With all the headlines coming out of the Department of Agriculture this year, you’d think everyone would be a critic of the N.C. State Fair. But, judging by the flotilla of absurd inflatables, armfuls of dubious foodstuffs and the telltale wet spots next to certain midway rides, we’re still bringing an unwise amount of cash, but leaving our critical faculties at home.

Which is why we’re here. Always willing to pitch in, the Indy’s arbiters of taste descended upon our own little Babylon on Blue Ridge Road, prepared to make the critical calls on the theatrical, the cinematic, the musical, the political and more. For all who need it. Whether they asked for it or not.

A no-brainer, we thought: Everyone else gives out free samples at the fair. Why not free advice?

By the end, of course, we were grabbing every third person on the midway by the shoulders and screaming “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” But before being escorted off the grounds by courteous State Troopers, we did manage to make the following observations. Just a little consumer guide–sort of–for your trip to the fair.