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.
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!
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.
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!