the gal who was probably the oldest gal I selected for write-ups.  Sometimes I hesitate to pick women that appear older than 35.  This gal likely was over 35 but it was a no-brainer to select her as she was still attractive.

In the remaining hour and a half I ticked off a handful more sightings, two of which were noteworthy.  Potential was high for a girl I saw near the south side 4-H building sitting on a bench and rummaging through her purse.  It was too dark to see her face where she sat but the white cigarette produced from her purse that was held between her fingers was quite visible.  But then the sighting got weird as she walked through the dark in between two fair buildings to an isolated bathroom, where she went inside with the unlit cigarette still between her fingers.  Watching her hair swoosh and the general way she carried herself as she walked, I was thinking she might be as young as 17.  I waited her out to get a closer look, but wondered if she was smoking inside the bathroom since it didn’t make much sense otherwise for her to pluck one from her pack before going in there.  She was in the bathroom quite a while but eventually did emerge, lighting her cigarette and then walking quickly down an odd path behind the BINGO stands and then into the midway.  I followed but with as fast as she was walking I still hadn’t seen her face.  She was still a mystery from behind, her long light brown hair with frosted tips and her body type draped in an orange tanktop and tight jeans just screamed teenage girl.  Her drags were infrequent given her fast walking pace but when she did drag she was quite reckless about exhaling a huge plume of smoke into the air, which I was all too eager to walk behind.  Finally as she was deep into the midway, the overhead lighting gave me the opportunity to see her face.  Now she wasn’t bad but looked more like 21 or 22 upclose, and didn’t quite have the innocent teen girl look I hoped to see and that would have matched the way she carried herself.  And then, for some reason, she kept on boogeying into the parking lot area behind the midway, where it was too dark and isolated for me to follow without either getting caught or creeping her out, so I relented.  It was the best sighting after the grandstand show, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for more from this one.

After that there was just one more quality sighting.  I had seen a 20-something trio on the midway consisting of a guy, an unattractive heavyset gal, and a more attractive light brunette in a tanktop and jean shorts.  I had seen the guy and heavy girl smoking earlier in the night but was frustrated to not see the cuter girl.  The situation would be rectified around the time the midway went lights out because a wedding party was posing for photos in front of the ferris wheel and a crowd gathered that included the aforementioned trio, and this time all three were smoking.  Even with the cover of pretending to watch the wedding party get their photos taken, it was challenging to see much detail because the heavier guy and girl seemed like they were always standing in front of my preferred light brunette smoker.  I still got to see a few nice drags with cloudy exhales though.

Right around the time I was about to leave, Molly and the blond friend who smoked during the LANCO show walked out of the beer gardens and went to get a corn dog.  Given that neither one of them showed signs of being heavy smokers during the show, I wasn’t confident of a smoking performance accompanying their corn dog consumption, but I hovered in the area just in case.  As sexy as I’ve always found Molly, the blond friend was probably a few years younger and even cuter, but those ridiculous tattoos on her arms took quite a bit away from her beauty.  As expected, the girls ate their corn dogs without lighting up cigarettes, and while I lost track of Molly the friend was chatting with some people outside the beer gardens as she took the final bite of her corn dog.  I held out hope she’d smoke there but unfortunately she went back into the beer gardens in a couple of minutes, and that was my cue to call it a night.

I still have a brief mid-afternoon sojourn to the fair on Sunday but barring a big surprise, that’s likely to be game, set, and match for this year’s county fair.  I’ll get into overarching thoughts in the Sunday writeup but the last two nights were definitely unimpressive after a better-than-expected haul from Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  No two county fairs are the same but I followed the same track in 2014 with a strong start that faded by the weekend.  Last year I had a lackluster county fair in the first four nights but Saturday night came alive and produced three of last year’s four top-25-worthy county fair sightings.  I anticipate the multiple state fair visits will produce more worthwhile stuff than the fast-declining county fair, but I don’t want to take that for granted either.  Whatever the case, it would have been unthinkable not that many years ago that a night that produced only 17 sightings would be the most prolific sightings night of the week.  With as well-attended as the fair was on Saturday night and with as young as the beer gardens crowd skewed, I would imagine a night like this would have produced at least 40 sightings a decade ago.  That’s how far things have fallen.

 

Sunday

Well I’ll say this….today was my most productive mini-jaunt to the county fair on a Sunday afternoon I’ve ever had, producing five new sightings to wrap things up for the week.  I cheated though….I usually go in the early afternoon when traffic is light and stay for about an hour.  This year, my schedule allowed me to go in the mid-afternoon when the demo derby started, drawing in a larger and more redneck crowd and a few smoker girl sightings.  The first was a brunette concession worker sitting in the area outside the main bathroom enjoying a cigarette.  And while not a new girl, I saw the heavy-smoking late 20s Tom Thumb mini-donuts blond smoking again today, and did on Saturday evening at closing time as well, making her the most prolific sighting of the 2019 county fair at five cigarettes over four days, her shapely body draped in jean shorts for every one of them.

Another new sighting took place at the ring toss area where a couple in their early 30s was standing behind their 10ish son tossing rings onto the bottles.  Mom was a decently attractive blond in a purplish tie-dye tanktop and light blue jean shorts puffing on a half-smoked all-white cigarette behind the boy.  When he got a ring around the bottle and got a bottle of pop as a reward, Mom congratulated him with a “Good job, Brody,” before she took a final drag and crushed it out on the pavement below her foot.  I’d actually see her smoking twice more in the hour and a half I was there, both times with the husband and in the designated smoking hours on both the north and south sides of the grandstand before the demo derby started.  It looked like some variation of Marlboro Light Menthols that they were smoking based on the brief glimpse I got at their pack.

I briefly walked into the grandstand at the beginning of the demo derby and the crowd was impressive.  Almost right away, a young mom stepped outside into the smoking area for a cigarette.  She looked downscale and a tick trashy, but she was kind of cute and had a nice body that was draped in a skimpy white tanktop with a bare midriff and black shorts.  Her dark blond hair was in a long braid going down her back.  I got a farrow to finish sighting from her in the smoking area, making this the second-best show I got in the smoking area all week!  And during the show, she kept waving up to her presumed nonsmoking husband and son who were sitting only three bleachers in front of me.  When she finished her cigarette, she came back up and sat down with them, the Marlboro Menthol pack stuffed in the back pocket of her jean shorts.  My 15-minute interlude at the demo derby paid off.

But my timing when I left the demo derby paid off even better as I came across my final and favorite of the five new girls, albeit only for one drag.  A very attractive mid-20s blond in an orange top and black athletic shorts was walking toward the main block of food vendors in the company of her boyfriend and she had an all-white cigarette in hand.    I had to take a second look at her face as she seemed way too upscale and classy to be smoking this day and age, but there she was wielding that all-white just like the much more blue-collar-looking local girls.  And the boyfriend she was walking with wasn’t smoking.  Unfortunately she wouldn’t be much longer either, taking a single drag and then dropping the cigarette to the grass and crushing it out, leaving well over half of the Camel Crush lying there on the fairgrounds pavement.  I followed them briefly to a food vendor where they ate and then migrated to the commercial exhibits under the grandstand.  I’m glad I was able to see enough to know this most unlikely girl was a smoker, but it was painful to walk away not being able to see more.

Alas, that finally puts a wrap on the 2019 county fair.  The extra five sightings boosted me to 74 sightings this year, down from last year’s 79 and part of a consistent downward track from this venue, which peaked in 2010 with 144 sightings.  In the last several years, the trajectory has gone from 110 sightings to 101 to 98 to 89 to 79 to this year’s 74, barely half what it was a decade ago.  To put this in perspective, on the night of the Hinder concert in 2010, I got 52 sightings in a single night at the county fair.  And somehow I’ve managed no rainy days to screw things up worse in the last several years.  If I get stuck in a rainy weather stretch one year, there’s no telling how much things will fall.  Still, I got out of this year’s county fair about what I expected going in….continued decline but a few genuinely impressive sightings that kept my morale from completely cratering.  The first three nights this year were better than I expected but I crashed back to reality on Friday and Saturday, with Juul pods more visible in the teen huddles by the end of the week than they were in the beginning when I was holding out some hope those things were past peak.  Even two years ago, there was still a semblance of a teen smoking culture visible in the hometown and I hadn’t seen my first Juul pod yet, but last year was a wakeup call to the fast-changing norms and this year’s haul didn’t do anything to indicate those norms are reversing.  I’m still hopeful I’ll get some iconic moments out of this fair season, but with the declining Summerfest and county fair kicking off fair season, things get off to a really slow start nowadays.  I’m six days away from Day 1 of the Iowa State Fair as I write this, and can only hope things step up at least a little closer to the baseline than they have been thus far.

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2 Responses to 2019 Local County Fair

  1. Ken Houghton says:

    It is always a pleasure to read your writing – if at the same time a bit depressing in the stats. Amazing that in 2010 you had 144 sightings and the trend has been so downward. These days the only boost I get is seeing how many lovely young ladies are queuing up to display their smoking on Instagram. Sigh – and thanks for the terrific work.

    • Smokin' Mark says:

      If anything it’s worse that it seems. Having gotten older myself, I’m probably counting some 30-something mothers today who are just barely on the edge of attractiveness who I wouldn’t have counted back in 2010. My trend hasn’t been as horrific at the three state fairs….at least not yet. Part of the issue comes from this town which is struggling and losing people….and where a localized collapse in smoking culture appears to be outpacing that of the rest of the venues I visit. Hopefully the news will be slightly less depressing in the weeks ahead. Thanks for reading.

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