A Small Town Fair

I remember when I was small and the world was big. My home town was an endless adventure in a state whose boundaries I could scarcely comprehend. My favorite time of year was fall, and my favorite autumn adventures unfolded among the infinite colors and riotous sounds of a small town fairground.

They’re called harvest festivals.

They’re called county fairs and state fairs.

They’re called autumn fairs and fall festivals.

They are a celebration of the harvest, a hello to fall and a goodbye to summer. One last whoop before Winter creeps in and stills the world with His frosty white blanket. (At least up here in New England)

In many places, the small town fair is also an agricultural affair – animals and vegetables on display and in competition.

Who has the prettiest pig?

Whose cock is King of the Walk?

Which cow will wear the Dairy Crown?

How much does that pumpkin weigh?

Is your zucchini as big as mine?

The county fair is also the place where diets go to die.

Deep fried dough? Check. But why stop at dough?

Deep fried Oreos? You betcha!

Deep fried butter? Deep fried beer? Deep fried bubble gum? How about a deep fried pig’s ear or deep fried Kool-Aid? These are all available somewhere in America at someone’s hometown fall festival. Not manly enough for you? Okay, tough guy (or gal), head to Arizona and enjoy some deep fried scorpion. Just watch out for the tail. It’s got a nasty bite 😉

This year, Handan and I resolved to put down our hammers and paint brushes from time to time. We vowed to close the laptops and turn off the monitors on occasion, so we could take Barish to as many small town fairs as possible. Our first was last weekend – the Hebron Harvest Fair in the small town next to ours. Like many in our area, it was also an agricultural fair.

Barish invited his two best friends, and the moment we got our tickets, they were gone. We didn’t see them again until we left the fair later that night. I would have done the same thing at his age. To a 15-year-old in public, parents are toxic fumes that must be avoided at all costs.

While the boys dashed off towards the rides, Handan and I took a slow stroll through the food vendors. There’s nothing like the smell of a county fair, and they can make anything look good!

Handan found her target immediately. Fried dough is sold at almost every other food stall, so it wasn’t too hard. She ordered a bag of fried dough balls, and she was in heaven. As she gobbled them down, I thought it strange, since she usually hates American sweets. When she was halfway through her last dough ball, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Babes, can I have that last bite?” I said. Diet be damned. I wanted to taste that sweet fried goodness of my childhood.

“Of course, my babes! I’m so full, anyway!” She said. I plucked the greasy little thing from her fingers and popped it into my mouth.

“What the hell!” I said, swallowing hard. “This isn’t sweet! Where’s the sugar?”

“That’s the way we eat it in Turkey, my babes. It is the best!” She said.

I looked at her like she had just sprouted a second head. (Good lord, could you imagine? Two yapping Handans to deal with? Yeesh, I just gave myself the shivers!) Who the hell eats fried dough without sugar??

“Well, could you at least salt it?” I pressed.

“No! This is the way we like it!” She seemed baffled by my stupidity.

I set the matter aside so I could find something suitable and low-carb for me.

Ha!

Good luck with that one!

While I searched for that Leprechaun’s pot, I snapped pictures here and there. We happened upon a little zoo exhibit, and a woman was showing off a baby kangaroo. The children were spellbound.

So was Handan.

While she pet the baby roo, I spotted a goat resting on a brightly-colored playground slide.

He didn’t seem too interested in the small crowd that surrounded him. Perhaps he was daydreaming about big fields of clover.

We moved on from the zoo, and I continued my quest for low-carb food.

After exhausting yet another row of fat slingers and sugar hustlers, we took a turn and found ourselves in the agricultural area. The sweet smells of sausage and onions and fried dough gave way to the mellow aromas of hay and manure.

Handan was thrilled. I don’t think she’d ever seen anything like this before.

We walked through the shed, but the view was all buttocks and backsides.

The better shots were outside the shed.

Handan’s new friend.

She was a beauty.

And she had a message…

These were gentle giants.

Handan loved giving them scratches.

Bessy loved it, too.

We left those magnificent beasts and headed over to see some pigs.

And lemme tell you something. I don’t think I ever visited these exhibits when I was small. I’ve been on a few farms in my day, but never a pig farm. Now, I don’t know if this swine shed is indicative of pig-farming in general, but if it is, Jeezum Crow, I’m never going into pig farming! I can tolerate all sorts of manure smells. I even kinda like some of them, but people, hear this now: pig shit just plain stinks!

There were some cute piglets running around in that shed, but there were too many people crowding around for me to get a good shot. The smell was getting to me, and I identified the following subject as the likely culprit.

That’s a whole lotta bacon right there.

I was excited for the next shed.

Chicken shit smelled like sweet ambrosia after the nasal assault of the swine exhibit.

There were all sorts of rabbits and ducks and geese in there, but I headed straight for the chickens.

I don’t know why, but I just love chickens. I’m fascinated by them. I snapped countless pictures trying to get some decent photographs of the caged birds under bad lighting amid throngs of pushy humans.

I was especially taken by this majestic bantam.

He had the regal bearing of a great king.

And he posed like a runway model.

The other fowl were less cooperative and far more chicken-like with their bobbing heads and jerky movements.

This one reminded me of a slouchy old man with a big gut.

And this little one looks like he (or she?) just saw something totally amazing!

After I got my fill of gorgeous chickens, we headed to the last shed – sheep and dairy goats.

This sheep made me feel like we were back in Shindand, Afghanistan again!

What a beauty!

And the goats brought me right back to Camp Bastion.

We left the animals and headed back outside. Our stroll took us into the heart of the fair where the rides and the games threw technicolor light and cacophonous sound into the still night air.

I’m not big on rides. Especially ones that twirl me around or flip me upside-down.

One of the kids on this ride saw me taking pictures and decided to flip me off. I have three photos of his bird finger as he hurled through the air.

Nope.

More my speed, but Handan and I weren’t there for the rides. We just wanted to walk and watch.

I was still searching for healthy food.

Finally, I gave up and decided to eat the next thing that looked good to me. I settled on deep fried taco balls. $10 for 5 balls. I walked away munching on a taco ball – a forbidden pleasure, and an expensive one at that! As luck would have it, the next stall was selling grilled meat on a stick – exactly what I had been looking for all night! But I had my taco balls and no room in my stomach. Ah well…

As we drove in to the fair earlier that night, I could hear the sounds of one of my favorite events – the tractor pull. I remember my first tractor pull at the Big E festival sometime back in the early 1980s. Back then, it was just farmers and their regular farm tractors pulling a weighted sled.

Things have changed somewhat in the past 35 years.

I don’t think Farmer Brown is ploughing his bean field with one of these!

Handan and I had a grand time just wandering around for hours. When we met back up with the boys, it was obvious that they had a blast. They spent the whole night on the rides.

Our next adventure will be the Renaissance Faire. Not a harvest festival, but it should be good fun for the three of us.

Do you still go to fairs? Did you go when you were small? What are your favorite memories? Please share your stories in the comments. Handan and I love to read them!




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28 Comments

  1. My favorite childhood fairs were in Maryland because I got to meet The Cisco Kid, (Duncan Renaldo), and Poncho, Leo Carillo, pet their horses and a little colt, and get their autographs. Next, I got picked to ride on the back of Hoppalong Cassidy’s, (William Boyd), convertible along with a few other kids, in a parade for a really small fair right up the street from my home. This was way before your time. The late 1940’s and early 50’s. LOL!

    1. Oh wow, that’s awesome, Vivian! Though they were a little before my time, I know those characters well! That must have been really great. What a time to be a kid!

  2. There is one goodie your fair seems to be missing – maple sugar cotton candy! It’s out of this world! Bob and I really need to shake ourselves up, we keep missing fairs and we really love them. And you should absolutely enter because it makes them even more fun. When we lived in Colorado, one year we entered things from every member of our family. 27 total entries; 14 ribbons; 7 Blue ribbons and 1 Grand ribbon. So fun. The Grand went to my oldest son for Photography and, I am extremely proud to say, my husband beat out the farm women of El Paso County and took home First for Apple Pie! Here in Vermont I had a Judges Choice and First for a quilt. Competing in a county fair has it’s own special feeling, hard to describe. Love it.

    1. Oooh, that sounds awesome, Derry! Yeah, they don’t have that down here. You guys should definitely get out and enjoy a fair or two this fall, and I will take your advice about entering next year. I’ll find out which fairs have what contests, and I’ll see about entering a recipe or a photo 🙂

  3. Who is. Bearish??? Where was he during the early years of your marriage?? If this is too personal you can say pass.

  4. The annual fair in our town always started with a parade down main street. The local high school band was up front & was very small and dare i say, a bit off key. Several vehicles followed carrying various local dignitary. We all convened at the fairgrounds with the usual games of chance, cotton candy, fried pierogies, funnel cakes, & potato pancakes. There were plenty of rides as well. We always looked forward to it every year.

  5. I was raised in Pueblo Colorado home of the State Fair. We would go everyday it was open. Visiting the animals watching free bands playing. I got to see a lot of country stars before they were stars. Garth Brooks was one. It was a high light of our summer. We not live in New Mexico and I really miss the fair and the food.

  6. Hi Handan & Greg! I live near you guys in Vernon, CT. I thoroughly enjoy your posts! I enjoy going to the Big E & having some fried dough with tomato sauce & parmesan cheese. But my very favorite thing to do there is watching baby chickens hatching under the warming lights. I could stand there for hours trying to guess which egg will be hatching next!

  7. Hi guys, I love reading your stories! As a kid I would go to the Washington County fair here in RI. Now we take the grandchildren. I always head for the corn fritters and my husband and grandchildren go for the home made french fries. Yeah all the healthy foods! ha Then we can start roaming the grounds until the rides open then it is all out riding for them. Then we get to see all the animals and other attractions. Fun times.

    1. My kids and I moved to the small town of West, TX when they were young. Their fair is called Westfest and is a celebration of the towns Czech heritage. You would enjoy the kolaches (fruit pastries). It gets kind of crazy being as the town has a population of around 2800 and the festival brings in around 15,000 visitors.

  8. Every year when I was a kid it was the Brooklyn and Woodstock fairs. My mom sold Tupperware and worked a booth. When my husband and I had kids, we took them to Woodstock, where one unfortunate visit, it poured on us. I had extra clothes for the boys in the car, but hubby and I froze to death for the hour ride home. Of course the kids love to remember that one. We still try to go, but it has been tough when it falls on the same weekend as the return to college (in Maine). Next year it will just be the hubs and me by ourselves again, but I’m so glad we got to share the sights and smells and wonderment with the kids. Who knows, maybe someday we can bring some grandlittles with us.

  9. i live in Puyallup WA, home of the Washington State Fair. It’s one of the 10 biggest in the US! Living here we are sort of relieved when it’s over and we don’t have to deal with the traffic, it just finished on Sunday after starting the Friday before Labor Day. I work for the local hospital and they give employees tickets, ride coupons, a parking pass and even food coupons so we can enjoy a day at the fair with our families.I enjoy the quilts and other crafts, the photography exhibit and the Hobby Hall. It’s amazing to see the collections on display, everything from more Star Trek items than you ever knew existed to every kind of penguin item you can imagine. One of the special foods here are the scones with raspberry jam but the fried food booths seem to multiplying every year.

    1. I hear you about the traffic. I thought it was bad at the Hebron fair that I wrote about in that post, but this past weekend, we went to the Big E (Eastern States Exposition) – a regional Fair in Massachusetts. After exiting the highway, we were about 1.5 miles from the fair. We sat in traffic for two hours until Handan and Barish finally got out and walked the rest of the way. Handan discovered that all of the traffic was coming from our direction, so I slipped into the through traffic lane, passed the fair entirely, turned around and zipped right in from the west. Instead of continuing to wait to park for $10, I pulled into a shopping mall that was a 10 minute walk from the gate. If I hadn’t pulled that maneuver, it may have taken 4 hours to get from the highway to the park! Just unbelievable and incredibly frustrating. Once inside, pretty much everything was fried as far as food goes. It was fun, but I wouldn’t want to face that traffic again!

  10. State and town fairs are fun. I live in MA so we have the Topsfield Fair in Oct and the Big E in Springfield that are within driving distance for us. (We live in Chelmsford). A neighboring city (Lowell) has a street fair every year that’s fun too. No farm animals but lots of restaurants setting up food carts and bands. The Big E is a good 1-1/2 drive but they have horses! Horses make everything better. Though cows and goats are sweeties too.

    1. Handan and I took Barish and a friend to the Big E this year. What a pain it was getting there! we sat in dead stop traffic for almost 2 hours before Handan and the boys got out and walked. Handan called from he walk and told me there was no traffic coming from the opposite direction, so i got in the bypass lane, drove past the exit, turned around, and got into the fair from the other direction, lol! Lesson learned.