Lauren got so fed up dealing with traffic, when a man announced a good price for parking behind a shopping center close to the fair, we took it. I'm glad we did. She drove into a spot under a row of shady trees not a five-minute walk from the fairgrounds. We decided we'd rather have a slightly longer walk than deal with the Big E's parking lots.
The Eastern State Exposition is the state fair for the New England region. As you enter, you see colorful boardwalk stands featuring every kind of food that can be fried, including Kool Aid. We passed a petting zoo, a pony ride, and the world's smallest horse, and heard about a pig race taking place at one of the farm buildings.
We were mainly interested in the two large buildings on either side of the fairgrounds, flanked by rows of food stands and shopping booths. Hit the Young building first. Lauren wanted to find the woman selling stuffed toys, blankets, and other accessories made from fluffy alpaca wool. Usually, her wares are too expensive for me. This year, I had the money to buy a small panda with thick fur. Lauren went with a white bear.
We walked around there and the Better Life Building for a while after that. They have pretty much the same mix of home and garden booths selling window treatments, upgraded gutters, and cheaper internet packages and booths of exotic clothes or toys or local crafts. We didn't buy anything here, though we did look at some of the food booths on the edges of the building for lunch.
In between, we had lunch at a row of food booths and carts in the back of the Young building. I found a rustic wooden booth selling baked sweet potatoes with toppings ranging from bacon to pecans to scallions. I opted for two tacos filled with rice and mashed sweet potatoes. Lauren went to the other side of the row for French fries with cheese and bacon. They gave her so much, she couldn't begin to finish it. I snitched a few to help out.
Hit the Avenue of the States next, a row of buildings made to look like each New England state's historic capitol building. We tried to explore Rhode Island, but the crowds were too heavy. I did get to see the jack o'lanterns carved by Rhode Islanders, but people were too thick around the expanded Del's Lemonade stand to get more than a glimpse of them.
We decided we'd double back later to take in the remaining state houses and see if the crowds thinned. Besides, Lauren spied something way more fun across the way from the Massachusetts building. She bought us tickets for a little blue and yellow train tootling around the back of the Avenue of the States. It was mainly supposed to be for little kids, but they didn't mind two adult riders. The ride was short, but a lot of fun. The little kids on board were darling. They waved to passers-by and chattered about everything around them. It was more like being on a float at a parade.
Lauren spied a soup stand at the Storrowtown Village living history museum. She wanted to try their broccoli and cheese. I had those vegetarian tacos, so I went with cheeseburger (ground beef and potato) chowder. Salty, but filled with lots of big potato pieces and ground beef. The bowls, however, were much bigger than expected. Neither of us close to finished them.
We walked around in the Young building and Better Life Building again, but the crowds weren't thinning. If anything, they increased as the afternoon went on. Lauren suggested getting something cold and wet and finding shade. We bought very sweet frozen lemonades from a lemonade booth in the Better Life Building and ate them in the shade under the arch of the Food Court as cool fall breezes blew across our sweaty faces.
Trying the Avenue of the States again proved even more fruitless. We tried to elbow our way through crowds buying baked potatoes at the Maine building, raspberries and honey in Massachusetts, and Ben & Jerry's and flannel clothing in Vermont. After we could barely get through the crowds in Vermont, Lauren decided she was tired of dealing with all the people...and I figured she was right. We didn't even finish walking through Vermont before we made our way back out and hiked down to the gate, and then over to the parking lot (after a quick bathroom stop).
Since we'd gotten out at 2:30, too early for dinner, we explored a few near-by stores. The shopping center in front of the parking lot sported the largest Big Lots I ever saw. They were so big, they even had the room for furniture. A larger center just a few blocks away had a TJ Maxx that was nearly as big. We didn't buy anything at either place, but they did kill time.
Lauren had her phone out and was trying to find a place for an early dinner when I emerged from TJ Maxx. I figured we could go with the obvious and pointed to the blocky red and gray building across the parking lot from us. I noticed the Chipolte coming in. Apparently, Lauren did too, but forgot about it in the mess with the traffic and the parking.
Chipolte, like Shake Shack, is basically a fast food restaurant with blocky contemporary decor and food that's a lot tastier and better for you than anything at Taco Bell. She had three steak tacos, since she didn't get the sweet potato tacos at the Exposition. I had a bowl of chicken, black beans, rice, and salsa. Proved to be a tasty mix of flavors...and way too big. I didn't close to finish it. For once, Lauren ate more than I did. (The kid who took our orders added sour cream when I told him not to...but in his defense, I heard the two other kids behind the counter explaining things to him. I think he was a new trainee.)
This time, we only hit a little traffic around another bit of road repair, nothing like we ran into before! Otherwise, no problems, not even passing through Springfield. We finally pulled into Lauren's parents house around 6:30.
Played video games for a couple of hours downstairs in Lauren's room after we showed Mr. and Mrs. Miller our new bears. I'm getting better at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. My best showing was 3rd on the second version of Mario Circuit. Lauren hit second on Baby Park. We kicked villain rear with our Street Fighter combo of soldier Cammy and martial artist Chun Li...until we tried Tough mode, then couldn't get near them. Played a tropical fruit-themed Super Mario Party round. Lauren beat me by one star, but just barely.
Finished the night at the Roku Channel with Charlie's Angels. They're Moonshinin' Angels in the fifth season when Charlie gets a call from the California backwoods. Seems two local moonshining families who are notorious for their feud are starting up again, thanks to a gangster turning them against each other. Kelly joins the Barletts as a driver. Kris offers her chemistry skills to the Catlins as a master distiller. Julie opts to take a job as a waitress and listen for gossip at the local diner.