152 • pearls around the neck
The Flemish people are the undisputed masters when it comes to fairs. The entire blue planet couldn’t
possibly dream of rivaling the Flemish profusion of debauchery deliberately organized between Candle
Mass and Mardi Gras.
Even Jérôme Bosch, Pieter Breughel and James Ensor joining their talents with the utmost drunken
energy wouldn’t be able to create a painting faithfully depicting such a scene. For in the country of
Flanders, in this very flat country, when there is a fair, there are excesses of various natures, indecency,
depravity, and disorderliness and extreme drunkenness. Needless to add, then, that beer mugs overflow
generously, that beignets ooze with oil, that sauerkraut takes over the sidewalks and that the pungent
smell of cod is found all the way to the steamy, mushy heart of French fries, as so famously evoked by
Jacques Brel in his ‘Amsterdam’ song.
Hordes of pimply adolescents invade the shooting galleries. They drink and flirt, French-kissing their
latest girlfriends, who, half-drunken, flaunt their legs, their throats and their boobs despite the still
freezing temperatures of the season. Blaring pop hits are punctuated with “Frida Oum Papa” airs;
accordions whine, the roller coaster’s sirens screech and the brass band explodes in a boisterous harmony
of brass and drums.
At nightfall, the old guard storms over to the fair. Sixtyish dance, rubbing their lower bellies against the
potty bellies of women; plunging their lewd eyes in cleavages revealing bosoms glistening with sweat;
drooling with desire and sporting enormous erections.
At dawn, generations mingle; they drink together, make toasts promising sincere and eternal friendships;
people screw in dim corners swearing they’ll be forever faithful; they tell lies and laugh about it
Then the fair goes to sleep in a resounding animal snore, punctuated by belches and farts… a few notes
faintly escaping from a forgotten Jukebox.
Thus it has been for centuries, since the darkest times of the Middle Ages: authentic drinking feasts and
profound carnal pleasures.
A fair was announced in Winston Salem, a small town in the South West of the United States.
What a joy it was for me, an expatriate Flemish, uprooted two years ago to live the real American
adventure! Everywhere large posters, huge roadside ads on highways and TV commercials announced
the opening of the “Dixie Fair”. Eight whole days of good, old-fashioned happy intemperance, like in the
olden days of the Count of Flanders: solid drinking and bacchanalia!
I had, however, neglected one detail: the Puritans created The Dixie 125 years ago. They had all fled the
Old Continent’s “great” debauchery, anxious to place once again the Church at the center of village life,
across the Atlantic!
A cereals and grains fair at first, then a tobacco fair, the Dixie Fair has become, today, a mix of an
agricultural trade fair and regular fair with the most innovative and the most traditional attractions.
Historical stalls, concerts, patchwork or pumpkin contests and large cattle fair. Something not to be
missed, and I mean it.
So what is there not to be overjoyed about? A pig’s race, with each competitor wearing a requisite
number on his or her haunches? Dancing to the rhythm of a Banjo or a fiddle? Destroying a real tractor
with some kind of humongous engine called the “Demolition Monster”, straight out of a Hollywood