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September 5, 2009

Heigh Ho and Away We Go
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:37 PM * 22 comments

To see the agricultural show.

They’ve got things there to make you laugh
A three-legged sheep and a two headed calf….

Right around six p.m. today, we (Doyle, my elder son Brendan, and I) headed down to Lancaster to see the 139th annual Lancaster Fair. This is the Coos County fair, five solid days of fun, featuring local products and crafts, and such non-local things as deep-fried Oreos.

I didn’t ride any of the rides this year. Tonight wasn’t one of the All You Can Ride for Twenty Bucks nights. Tonight was full-fare.

What kind of local crafts, you’re asking? How about an entire New England Village in needlepoint? (Another view.) Local products included these blue-ribbon-winning Christmas trees. (Lots of tree farms in these parts.) Here you see some goats (separated from the sheep). Maple on ice cream and maple cotton candy.

A sleigh suitable for freezing Charlotte.

So, we wandered around, saying “Hi!” to people we know, munching Blooming Onions and deep-fried dough, and looking at stuff.

Then we went home.

“By gum!” we can hear you saying, “Too bad we missed it!”

No, you didn’t, there are still two more days, and it’s less than three hours north of Boston. Just get on Rt 3 through Lancaster—it’s a bit north of town.

What can you see tomorrow (Sunday)? Start at 8:30 am with the Class A Horse Show. The judging of the 4-H Beef Cattle. The Oxen Log Obstacle Course. At 11:00 the Midway opens (Funnel cake! Deep fried-Twinkies! The Ferris Wheel! Games of skill and chance!) At 1:00 pm the Big Rig Truck Pull! At the same time, the Draft Horse Show. Lots more stuff. The Guitar Hero Competition. The Horse Pull.

And on Monday, kids 12 and under are free with a non-perishable food item and accompanied by a paying adult. Monday we have the Farm Tractor Pull, the Sheep Block and Trim Contest, and even more fun things to see and do, ending up with a Demolition Derby. You don’t want to miss that!

This is the North Country. We make our own fun.

Comments on Heigh Ho and Away We Go:
#1 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:09 AM:

Sounds like fun, but I've already been to my share of fairs for the summer--at the Iowa State Fair, they sell pork chops on a stick.

Did you know that a "Frozen Charlotte" is also a kind of antique doll? I didn't, until just a couple of days ago, and here you are linking to the ballad that I'd also never heard of until a couple of days ago . . .

#2 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:37 AM:

Those are nice christmas trees.

I took in a couple of days of our fair, it's a little smaller -- no tractor pull or demo derby, but we did have V8 Powered chainsaws. And lots and lots of 4H animals.

I've already got the kids entering stuff, they did veggie creatures this year.

#3 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:46 AM:

We have a combined state fair and rodeo; besides the usual horse and bull events and ribbons for jam, cakes, quilts, etc., there are a kids' calf scramble, sack races, pie-eating and bubble-gum-blowing contests, a petting zoo featuring the Unexpected Mini Mule, really good diner and Hispanic food, old-time fiddle music, older-time balalaika music, goofy tchotchkes ranging from children's training chopsticks to Technicolor "Indian" bonnets, and fair entries such as handmade knives and sewn deerhide items. And the booth I was at today, the SCA Shire of Pavlok Gorod, with demonstrations of rapier and boffer fighting, a working inkle loom, and samples of candy we made from an 850-year-old recipe redacted by us.

#4 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 01:57 AM:

Oh man. Now I'm missing Vikings from the Missoula MT fair. They're sort of like breaded, deep-fried, meatballs on a stick. With spicy mustard.


#5 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 02:45 AM:

I'm fortunate to live just a few miles from the excellent Fox Valley Folk Festival, so that's my Labor Day weekend every year. Maybe that doesn't count as making our own fun, because there are national and international notables imported for the occasion-- or maybe it does, because we don't wait to be invited before we start singing along in harmony.

Although now I'm going to be mere feet away from such luminaries as John Roberts and Peggy Seeger, and I'm going to start giggling at all the wrong moments, and it's your fault.

#6 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 03:53 AM:

The Guitar Hero Competition. The Horse Pull.

Welcome to the 21st Century. May not be available in all regions; restrictions may apply.

Thank you for that one-liner "we really are living in The Future" moment; they make any day better.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 04:32 AM:

About a month ago, our village held its annual kermis in the church square. We had rides (bumper cars and things that spin you around in various ways), games (usual carnival stuff...even a "How strong are you?" hit the thingie with the mallet game) and food (the local term for fried dough is "oliebollen", oil balls, but there was cotton candy, ice cream, and many things with whipped cream as well). No local crafts; those are on display all year round in city hall/the local theater/the arts center*.

I went with the other Americans in the village, who grew up in rural Montana. Stepped into the square, looked around, and said, "Huh. It's a county fair without a Ferris wheel." The karaoke goes on late into the night†.

The best thing about it, for me, as an incomer, was the smiles, waves and nods of the people I knew in the village. These things are, first and foremost, about community.

* When my Dutch is better I'll contact them and see if they'd be willing to show the work of a local bookbinder.
† Our first week here two years ago was kermis week, and our rented house was about a block from the square. I remember hearing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" with a Dutch accent, late in the evening, and feeling achingly homesick.

#8 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 07:10 AM:

I suppose I should point out that the city of Burlington, NJ will be having its annual Wood Street Fair this coming Saturday (the 12th). If you're in the vicinity of Philadelphia, especially on the New Jersey side, it's a very nice day trip.

It's mostly an excuse for all manner of craftspeople to set up booths and hock their wares. There's also the obligatory massively unhealthy food, some children forced by their parents to dress up in colonial-era outfits, and gigantic inflatable constructs that little children love climbing up and over and around.

(If you're anywhere where you can easily get to the NJ RiverLine, use that as your way to get there - the RiverLine stop is right across broad street from the fair, whereas if you drive all the way you're probably looking at 0.5-1 mile of walking from your car, once you manage to find parking at all)

#9 ::: John Hawkes-Reed ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 07:26 AM:

Is there a Spider Baby?

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 08:49 AM:

abi @ 7... Kermis the Frosh?

#11 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 09:30 AM:

Next week The Puyallup Fair, the largest fair West of the Mississippi, opens. And this year I convinced my wife to enter the juriied art show ("But I'm known as a sf/fantasy artist!") and she was accepted! I expect no problems convincing her to take enough time away from the drawing board to visit The Fair this year...

#12 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 10:40 AM:

I call extra points for the Centerville/St. Joseph County fair having the word "Grange" in its title: Not only a ferris wheel, but a county courthouse WITH lighted clockface next door so that if you go up at sunset you're eye-level with it.

And Zelda @5? Many thanks. I'd missed the MacDonald Protocol for Folk-song Safety the first time around. I had identified the Scottish gift for I-shouldn'ta-hadn'ta-oughtn'ta-ganged songs, but this is so much more exhaustive. And now I want a tee shirt which says "No good will come of it."

#14 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 08:24 PM:

Amazing as it may seem, the L.A. County fair, also opening this weekend, has almost the same set of attractions. (The TV ads play on the contradictions.)

#15 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 08:34 PM:

Am in Minneapolis at present. I am sad that I could not get to the MN state fair today; no bus service.

I think I'll go to the NC State Fair this year though, just to look at the ag exhibits. Rides are way too crowded to be worth it. But the ag stuff is neat.

#16 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 05:51 PM:

I'm right between two - the Richmond Fair next weekend and the Carp Fair the week after. Which means next Sunday will also be Harvest Festival at church. Richmond has a demolition derby. Both have heavy horses.

#17 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 12:38 AM:

I just went to the California State Fair last week. Gareth isn't quite old enough to really focus on the animals, but at least he liked the hand-washing stations and the automatic doors.

I've always had a soft spot for the county exhibits. This year, there was a terminator-style monster on the San Joaquin County exhibit, the "monster" of a particular canal project that is likely to kill agriculture in the area in favor of shipping more water to L.A. I very much appreciated the fact that they were willing to use their entire exhibit to make a point that they were angry; it's certainly not the usual tourism-type exhibit.

#18 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 02:08 PM:

Man, I miss country fairs! We used to go to the Bridgewater Fair every year (proceeds go to the Bridgewater, CT, Volunteer Fire Department). My mother won a few prizes for her needlework, though alas, we mostly stopped going before I had done anything I was proud enough of to enter. (something I designed myself as opposed to working up from a kit or instructions)

I can happily sit and watch lumberjacking or ox pulls or sheep shearing or 4-H livestock judging. For hours.

I know, I'm weird for a city person.

Last week we went on vacation to a dude ranch in upstate New York. Every day we played racketball and rode horses. Some days we swam, some days we did archery (which apparently is one of those skills that you don't lose even if you don't do it for decades, which made me quite proud of myself). There was fishing and pedal-boating (and Lazer Tag) and lots of food and horses and more horses and boy was I happy.

There's a county fair in Queens in the early fall but it's kind of lame. No rides, no midway, no "win a cake" booth . . . and the handicrafts, the last time we went, were nearly all from kits.

It made me grouchy, so we haven't been back.

#19 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 04:46 PM:

Minnesota has the interesting set up of having our State Fair, with 4H competitions and so forth, in the big metro area. And it's a big deal here, lots of the city people go regularly. I probably won't get there this year, but have been a couple of times. Kids taking care of their animals are always interesting, and there are a lot of historical exhibits too.

I got up to the Nowthen Threshing show up in Nowthen MN a few weekends ago -- actual steam-powered tractors! Including one running a full-blown sawmill (including the planer) via about a 40 foot long belt. And isn't "Nowthen" a great town name?

#20 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Our travels the last couple of years have managed to make us miss both the Montana State Fair (in Great Falls) and the local county fair. I've been to the Maryland State Fair a couple of times but stopped going because (a) it's a project to go to and (b) the home arts displays and competitions are sad. Strewn all over the house are dozens of my ribbons for preserving.

#21 ::: Merry ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 05:30 PM:

The Topsfield Fair is coming up October 2-12. It bills itself as the oldest agricultural fair in the country. We usually go on Columbus day, traditionally the last day of the fair.

We usually go to the Bolton fair too, but this year they moved it from late September to August and we missed it.

#22 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2009, 03:49 PM:

Caroline @15:

My favorite parts of the NC State Fair:
1. The Bunny House
2. The little kids exhibiting their goats. There are few things more adorable than a 5-year old in cowboy boots attempting to deal with a recalcitrant goat.

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