2019 Iowa State Fair, Day 3

Most years I only head to the Iowa State Fair twice but since I wanted to go to that bandshell concert on Wednesday night, I decided to go a third night this year on Friday evening.  Country singer Luke Bryan was the grandstand entertainment so I figured that would draw a demographically favorable crowd.  Insane person that I am, I took off bright and early for the Missouri State Fair the next morning, making August 16 and 17 the most aggressive sightings weekend of my life.  And while Luke Bryan night wasn’t as spectacular as Slipknot night the previous Saturday, it wasn’t a bad day overall and came on particularly strong after dark.  I scored 85 sightings in about nine hours, arriving at the grounds around 2:30 and leaving around midnight.  I intentionally came in the mid-afternoon in hopes of preserving my feet for a full day in Missouri the next day, limiting myself only to the prime sightings hours for Friday.

I got off my shuttle bus to perfect summer weather in the low-to-mid-80s and a grounds already filling up.  Within moments, my first sighting of the day was strutting down the concourse going the opposite direction, an early 30s blond with a cigarette hastily heading toward the exit.  Always nice to get the first sighting ticked off in the first few minutes after arrival.

Within about a half hour I’d get my first extra-base hit of the day on the south side of the grounds with a young couple smoking outside of a commercial building, the female half of the couple becoming Sighting #4.  She was an attractive mid-20s redhead with flowing red locks going down her back, wearing a black tanktop and and a pair of pale blue jean shorts.  She was quite tall and those long legs looked killer coming out of the sexy jean shorts, and coupled with the sun shining down on that red hair, really made for a killer presentation as she stood there in the middle of the street and smoked her cigarette.  I had to sit a few benches down since not many people were around but I got several pics, including a couple of dragging pics, that turned out pretty well despite the distance.  I got to see several well-timed drags with solid delivery and exhales before she stomped out the expired butt on the pavement and went inside the commercial building with the boyfriend.  Once she went inside, I was able to identify the butt as a Camel Light Menthol.  I had some good early momentum here.

The momentum continued on a grassy knoll on the east side of the grounds where I came across a duo of glamorous early 20s sexpots having a smoke break.  Sightings #6 and #7 were both killing it in the presentation department, one blond and one brunette, sitting there puffing away with a pack of Newports resting in between them.  On the left was the blond who impressed me most of the two, sunglasses atop her head and her long, straight blond hair flowing onto a bright yellow tanktop with a sexy pair of pale blue cutoffs on the bottom showing off a tremendous amount of leg.  The brunette on the right was sexy too, and the better smoker of the two, wearing a zebra-striped top and black jeans.  It was great to know there were girls like this who still smoked as they definitely evoked a stylish aura that one would expect to be associated with the faddish Juul pods these days.   I was sitting across the street and took a few pics, but the distance prevented any of them from being great.  The brunette finished her cigarette a moment before the blond followed suit, and unfortunately I didn’t get the shot where the blond stood up and then bent over to pick up her Newport pack off the grass.  The girls walked away from their littered butts and headed back onto the grounds, allowing me the opportunity to swoop in and confirm that their cigarettes were both Newports.

I was lucky to get this early burst of quality because the next hour and a half would be a bust.  The streak wouldn’t even get broken by Sighting #12 because it wasn’t even really a sighting.  I came upon this middle-aged father and mother sitting on the curb in front of Jalapeno Pete’s next to a mid-20s dark brunette daughter in a blouse and jean shorts.  The daughter couldn’t have possibly looked more like a smoker as she sat there sipping her beer, and sure enough, resting on the top of her open purse was a pack of Camel Crushes.  Unfortunately, the purse was soon zipped shut.  I kept tabs on her for a good 20 minutes as I darted from one path to another, hoping I’d arrive at some point to see that purse open and a Camel Crush smoldering between her fingers, but it wouldn’t happen and finally they departed, never to be seen again last night.

Sightings continued to come together slowly but I was keeping tabs on the crowd forming near the grandstand for the Luke Bryan concert, where my eyes landed upon this early-to-mid-20s blond who left the line and was wandering around aimlessly with an unlit cigarette between her fingers.  She seemed to think there was  a specific designated smoking area but there wasn’t, so she drifted back into the line and likely asked her nonsmoking friends.  Finally, she broke from the line again and headed to an isolated patch near a trash can a few yards east of the line, where she lit up the cigarette and officially became Sighting #16.  She had a certain studious look about her that was kind of sexy, with glasses and long blond hair going past her shoulders, wearing a white T-shirt and torn-up jeans.  She didn’t look like a smoker but also seemed a little conservatively dressed for a young woman going to a Luke Bryan concert.  I got a few holding pics but her location was too isolated to dwell with my camera, so I watched from a few yards away as she put away the cigarette pretty nicely and with solidly timed drags.  I wanted to get a brand ID on the all-white butt but she uncooperatively crushed the butt out on the pavement and tossed it in the nearby trash can before getting back in line for the concert.

A few yards away at the eastern edge of the grandstand near the bathroom area, I’d get Sighting #17, which I suspected was a family of smokers including a set of parents and an early 20s blond daughter.  Now the daughter was a tick homely but in a cute sort of way, wearing a gray blouse and torn-up blue jeans with her blond hair wrapped up in a ponytail.  The dynamic was cool here to see her smoking so openly with her parents.  I sat across the street and watched most of the show as the three of them all smoked, with dad finishing his cigarette first and then walking off somewhere, leaving just mother and daughter to finish theirs off in the next few minutes.  This bathroom area is often productive on big concert nights since it’s right around the corner from the grandstand and last night would be no exception.  And I noticed an ex-girlfriend of mine from 12 years ago was in the general area and smoking outside the bathroom.  This didn’t surprise as she loved country music concerts and Luke Bryan would be right up her alley, but she hasn’t aged well in the years since we went out…to the point that I didn’t even consider her a sighting despite seeing her smoking!

I always make sure to explore the Bud Tent and its surrounding block, particularly by late afternoon happy hour time, and the area came through again last night with a duo of early 20s girls sitting across the street sharing a cigarette.  Sightings #22 and #23 were both brunette, and while the girl on the right had the sexiest conventional presentation in a black tanktop and jean shorts, the friend on the left in a black top and jeans impressed me more as she was sporting a more wholesome and conservative look.  She was also the better smoker of the two and got the majority of the shared cigarette to herself.  All the benches near them were occupied and I was out of luck for getting any photos, but hovered near the curb and saw them smoke most of the cigarette.  I was hoping I’d see them again last night but the first time would be the only time.

My prime objective for the night was obviously smoker girl sightings but on two occasions I found myself distracted by leather on girls’ butts.  I ran into two young ladies wearing leather miniskirts.  One was a dark-complected late teen girl who was quite skinny and was rocking a flat-styled leather skirt that fit her nicely.  The one who really got my blood pumping though was this late 20s dark blond with a middle-aged woman I assumed was her mother and decked out in a lip-smackingly sexy black leather miniskirt that fit her curves just perfectly.   The blond was pretty but had the kind of weathered features that made me suspect she was also a cigarette smoker but I never did see it.  When I ran into her, the Budweiser Clydesdale horses were marching down the concourse and demanding everybody’s attention.  I was giving a few passing glances at the impressive Clydesdales but more of my attention was going to the even more impressive leather-clad ass of this sexy dark blond.  It was all the more exciting that she dressed for the fair like this in the company of her mother.

It was approaching dinner time now and the crowds were really starting to pile in, and sometimes that actually hurts sightings prospects as you have a hard time seeing past the person right in front of you with all of these people, but I tried to migrate to areas where I knew smokers would likely be found, and one of them was the seating area behind The Depot, where I saw a middle-aged mother and her two 20-something daughters, one of whom was smoking.  The blond daughter who was Sighting #27 was a bit chubby, decked out in her black tanktop and jean shorts, but had such a girl-next-door look about her with her ponytailed blond hair that it was still intriguing to see her smoking a cigarette.  There was a bench open behind The Depot where I was able to sit and watch most of the show, with the mother at one point seeming to console the smoking daughter who had a bit of a hangdog look on her face.  I stayed for the duration of the show, and while there wasn’t anything particularly special about her smoking style, I still enjoyed the dynamic.

As the line started to let in crowds for the Luke Bryan show, I lurked around the front of the grandstand to catch all the concertgoers storing up on nicotine before the show started.  I wouldn’t get many to impress, but one intriguing entry was Sighting #31, this early 30s Asian gal sitting next to an older white woman, who I suppose could have been an adopted mother as it felt as though their relationship was familial based on my limited observation.  Whatever the case, the Asian gal smoked and the older white woman didn’t.  With her dark complexion and glasses, this Asian gal was facially the spitting image of the dark-skinned Asian girl who was my best sighting for night 2 of this year’s ISF, although this gal was probably 10 years older than Wednesday night’s girl and her hair wasn’t nearly as long.  She lit up an all-white the first time I saw her smoking and only about 10 minutes later she was lighting up a second while sitting in the same spot.

Things were going slower than I’d hoped in the early evening but another pass through the Depot yielded an intriguing find.  I had my eye on a blond who was smoking in the seating area but off in the distance another gal burst onto the scene–sort of–who diverted my attention.  A late 20s or early 30s long-haired light brunette in a shiny tanktop and jean shorts was drifting off to a very isolated area several yards south of The Depot to smoke a cigarette that she very clearly didn’t want anybody to know or see she was smoking.  And Sighting #36 would have gotten away with it too if not for this mettling fetisher watching from afar.  Given her isolation, pictures were out of the question but it was a treat seeing what I suspected was a closet smoker indulging herself in a secret cigarette and making pretty quick work of it.  She had her back turned to me for much of the show but it was nice seeing those cloudbursts exploding from her mouth and nose.  The show only lasted about three minutes before she crushed out the cigarette and walked away, passing by right in front of me on her way back to wherever she came from and not giving any indication she knew that I knew her secret.

Back to the bathroom area around the corner of the grandstand, several smokers were indulging their habits before the concert but not too many of them leaving an impression on me.  An early 20s dark blond in a black top and jeans was good enough to count as Sighting #37, but she seemed pretty downscale and not appealing enough for a writeup.  But I’ll give her credit for stepping up and making her sighting worth my time for an extra couple minutes of observation as this middle-aged couple approached her when they saw her cigarette and asked if they could bum one.  The dark blond cooperatively reached into her purse and pulled out a pack of Marlboro Blacks, handing one over to the couple and talking to them with the cigarette bouncing up and down in her mouth the whole time.  The two parties continued to interact and my dark blond was smiling and had a different air about her than when I first spotted her, smoking with a pretty decent style as she conversed with this older couple.  The sighting certainly wasn’t poised for any top honors of the day but I always enjoy when a sighting that leaves a mediocre first impression improves in scope over the course of the show.

From there I headed to the east side of the grounds and spotted a couple who looked about 30 years old sitting in the grass, each of them smoking a cigarette in a very isolated spot west of the free concert stage.  I could tell from afar that the long-haired dark brunette who would likely be Sighting #39 had a full-sleeve tattoo on her left arm, which I find repulsive.  I almost didn’t bother walking past her to check out her smoking show, but decided to give her a glance anyway.  And she was pretty….way too pretty to have defiled her body with that ugly tattoo.  I’ve mentioned before that the tattoo era presents a challenge to my sightings picks as there are some attractive young women who I have a hard time identifying as a sighting because I’m so grossed out by the nasty tattoo ink.  On the other hand, I can’t very well discredit every smoking girl with a visible tattoo either, so I guess it’s just an “I know it when I see it” threshold for how much ink is too much.  This dark brunette made the cut, but damn would her sighting have been better if the ugly  mess of tattoo ink all over her arm hadn’t been the very first thing I noticed about her.

The evening was in serious need of some star power, and I knew the second I looked at her that Sighting #40 had star potential.  Sitting on the curb on the east side was a mid-20s dark brunette who was the only one smoking in her mixed-gender group of four.  Sitting there in her green top and pale blue daisy dukes, she struck an impressive pose and I claimed a seat near her on the curb, although unfortunately with friends on both sides of her preventing any photo-taking and making observation generally a challenge.  But I was still able to carry on with the latter as the brunette smoker conversed with her nonsmoking female friend, dragging from her cork filter intensely and cocking her neck upward during the drag.  I waited and waited and waited for the exhales after her drags and it was always several seconds later before her lungs expelled the smoke in intense upwardly-directed streams.  There was something very expressive about this girl’s face that made her above-average general look that much more irresistible as she continued talking to this friend while exposing her to her filthy cigarette breath.  Unfortunately, I only got to see four drags before the cigarette–which had the markings of a Camel Menthol–was retired below her feet.  I got up to leave but circled back pretty quickly just in case she lit up another one.  Instead, her group was walking toward the birthing center building, the guy who was clearly her boyfriend holding hands with this cutie, her presentation in those snug jean shorts and belt only more dazzling after she became vertical and was walking away.  But the group went inside the building and all I could do was hope I’d see her again later in the evening.  And I would….she was hand in hand with the boyfriend when they stumbled upon another duo of apparent friends at the edge of the midway.  My jean-shorted cutie had a fresh beer in her hand and I thought with this social visit near the drinking fountain that it portended tremendous potential for a follow-up sighting.  Unfortunately…nothing.  They stood and talked to this couple for a good 20 minutes by the drinking fountain, and I took a few blurry evening pics, adoring her emotive face and effervescent charm whenever I walked past.  I kept close tabs the entire 20 minutes until one time I walked past and they were gone, never to be seen again last night.  It was really disappointing given her star potential, but I needed more than those four drags to declare her one of this year’s queen bees.  I figured fate was on my side when I ran into her the second time but it wasn’t meant to be.  Very glad for what I did see though as those four drags were remarkable.

It was just about 8:00 and the last wave of concertgoers were filling up on smoke outside the grandstand, and a duo of late 20s gals hovering near a food stand caught my eye.  Sighting #44 was a slightly chubby but decently attractive brunette in a very conservative plaid shirt and dark jean shorts and was the only one smoking of the two, but her style was such that I took note, her pacing solid and her exhales directed skyward with some pretty good force.  I actually got one of those exhales on camera.  She retired the cigarette to the pavement below her feet and crushed it out, and I figured that would be the end of the sighting, certainly not expecting that the blond would wait for the brunette to finish her cigarette and light one up of her own, but that’s exactly what happened.  The blond became Sighting #45 only seconds after #44’s show ended.  I stuck around for a minute or so, but the blond’s performance wasn’t overly memorable even though she was the better-looking of the two.

The sun had set and I hadn’t really seen anything yet last night that was really hitting me where I lived, so I was starting to get concerned.  Sometimes this leads you to take risks and chase white whales and other times it leads you to keep moving in desperate hope of finding something.  Last night fit the former category as I walked in front of Jalapeno Pete’s and the other main beer gardens joints on the concourse when I stumbled upon a trio that included a mid-20s guy smoking, a female brunette Juuling, and this intriguing strawberry-haired cutie in her mid-20s standing between them who wasn’t breathing anything into her lungs at the moment.  I had a really strong feeling about this girl though as I admired her impossibly wholesome look, the long strawberry hair flowing onto her back and onto a white blouse with a conservative pair of purplish-blue shorts on the bottom.  She was a mix of Chelsea Clinton and this wholesome girl named Kelsey who I briefly courted on an online dating site until she got back together with her old boyfriend.  Even if the best I got was her getting one drag off of the cigarette of the guy who I presumed to be her boyfriend, it would have been worth the short investment of time.  But I was about to do way better than that….

The strawberry-haired cutie leaned toward the boyfriend and put her hands into the pocket of his shorts, in seconds retrieving a pack of Marlboro Lights.  This girl wasn’t gonna bother to simply ask her boyfriend to hand her the pack….she wanted a nicotine hit right now on her own terms!  Seconds later, she lit up to officially become Sighting #50 and was it ever a great show, with nicely paced and indulgent drags always followed up with tilted-head exhales directed skyward at 45-degree angles with impressive smoke volume.   It was a fantastic show and I was watching and smelling it from only a few feet away, but it would get a most satisfying change of direction about halfway through the cigarette when the strawberry-haired smoker was suddenly walking hand in hand with the female Juuling friend through the dense crowd and toward the cluster of port-a-johns.  My smoker girl busted through the crowd with cigarette in hand, continuing to drag and exhale from it with reckless abandon until they ultimately got in line for a port-a-john near the back end of the cluster.  It was at this point a new player entered the sighting, some middle-aged guy who wandered in from the midway holding a giant stuffed animal.  Maybe his grandkid won it at the carnival or something.  Whatever the case, he came across as this gentle grandpa type who approached my strawberry-haired smoker and asked her if she wanted the stuffed prize.  It’s reasonable to assume as he approached that he didn’t see the cigarette in her hand, and simply called out the most wholesome young chick he saw in close proximity to see if she wanted to lug around this carnival prize, and only then noticed that the wholesome girl he beckoned had a half-smoked cigarette between her fingers.  I couldn’t hear the conversation but they politely bantered for a couple of moments when she declined his offer to take the stuffed prize.  Moments after that, she finished off the Marlboro Light and crushed it out beneath her shoe, forcing the hordes of people in line for the port-a-john to choke down one last exhale that spewed from her respiratory system.

I walked away from this sighting thrilled at my instinct that led me to be patient and wait this girl out even though she didn’t look at all like a smoker.  I was also thrilled to head off to a nearby bench and check out how well my pictures turned out as I was scoring stacks of upclose shots before she and the friend drifted away for the potty break.  Imagine my horror when I looked at my camera to see only one photo took and it wasn’t even a good one.  For the life of me I don’t know what happened and unfortunately it was the first of several photo fails of the evening.  I was sick about it….but the same instinct that led me to keep my eye on this girl in the first place also made me think I hadn’t seen the last of her for the night.

In the meantime I walked over to The Depot and, at the top of the stairs shared by the Depot and the adjoining Varied Industries building, stood an adorable petite brunette smoking a cigarette. Sighting #51 bid a brief farewell from her nonsmoking boyfriend who went inside the Varied Industries building as she stayed behind and smoked.  And damn was she sexy….her long dark brown hair flowing onto the shoulders of this yellow-striped bare-midriff top with several inches of exposed belly and a pair of tight jeans below.  Perhaps her diminutive size contributed to this impression, but she came across as meek and bashful standing there smoking her cork-filter cigarette without her boyfriend.  I suspect she was in her mid-20s but she could have easily passed for 18 she was so short and cute.  I attempted a couple of stealth photos, including one in mid-drag, but figured they wouldn’t turn out great with the evening lighting.  Turns out that like with the strawberry-haired hottie that preceded her, the photos didn’t take at all, so I didn’t even manage to get bad pics.  Still no idea what was going on but the boyfriend came back out and they walked back to the concourse, the brunette still finishing her cigarette and then tossing the butt into the trash can denying me a brand ID.  I saw the couple again about an hour later but she wasn’t smoking this time.  Here was another extra-base hit that had the potential to be something really special if I’d gotten to see more.

I continued to explore the grounds and hung fairly close to the grandstand as there was a spillover crowd listening to Luke Bryan from outside the gates.  Off to the side of this crowd was a cute early 20s dark blond chatting with a friend and opening up her purse.  Sure enough, out came a pack of Camel Crushes.  Sighting #55 was more engrossed in the conversation with the friend than the cigarette though, and it took her a helluva long time to take out the cigarette and get it lit, but when she did fire it up, it was pretty cool seeing how casually she continued to engage in her ongoing chat with this nonsmoking friend while inhaling drags from her cigarette in the moments when her friend was doing the chatting.  Still, with as much chatting as was going on, I didn’t have the patience to wait out the entire cigarette, particularly since I had a couple of other girls I was keeping close tabs on.

At the top of that list of girls I was keeping tabs on was the strawberry-haired wholesome girl in front of Jalapeno’s Pete.  I walked past that block of beer gardens and there she was again, not smoking but talking with a family she apparently knew and a young boy who looked about six who she was treating like a toddler.  Either she was already pretty drunk or her biological clock is thundering like Big Ben at high noon because she was fully engaged in youthful conversation with the young boy, complete with high-fives and overly complimentary responses to what he said.  At one point, she was introducing the child to others in her group and said “And this is Easton!” with a vocal excitement that matched her overall colorful expressions.  Some girls just explode with that IT factor in social settings, and she definitely fit the profile, her face and body language bubbly to a degree that it was impossible to look away even when she was not smoking.  But for all of her doting on the young boy, it was quickly clear that his presence was the only thing delaying her next cigarette…..because as soon as the parents with the young child walked away, it took about 10 seconds for the Marlboro Lights to make their next appearance.  And this time she plucked the pack from her own shorts pocket where they rightly belonged, as her boyfriend apparently had learned his lesson after the last time when she reached into his pocket and swiped them.  She was the only one in her group smoking during this sighting as well.  She lit up and took down this cigarette with the same great pacing and with the same 45-degree upward-angle exhales she treated the rods and cones in my eyes to on the previous sighting.  I was taking some pics on this one but was unable to replicate what I thought I’d gotten on that upclose original cigarette.  Still, it was an impressive show and she was definitely the top player of the night thus far.  I figured surely it would be a while till her next cigarette would be smoked so I took the opportunity to venture toward the Bud Tent a block to the east.

I made that quick pass through the Bud Tent and got a couple of good sightings, but I ended up wishing I had never left my old spot as when I returned, my strawberry-haired cutie already had another cigarette going, holding her pack of Marlboro Lights in her other hand as she smoked this one.  There were more people in her social group now, including a middle-aged lady I figured was either her mother or her boyfriend’s mother.  Just like before, the strawberry-haired cutie was the only one smoking.  I continued to adore watching her work the crowd with her highly emotive facial expressions, which came alive even further when admiring the pleasure on her face as she dragged from her cigarette.  I got a couple of marginally passable pics of her face but never anything while she was dragging.  Lack of excellent photos aside, she was now running away with the night.  A garbage truck was coming down the concourse, honking its horn to warn fairgoers in the middle of the street to move, which meant my favorite girl’s group moved closer to where I sat on the curb.  She wasn’t close to me for long before finishing up what was at least her third cigarette of the last 45 minutes, dropping it to the pavement and crushing it out beneath her shoe like the previous two just before subjecting the others in her group to a final blast of her secondhand smoke.

The sky seemed to be the limit for how many cigarettes she’d be consuming in front of Jalapeno Pete’s the rest of the evening, and I drifted off briefly once again to check on other hotspots closeby, but when I returned her group was gone….or else inside Jalapeno Pete’s.  I still held out some hope I’d see her again before night’s end, and I guess I did, but I’d seen the last of her smoking for the night.

Elsewhere on the grounds, on the block between the Bud Tent and Jalapeno Pete’s I noticed a duo of two guys posing with two fairgrounds police officers for an awkward photograph.  The guys didn’t seem particularly intoxicated so it was a little odd they’d be requesting a photograph with these cops, but it was only when I looked past those on the receiving end of the photo and toward the person taking the photo that I realized what the scene’s main attraction would be.  Holding the camera to take the snapshot with a mostly smoked cigarette protruding from between her fingers was Sighting #61, a cute mid-20s brunette.  After taking the pic, she gathered with the guys and the cops to check out how the pics turned out, taking a final drag from her cigarette and then polluting it on the pavement right in front of the cops.  It was a pretty cool novelty sighting, and got even weirder about 10 minutes later when I saw the same girl smoking another cigarette in the company of the same two guys as they approached another duo of fairgrounds cops to ask them for a selfie too.  It was one of the oddest storylines to ever accompany a sighting, and either this group was much drunker than they looked or they got off on persuading cops to take pictures with them.

From there I migrated back to the spillover crowd east of the grandstand for the Luke Bryan concert with excellent timing to stumble upon my third favorite sighting of the night.  Standing on the back steps of one of the bars outside the grandstand was this attractive mid-20s blond smoking in the company of an African-American nonsmoking boyfriend and what I presumed was her mother, who was also smoking.  Sighting #62 had a very pretty face and was a pretty good smoker.  Her ass a bit larger than I prefer draped in a pair of camouflage shorts, but she was still fun to watch smoke.  But a split second after my eyes took note of this mother-daughter smoking duo, I looked a couple of steps higher on the same fairgrounds bar to see another mother-daughter smoking duo, this one featuring an even more adorable and wholesome early 20s blond, puffing away on their cigarettes and becoming Sighting #63.  I hit pay dirt and settled a few feet down the cement where I could pretend to be part of the spillover grandstand crowd listening to the concert while my real objective was watching two different pairs of mother-daughter smokers.  It was pure heaven for a couple of minutes as my eyes darted up and down the stairs with new blasts of smoking coming from female mouths and dirtying up the airspace amongst this crowd of onlookers.  The original blond down the stairs and her mother finished up their cigarettes first, ultimately leaving the more wholesome girl up the stairs, and her mom, to drive this sighting home……

It was amazing how adorable this girl was, a sweetheart 21-22ish blond with curly hair hanging onto the shoulders of her lacy white blouse with pale blue jean shorts on the bottom.  But it was her smoking that really made the fire crackle, with the girl routinely taking intense drags with looks of sensual pleasure filling her face as she pulled the carcinogens into her body, the visual all the more electric with the backdrop of carnival lighting from the midway just behind her.  Her exhales showed the same bodily passion, turning her mouth to the right and releasing the smoke through her pursed lips as if she’d never felt anything more wonderful in her life, and all listening to the music of Luke Bryan of all people.  Every drag was like this.  Perhaps it was brought on by the alcohol as it seems like girls who are slightly or completely drunk seem to enjoy their cigarettes with much more sensuality, but this girl was not carrying herself as though she was overly drunk.  Either way, it was a real trip associating this wholesome face with such an electric bodily response from smoking.  I was really hoping for a butt ID, but unfortunately the cigarette would get dropped into the nearly empty remains of whatever adult beverage she was imbibing.  An encore would have been wonderful but almost immediately after mom and daughter finished their cigarettes they walked out right past me and left the spot, giving me a nice closing glance at her slender body in the white lacy blouse and pale blue jean shorts as it walked away.  A double mother-daughter sighting would have been nice enough, but when the hottest girl of the group puts on smoky performance art like this to enhance the visual further, it creates a moment no Luke Bryan song is capable of effectively capturing, try as he might.

I kept putting points on the board as I migrated west on the concourse to The Depot where a young Hispanic couple gave me a rare Hispanic sighting.  The girl was early 20s and very cute and petite with long, light brown hair and wearing a T-shirt and jeans.  Sighting #65 was a bearcat to pin down as she kept weaving in and out of the group clustered in front of the Depot and seemed to always be on the wrong side of her boyfriend for me to check out her drags, but just seeing her there holding that cigarette with the glowing cherry while singing along to whatever piped-in song was coming out of the speaker at the Depot was a great visual.  I finally got to see a single drag and it was nice if not particularly memorable in the execution.

When I returned to the grandstand area, that’s when I spotted the #40 girl with her boyfriend hanging out by the water fountains with another couple that I alluded to earlier, so I kept close tabs on her for awhile and stuck pretty close to the grandstand, midway, and Jalapeno Pete’s area for the next 20 minutes or so, also hoping I’d spot the strawberry-haired star of the night (#50) again.  Neither #40 nor #50 would come through, but new addition Sighting #70 sure left an impression.  Standing to the west of the grandstand was a mixed-gender group that seemed kind of oddball from a distance but ultimately appeared to be two couples.  But from afar, an even from upclose, the brunette Sighting #70 looked like she was about 15.  She was very petite and decked out in a girlish white tanktop and pale pink shorts, but her features were also very soft and pastel, appearing several years younger than what I assume she was as she smoked her cigarette and drank her adult beverage in the presence of the male smokers in the group.  I was in no position to take a photo but wish I could have just to study her features better and see if I could buy her being 21 or older.  One of the two guys had his arm around her signifying that he was her boyfriend, and he definitely looked early-to-mid 20s.  Coupling that with her drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette at such a public spot and I can’t imagine she was under 21 and run the risk of being arrested.  She was standing in a circle with the guys so it was hard to watch her show, but I did see a couple of drags, and it was impressive to see the contrast of this girl smoking while looking like she wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license.

I made a quick run through the midway before the Luke Bryan concert ended and got a cute little sighting from a duo of early 20s blonds, one of whom was standing and leaning against a carnival stand while vaping….and the other who was sitting down next to her and smoking a real cigarette, with the pack of Marlboro Lights next to her on the pavement.  Sighting #72 looked like she might have had a little bit to drink that night as well, and had a glamorous air about her with long blond hair and heavy makeup application, a gray blouse and medium-blue jeans on the bottom.  She was hitting that cigarette pretty aggressively, which was helpful for me as there was no good vantage point to observe this and I had to slow-walk a couple of semicircles around the carnival stand to see anything.  What I did get to see was three nice drags and cloudy exhales that accompanied them.

Luke Bryan was singing his encore performance (for some reason singing Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”) and some fairgoers were spilling out of the grandstand early either to beat the traffic or get their nicotine fix.  It was at this time that a trio of extra-base hit sightings converged to give me a sensory overload moment at the edge of the grandstand…and my second favorite sighting of the night.  It all started when I saw this mid-20s couple settle into a dark crevice along the grandstand’s exterior foundation and extract cigarette from a pack that appeared from a distance to be Marlboro Blacks.  The long-haired blond in the black blouse and jeans who would become Sighting #74 was very pretty and very wholesome…..and VERY pregnant.  We’re talking at least eight months here.  She quickly sat down after getting her hands on the cigarette, presumably to hide her big belly from a judgmental public.  But then this duo of brunette women in their late 30s or 40s showed up and started talking to the young couple who by now were both smoking.  The blond was fishing out cigarettes for the two women who just joined them but I couldn’t tell whether she knew them or if they were just strangers bumming a cigarette.  I sensed a little nervous energy from my blond, pregnant smoker, indicating the two women were strangers, but later I’d conclude they had to have known each other in some capacity because they continued to sit there chatting for another 15 minutes.  This sighting would have been impressive even if I had just come upon it 30 seconds after I did and never saw she was eight months pregnant because the girl looked so wholesome, reminding me quite a bit of my favorite lady from Missouri when she was in her mid-20s, herself smoking throughout her pregnancy.  This pregnant blond didn’t mind inhaling very deeply when she put that cork filter cigarette up to her lips either, lighting up that dark corner with the steady glow of molten tobacco she was breathing into her pregnant body.  I had settled in for a good minute of this sighting when a new player emerged to my right….

Another young couple in their mid-20s settled in against the wall of the bar to my right and also lit up cigarettes.  The female of the relationship was a gorgeous mid-20s blond in a matching two-piece black and while striped ensemble.  Sighting #75 was one of the most beautiful smoker girls of the night with strikingly attractive features and didn’t look at all like a smoker, yet her she and her boyfriend were lighting up, giving me something to look at to my right when the pregnant smoker was between drags to my left.  But the moment was about to overload when a third player emerged almost right in front of me….

This trio that included an overweight 30-something or 40-something gal, a 19ish dark blond cutie, and a young girl who looked about 9 or 10 years old as they approached the corner of the grandstand exterior in front of me.  I didn’t give this trio much of a thought as they approached me with so much quality smoking going on to my left and right, until I heard a squeaky, girlish voice utter the words, “That’s fine.  I’m just gonna go out here for a cigarette too.”  My head shot up from whichever of this sighting’s two existing players I was currently checking out and quickly figured out it was the 19ish dark blond who uttered these words, her voice not at all matching the smoking performance I was about to see.  The blond was wearing glasses and a sexy pairing of a white tanktop and dark jean shorts, not the prettiest girl at the fair but probably the prettiest smoker who was this young. Moments later, a pack of Marlboro Reds emerged from the purse of the dark blond and an unlit cigarette was briefly dangling from her lips before she fired up and became Sighting #76.  The relationship between the trio was confusing as I figured the heavyset brunette, who also lit a cigarette, was quite likely the mother of the young girl, but where did this dark blond college-age girl fit in?  She seemed too old to be a daughter and too young to be a sister of the heavy brunette.  Whoever she was, damn could she smoke, dragging hard and fast on that cigarette with aggressive pacing that still didn’t seem rushed….it just seemed like the nicotine deprivation of a smoker who had gone more than two hours without a cigarette during a concert.  The air was full of smoke and the majority of it seemed to be coming from her exhales…..

So here I was, darting my eyes to the left and right in a way that may well have left me permanently cross-eyed, checking out the pregnant smoker to my left, the gorgeous blond smoker to my right, and this college-age cutie putting on the best smoking performance of the three right in front of me.  With as close as the younger girl was standing to me, I figured I might have an outside chance of getting some photos.  And while none of them were by any means great given the evening lighting, I did okay….and I even got a couple of dragging photos.   The pregnant blond to the left was also in the photos but was pretty much a complete blur.  The pregnant blond finished her cigarette first but the late teen blond in front of me finished hers in the shortest time, dropping the butt to the pavement in front of me and stomping it out before walking away with the mother and daughter and leaving me to officially ID her discarded butt as a Marlboro Red.  This left just one remaining player in the sighting and I walked to my right a few steps to see the final drags from the gorgeous blond.  I tried to score a pic of her as well but my phone was being extremely uncooperative and she finished the cigarette before I got my chance.  It was kind of fitting that all of this impressive smoking by these three very different blonds was happening with the backdrop of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” booming out of the grandstand because it was the kind of sighting that seemed more likely to come out of 1987 than 2019.

While that triple-play sighting was easily the high point of the concert-related smoking moments, a few yards to the west also leaning against the grandstand was a cute sighting that involved a presumably drunk young couple in their early 20s scrapping.  Sighting #77 was a sexy long-haired blond in a tanktop and jean shorts smoking a cigarette as I came upon her with her boyfriend hovering in front of her.  I felt an all-too-familiar air of sympathy for the guy when I heard the girl explode at him with “Why would you offer to go buy me food when you don’t even want to be with me?!?!?  Why don’t you just buy some food for one of those sluts.”  The guy tried to calm the situation but I sensed the girl was inconsolable.  I suppose it’s possible he was the villain here but having come across girls on drunken nights out making these kinds of jealous statements before, I just had a feeling she was the one drunkenly unloading on him over some false perception.  This became even more clear when I returned about 10 minutes later and saw the couple in the presence of another guy and all smoking a second round of cigarettes, talking amongst each other like all was right in the world or not.  Whether or not she was crazy, she was a beautiful and sexy smoker, and I only wish I could have seen more but the boyfriend standing in front of her, combined with the darkness of their location, kept me from seeing much.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t get much else worth talking about in the 45 minutes after the concert’s dismissal.  It was 11:30 and I was poised to take off a little early since I was driving to Missouri bright and early the next day, but that plan was delayed at least a bit when I walked around the seating area behind the Depot one last time and came upon two late 20s or early 30s brunettes with cigarettes in hand.  It was a good opportunity to get off my feet for a few minutes and sit down on the bench in front of them to watch the show from Sightings #82 and #83.  The brunette on the right was the most attractive and the best smoker, and she would eventually fish out a cigarette and hand it to a third women in the group who would light up and become Sighting #84.  Unfortunately they seemed to be onto me watching their show–the most attractive gal of the trio in particular–and I didn’t want to go almost till midnight undetected and then get busted on my way out the door, so I walked off, this time certain I was on track for my shuttle bus at least 15 minutes earlier than normal….until I saw who was standing in front of the Depot.  The best-laid plan again fell apart…..

It was the strawberry-haired star of the night who dazzled with effervescent charm and three cigarettes smoked in a short period.  I figured for sure they must have left before 10 to beat the departing concert crowd, but now her group was on the block dancing to the last songs of the night coming out of The Depot.  A few members of her extended group were now smoking….but she wasn’t.  And given that she was struggling to even stand up after as much as she apparently had to drink, I didn’t think she would…..and even if she did pull out a cigarette to smoke, I didn’t know if she’d be able to get the thing lit before my last shuttle bus departed with as shit-faced as she was.  I stood there for a few minutes and much as I’d have loved to have seen her smoke another cigarette while she was this drunk, I saw it was 11:52 and I just had to go.  And who knows how many cigarettes I had missed in the two hours between my encounters with her.  I grumbled a little about having lost track of her, but I definitely made up for it with a couple of other incredible sightings moments during those two hours away from her.

I boarded my bus and it departed at 11:57.  I sat next to a mid-20s brunette who was actually sober and struck up a pretty good conversation with me, although she talked about her boyfriend so she wasn’t looking to get laid.  I was a little surprised my sweaty and sunburned appearance didn’t scare her out of initiating a conversation in the first place given the reaction I get from most people when they see me like that.  I got off the bus and back to my car at about 12:15, putting another year of the Iowa State Fair in the rearview mirror and already mentally preparing myself for Missouri the next day.

I’ve said in the past that I never know what to expect out of the Iowa State Fair as some years it’s incredible and other years mediocre to below-average.  This year definitely was closer to the “incredible” side of the spectrum, especially when graded on a curve for the culture of 2019.  That first Saturday was really something special, and last night was no slouch either.  Even the Wednesday night visit where I went in with zero expectations produced a few extra-base hits and more sightings that I ever could have expected.  Last year over one full day and one well-attended weeknight, I got 170 Iowa State Fair sightings.  And while it took me three days to get the 249 sightings I scored this year, even if I had cut out the third day altogether I’d have still beaten last year, which is impressive.  Slipknot, the grandstand performer from last Saturday, gets an honorary trophy for bringing out so much of the crowd I was looking for.  Luke Bryan did okay as well, but I went to the fair on a Friday this year specifically because I figured Luke Bryan would pull in the biggest and youngest crowd of any night, but I definitely underestimated Slipknot on that front.

But there is a gray cloud to this silver lining and in this case it’s the graying of the smoker community which is getting very few replacement smoker additions.  It wasn’t clear things would trend this way five years ago as the ascendance of vape products in the middle years of this decade was relatively slow and never hit a critical mass among younger people.  Through 2017, they still seemed like they were a novelty in my part of the country, making a dent in youth tobacco product sales but never appearing as a viable contender to overtake it.  My what a difference two years make, and it will be an amusing street fight over the product’s legality and level of regulation moving forward, and the degree to which it’s able to stop youth from vaping.  The issue is every bit as serious as the reports indicate, as I have to go back to at least the early 2000s since I saw as many teens smoking as I’ve seen Juuling so far this fair season.  So the future for tobacco is not looking bright, but either way, I still hung in there at Iowa this year, scoring some quality sightings on the downhill slope of the mountain, and I hope the momentum holds in Missouri and two weekends in Minnesota.




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