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For fair vendors, glitches are part of the game

  • Author: Kaylin Bettinger
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published August 28, 2010

Just after noon on Friday at the Alaska State Fair, Paul "Dizzy Hips" Blair had very still hips. Blair puts on a hula hoop show a few times per day at the fair and he was scheduled to start his first performance a few minutes later. But his hoops were locked in a trailer and he'd forgotten the lock combination.

"It was really 100 percent my fault," he said.

Self-inflicted problem or not, his day wasn't going according to plan.

And it seems every vendor has a story like his.

"There's always something," said Linda Ressler, who owns Aunt Linda's Funnel Cakes. "There's always a glitch."

Ressler's glitch at this year's fair happened Friday night, when she realized one of her two fryers, a key piece of the funnel cake operation, was overheating. She shut off the hot fryer and used only the second one for the evening, but said it was a good thing it was a slow Friday night.

"It was just a fiasco," she said.

Animals lend some serious uncertainty to the fair scene.

Rosemary Hill helps her sister run the Pony Wheel Ranch, which takes children around a ring on ponies. Most of the time, the ponies cooperate when kids are on their backs but Hill remembers past instances when they've been spooked and taken off in a trot.

"The kids like it; the parents are petrified," she said.

Joe Krathwohl, known more commonly as The Birdman, does daily shows with his exotic birds. On Thursday, the birds got disoriented about which tent to return to after flying around during one of the shows.

"They came and landed on our roof," said Trina Lovdahl, owner of the Dippin' Dots stand.

Krathwohl said the birds returned quickly after the confusion and it wasn't a big deal. He's had to deal with much worse over the years.

Once, his lip was pierced by a macaw at a show. Another time, he was trampled by ostriches. He's used to the craziness.

"It's a constant in this business," he said.

Even in the petting zoo, things can go wrong.

The zoo animals work in shifts. Last year, when petting zoo employees were swapping them out during an animal shift change, a male llama, Denali, and a male alpaca, Ollie, were in the zoo together. Apparently, it was too much testosterone.

"They started squealing and spitting at each other," said Emily Bequette, one of the fair herdsmen. "It's nothing but controlled chaos, really."

Beyond that, Bequette said, animals frequently escape from pens. Goats have hopped the fences. Sows get irritated and will sometimes try to break down the pen walls, Bequette said.

"Pigs are the worst," she said. "Just try to tell a thousand-pound pig where to go."

It seems that usually the chaos behind the scenes at the fair works itself out. Eventually, even hoop-less Blair borrowed hoops from the nearby Hoop 'n Hula, Milk 'n Cookies stand.

The show always goes on.

Find Kaylin Bettinger online at or call her at 257-4349.