BayFest: Food, fun & (mostly) freedom
YOU SHOULD ALWAYS save a few special things to do in life so you have something to look forward to, which is why I've yet to become a professional cage fighter or jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute. So you can imagine my excitement as I made my way Sunday through the carnival rides and games at BayFest on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, on my way to accomplish one of my life's goals, tasting what has been touted as one of the great culinary breakthroughs of the second millennium: the Deep-Fried Twinkie.
Alas, when I reached the curiously unpopulated Deep-Fried Twinkie trailer, I was told by server Amy Chun that the oil was not yet hot enough to fry a Twinkie. It was a bit early for BayFest, and most of the food booths were just opening and few of the rides were in motion. I told Amy that I would return when the oil was the perfect temperature, because I wanted to test this edible masterpiece at its height of perfection.
Then I headed for the Coor's Light Tent, where I would be a judge in Sharkey's Open Mic Comedy Competition, featuring 14 comics who had made it through weeks of preliminary contests. The winner was to open for country music superstar Alan Jackson that night on the BayFest main stage.
So early in the day, the atmosphere of the carnival was hardly a "carnival atmosphere." The Ferris wheel sat empty while the young attendant stood with exquisite indifference to his public surroundings, excavating his nasal cavity with an index finger.
BUT by the time of the comedy contest, 200 people had gathered to watch some talented, not to mention fearless, comic wannabe's expose themselves to the wrath of a largely sober daytime audience. Trust me, it's hard to make a large group of sober people laugh. But the comics did. And in the end, it was Kuakini Hospital personnel trainer Bobby Duncan who took first place with a hilarious polished riff on, of all things, saying the ABCs.
Life doesn't always work out the way you think. Bobby did open on the main stage at 5:30 p.m. for the Marine Corps Band. But apparently, Alan Jackson's people nixed his opening for the country singer later that evening.
And I finally got to taste a Deep-Fried Twinkie. I am sorry to report that it is pretty much as disgusting as it sounds. The Hawaii Heart Association is not going to sign off on this peculiar foodlike item.
But my perspective on life was restored when I walked past the display of military hardware near the BayFest entrance: planes, helicopters, Hummers armed with 50-caliber machine guns and various other implements of war. It reminded me that for the young men and women walking around in uniform, BayFest is a short respite. In weeks, some of them will be in Iraq fighting for us. Some might die.
And here they were taking a break from their training, laughing at budding comics, wandering along the carnival midway and -- Deep-Fried Twinkies aside -- enjoying a small taste off the freedom they will risk their lives to secure for the rest of us.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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