Turns out that the *perfect* time to go is Sunday afternoon as the festival winds down. No waiting for the shuttle coming or going, easy to do a quick circuit of the stalls while the kids climb the Carillon, no crowds at the concessions, great last-minute deals on gyros from vendors who call you "sweetheart."
My main mission was to hunt down Clifford Earl (not difficult, he and his flock of fanciful creatures inhabit a big corner booth on the plaza at the foot of the tower) and see if any of his sculptures called to me this year. We ended up picking two: a tin fish for the kitchen wall, and a bird to fly in our morning room. It has a sibling that roosts in our bedroom.
Odd moment: "Sergeant Santa" had taken up a post near the funnelcake booth. He handed me a photo of himself to give to the children, who were thorougly unimpressed. "I'm always watching," he said to Griff. Oh my goodness, I'm glad we don't go in for the Santa thing, why do people think it's ok to treat children that way? Hi, kids, I'm here to mess with your mind... NICE. He handed me a thick letter about his boyhood encounter with God. He seems like a very nice man with a charitable mission, but I wish that people could skip the lying to children and proselytization and just do good works.