PALMER -- Conor, 10, and Quinn Janigo, 8, tagged along with me on Monday for a kid's eye view of the Alaska State Fair. The booths that I routinely ignored were paradise to them.
The fair is notably quieter when it first opens, so we made sure to get in by noon. The boys each had $50.
Our first stop was an arcade booth, where Conor and Quinn played Buck Hunter Safari before we took off towards the rides. Conor then spent his first five carnival game tickets on Machine Gun Challenge.
I was beginning to notice a trend -- guns.
We passed at least three trinket booths full of blow up animals and plastic guns. Each time, the boys asked for a gun.
Finally, we stumbled upon Joe Massey's rubber-band gun store. As frustrated as I was with my guests' gun obsession, I was impressed with his booth.
Conor and Quinn loaded rubber bands into the demo guns, shooting the caribou and bear on a practice sign. The rubber bands were strung around the wooden gun and set up so they flew off when the boys pulled the trigger.
Massey and his wife, Michelle, got the idea to sell rubber band guns seven years ago, when they noticed a market for kids in an unlikely setting.
"No one at a gun show markets to kids," Massey said.
They started selling the guns at shows and at the fair. The smallest guns go for about $10 and are similar to the plastic guns at the trinket booths, but they seem much sturdier.
Massey sells 3,000 to 5,000 guns each year at the fair, usually selling out before the fair is over.
For me, most of the jittery fair rides are vomit-inducing, but to an 8 and 10 year old, they are heaven.
We started our day on Flying Bobs bobsled ride. Three of us, one too many, squished into the car and rode around in circles for a few minutes. The boys rated the ride a six out of 10.
"It wasn't that thrilling," Conor said.
The Astro-Liner was next on our list. It rated a one, because it simulated a roller coaster, not the flight simulation that the boys expected. They said it wasn't worth the four tickets.
Next, they did the Cliff Hanger and were ready to do it again when they got off. They gave the hang-gliding ride a full 10, both saying it was their favorite of the day.
The Ferris Wheel bored them, but it gave great views of Pioneer Peak and the mountains around Palmer, as well as the fairgrounds. If you ask nicely, the people running the ride might even stop it at the top.
The last ride they tried was Sizzler, in which the car you sit in spins for the entire ride. Double spin. They gave it a six because they were sliding across the seats, slamming into each other when the car spun.
Jacqueline Leavitt, carnival director, said the most popular rides are Apollo and the Ferris Wheel, which is in its third year.
She said the best time to hit the rides is first thing in the morning, when the lines are short. If you are willing to brave the weather, lines are always shorter when it isn't sunny, too.
The best deal is $40 for 45 tickets. Most rides take three or four tickets.
By the time we had gone through 60 tickets, even Conor admitted he was ready to barf.
We wanted to get the most food we could for a good price, so we started with a barbecue turkey leg. For $9, it was almost enough to fill us all up. The meat falls off the bone. But splurge and spend the 25 cents on extra sauce.
After the leg, we decided to fill the rest of our stomachs with an elephant ear. For $6.50, we went all out with the powdered sugar ear, topped in strawberry and cream cheese, which the employees said is the most popular. It was gone in just over a minute.
Our $15 filled us up and we decided sharing was the name of the game at the fair.
Find Kaylin Bettinger at email@example.com or call 257-4349
By KAYLIN BETTINGER