Playing games at the fair
Four games, $11, 11 throws and one stuffed dog -- that was a consolation prize for missing the bull's-eye. Oh, the fair.
After some wandering and scouting out the games at the Becker County Fair, four booths were chosen to test skill, chance and how things go on a stomach half filled with cheese curds.
Game No. 1: Basketball
The object of this game is pretty self-explanatory -- shoot the ball through the hoop.
My test subject -- newspaper photographer Brian Basham -- takes two shots and misses two shots.
The nice game vendor -- is it proper to call them a carnie when this is the fair and not a carnival? -- guy gives me a free shot because I'm girl. I also get to move about a foot closer to the hoop. Since I've never been good at basketball, let's just say I didn't make the shot.
The guy running the game tried to make me feel better with "it's 24 feet away" and "the rim is smaller," but that didn't matter. I still walked away with no prize.
Game No. 2: Darts
The object of the game is to throw a dart and hit a red star on a dog that is plastered all over the wallpaper of this game. "Wyatt" the carnie explained after throw No. 2 that the entire dart has to be in the red star. Being on the border of the red doesn't count and therefore no big prize. Shot No. 3 brought no big prize either.
While my subject was throwing darts, Wyatt told me about how he travels around, setting up and taking down his booth each week. A group of the game vendors travels together because the owners are married. Or their children are married. Or something like that.
This is the game where I was given a stuffed dog as a consolation prize for not getting the red bull's-eye. It was a cute enough dog. I've now named him "Wyatt" in honor of my carnie.
Game No. 3: Ball in the Bucket
The object of this game is to toss a ball and make it stay in the big, blue bucket. Yeah, sounds easier than it is.
This is the hardest game my subject and I found. The guy running the game admitted, after running it for 10 years, it's the hardest game on a scale from 1 to 10.
"This is a high skill level game. It gets a bad rap," he said. This carnie wouldn't even give me a "they call me Wyatt" answer when questioned on his name. I'm not sure why these game vendors won't give out their names. Just shy, I guess.
So, two throws later and my subject didn't get a ball to stay in the bucket. I tried one throw for free and failed as well.
That's when Mr. Carnie decided to give me a lesson on how to toss it just right. It's an up and down throw, not a forward one, a soft toss, not hard throw. Like throwing it to a baby, he explained. After a few -- OK, maybe 10 -- more tries. I landed my shot in the bucket without it bouncing out. Too bad I hadn't paid and there was no prize coming my way by this point. I did make friends with a nice carnie though.
Game No. 4: Baseball Toss
The object of this game was to throw softballs and break glass bottles -- which, now that I think of it, were all beer and whiskey bottles.
Two tosses -- one bottle broken. No prize.
So, after some afternoon time in the sun -- yes, I was sweating, but I doubt it had anything to do with the ball tossing -- I walked away with a "free" dog for $11.
What were those guys' names again?