"Country Fair Becomes Land of the Lava Lamp"

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THE TALK OF DANBURY FAIR
MALL; Country Fair Becomes Land of
the Lava Lamp
By NICK RAVO, Special to the New York Times
Published: September 04, 1987
It is country fair season, but it has been almost six years since anyone has seen a Ferris
wheel, a 320-pound squash or an ox pull here in this fast-growing western Connecticut
city.
That is because the Great Danbury State Fairgrounds is now the Danbury Fair Mall, and
the annual autumn array of local produce, livestock displays and carnival games has
given way to Macy's, Tape World and Manchu Wok.
''The kids did like going to the fair, but I like the shopping,'' said Nancy H. Samsel, a
Bethel homemaker. ''The area needed something.''
The mall, one of the largest in New England, opened a year ago on the former
fairgrounds at the intersection of Interstate 84 and Route 7 in northern Fairfield
County.
Local fair lovers bemoaned the loss of the 130-acre fairgrounds when it was sold in 1981.
The sentiment was even more heartfelt when artifacts of the 112-year-old fair - such as a
statue of a dancing hippo - were auctioned off.

But the mall's owners, Wilmorite Inc. of Rochester, decided to keep some of the fair's
folksy flavor in the shopping center's architecture. On the second floor of the glassceilinged mall, for example, the fair's carousel is near the video games.
That seemed to have satisfied most people who were concerned about losing another
piece of the area's fading rural character. In fact, most shoppers today appear to carry
only the vaguest memories of the fairground's past.
''What's wrong with having a shopping mall here?'' said Susan Mora of Brewster, N.Y., a
hairdresser who works at the mall. ''This is what the people want. Besides, the fair was
only once a year.''

;We had company come down from Massachusetts, and we took them to the Bronx Zoo
earlier this morning and we figured we'd take them here, too,'' said Mary R. Fillippini of
Bristol. ''They like this even better.''
''I'm all for it,'' she added. Grapefruit Graffiti
It used to be that a shopping mall was just a good place to bring the children, maybe
pick up a sweater for grandpa, maybe price a new VCR. But no more. No sir. Here in the
Danbury Fair Mall, one also can watch a nursing student write graffiti on a grapefruit
with a laser beam. Try to find that at a country fair.
''Yeah, this really gets the people over here,'' said Beth C. Gallagher, an assistant for a
Danbury medical center that had set up a booth for a weekend health-care show.
The laser beam was part of a wart removal demonstration. Earlier in the day, someone
on the center's staff had used it to brand the grapefruit with ''Warts Die'' and ''Sunkist
Loves Kathy.''
''We've had quite a few people come by,'' said Johanna M. Moore of Brookfield, a
receptionist for the medical center. ''They ask if we can do it right here. You know, burn
their warts off.'' Rambo, Move Over
Bored with the laser wart removal? Well, there is a hot new machine at the Time Out
video game center called Contra. A player collects points by directing two smiling
characters named Lance and Bill on a rampage through the jungle. The more people
(presumably Sandinistas) that Lance and Bill kill, the more points.
Caution: the attack appears to signal direct United States military involvement in
Nicaragua. Lance and Bill, from their likenesses on the machine, do not seem to be
Nicaraguans.
''I wouldn't want my kids playing this,'' said Richard B. Hays of Bedford Village, N.Y.,
who brought his three children to the mall. ''Look at these guys. One of them looks like
Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the other one looks like Sylvester Stallone.''
A bit stunned, Mr. Hays walked away from the Contra game in the direction of a less
political pinball machine. ''I'm looking for one that says Persian Gulf,'' he said
sarcastically. Subspecies 'Mall Rat'
The Time Out, besides being a classroom for subliminating foreign policy, also is
headquarters for ''mall rats,'' a subspecies of teen-ager also known as ''mallies.'' You've
seen them. Perhaps your son or daughter is one.
''I see the same group of people walking around for two or three hours,'' said Stefani
Williams of Ridgefield, a 17-year-old clerk at Tape World, a music shop that sells no
records, just tapes and compact disks. ''They never buy anything. They just hang out.'' ''I
just saw these two girls,'' she added. ''They were walking around, eating dinner, going to

the arcade. They must be 15 years old. I guess this is the equivalent to the diner in the
50's.''
''There are a lot of people who work here full time and spend all their time here after and
before work,'' said Robin Wilkie, 17, of Danbury, a clerk in a shop that sells gadgets like
sonic flea collars and lava lamps. ''They have no other life.''
Bill Olsen and Mike Riordon, a pair of watery-eyed 18-year-olds from Ridgefield, seem
to be classic examples of your average disaffected mall rat.
Mr. Olsen is a drummer in a local rock group called Sinister Ace. Mr. Riordon mows
lawns. They both giggle a lot, too.
''Uh, it's nothing special,'' Mr. Olsen said. ''If this wasn't here, we'd go to the Bowl-aRama.''
''The Bowl-a-Rama?'' Mr. Riordon said.
''Yeah, the Bowl-a-Rama,'' Mr. Olsen said. They both start giggling again. ''I don't come
here that often,'' Mr. Olsen said.
''Yes, you do,'' Mr. Riordon said. ''You're here all the time.'' They start giggling again.
''What's the next question,'' Mr. Olsen asked, taking out a cigarette.
Suddenly, another mall rat scoots by. ''Burn the mall,'' he shouts. ''Bring back the fair.''
Ready, Set, Freeze
The livestock exhibits may be long gone, but mallgoers can spend a few hours here
watching humans on display.
At several locations, groups of two and three male and female models pose as
mannequins. They attract large crowds, too. Fifty or 60 people at once.
Sometimes, when the models get very, very still, the audience becomes so enamored
that they seem to freeze - just like the mannequins. When this happens, an entire wing
of the mall can look just like a wax museum.
''It's kind of weird,'' said Kevin P. Haight, 18, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a model-mannequin
who spends several hours a day staring out at the shoppers staring back at him. ''All
these people coming here just to go shopping.''

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“"Country Fair Becomes Land of the Lava Lamp",” Western CT State University Archives' Digital Collections, accessed September 25, 2017, http://archives.library.wcsu.edu/omeka/items/show/564.

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