Sunday, September 2, 2007
A Country Fair ~ Something to Savor
Sometimes I have found that the best things in life are spontaneous. Yesterday we arrived home from Kentucky, a bit road weary, and this morning woke up to bags to unpack, a cookout to prepare for tomorrow, a garden to weed, more pickles to make. So what did we do? We took the boys to the Hopkinton State Fair. [Actually, the night before we had heard a rumor that the Fabulous Judy and her husband Charlie were taking their grandson Cody to the fair. Charlie has been coming every year since he was a little boy.]
[An aside to readers of The Pantry-Its History and Modern Uses: Judy's pantries are in Chapter Six with the pastel LuRay collection in the white Hoosier and the pantry-in-the-wall (on pages 84-85). The image of Judy's Hoosier, along with most in the book, was shot by principal photographers Susan Daley and Steve Gross (who have recently published the excellent Creole Houses on the architecture of Old Louisiana). Her Hoosier has become one of the most requested images of editors for magazine articles on the book. Judy also found a fitting ad from a yard sale on the way home, depicted above. It was the kind of day where even a yard sale find seemed in sync with the universe!]
We used to take the kids to the Cheshire Fair every August but got out of the habit and we were long overdue for midway rides and fair food. So last night I suggested to my husband that we should go to the fair today, especially when I heard that the day would be dry, warm and not humid. So off we went this morning with our beds unmade and bags still unpacked (and piles of laundry to do). The boys had no idea where we were going so that made it even more fun. Even though I have grown up in New Hampshire, I had ever been to the Hopkinton State Fair, held each year in Contoocook over Labor Day weekend. [Temple had been many times before but not in years.]
We arrived by late morning, early enough so that the crowds were still thin and by mid-afternoon the entire fair was bustling. There was a clear blue sky and a hint of fall in the air.
This cow had the color and sheen of an Ohio buckeye
This beguiling cow had much personality, although her owner was upset by her frisky demeanor and poor performance in the ring
We were pleased to find this to be a predominantly agricultural fair. There is the usual honky tonk and carney atmosphere, yes, but 4-H, the Grange and other organizations have large exhibition barns and events.
Blue Ribbon garlic from Jennifer Hopkins of Canterbury, NH
I was especially impressed with the prize-winning garlic and thought of my friend Edie Powell, who is starting an organic garlic enterprise in Dublin, New Hampshire at Bee's Wing Farm. [She was busy at home today starting raised beds for upcoming plantings for next season's harvest.]
Our husbands Charlie and Temple looked absolutely thrilled to be in the Home Arts Building, while Judy and I ogled prize preserves
So we spent most of the time looking at oxen, cows, pigs and other animals, prize vegetables, and a requisite visit to the Home Arts building to see the prize-winning baked goods and preserves. The atmosphere felt like that of the classic country fair portrayed in E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, a beloved favorite of our entire family and read to each of our children over the years.
Along the way we did run into Judy and family and chummed around the rest of the day. [My daughter was also there with her boyfriend and we saw them briefly and we even ran into some old friends from Jaffrey whom I had not seen in years. The world seemed to pleasantly center at the Hopkinton State Fair today.]
The atmosphere was fun and festive: the boys went on some rides (I rode the Tilt-a-Whirl with Henry, a favorite ride of mine since childhood), we had some great fair food (including fresh squeezed lemonade and a corn dog and we all tried maple cotton candy, made with 100% pure New Hampshire maple syrup), ate at the 4-H chicken barbecue, and savored the sights, sounds and festivities of the afternoon.
There is something about a good old-fashioned country fair that just seems so happy and rousing. To see children exhibiting their animals with pride, to watch our boys enjoying themselves, to have my own reminiscences of childhood, and to connect with great friends just made the day so worthwhile. I usually avoid crowds but this was fun and manageable (our state fair is tiny compared to the vast Midwestern variety).
On the way out near our gate, I just had to have some apple crisp from a stand I'd noticed earlier. There was a great clamor and commotion and at first I thought someone had been injured. Then I saw what looked like security or Secret Service. Yes to both.
It was President Clinton and Senator Clinton on an unannounced visit with Governor Lynch. They were chomping on some apple crisp (I never did get any!) and meeting and greeting. While I was snapping pictures (and trying to avoid being pushed over by the traveling press corps), my husband Temple and the boys shook President Clinton's hand and he spent some time talking with our son Henry about the Red Sox (Henry was wearing a Sox cap).
President Clinton seemed more frail and aged than I expected--but looked good in pink gingham--and Hillary was glowing and attractive up close (and she seems to have an excellent stylist, too).
After getting swatted by press corps while I was trying to get my own photos, I was able to shake Hillary's hand but probably said the dumbest thing I've ever said to anyone in my life: "I'm not paparazi, but I'd like to shake your hand." Duh. To which she said, "Well, I'm glad you wanted to shake my hand." I know my boys had a much more coherent conversation with the President. Regardless, the whole thing was was a bit of a charge for all of us at the end of the day.
New Hampshire has long been the first Presidential primary state (although competition from other states is closing in) and we are usually besieged with politicians for at least three out of every four years, it would seem. However, this was the first time I'd actually seen any up close and personal since I shook Gerald Ford's hand in 1976 or saw former California governor Jerry Brown in his best Eddie Bauer in the early 1990s (and Vice President Al Gore's motorcade in Keene a few years ago).
[Maybe my friend Dr. Bill will blog all about this exciting event on his political reporting website, Dr. Bill Siroty's NH News Links, so I was certain to send him pics. Hey, Dr. Bill, you know I'm fairly apolitical and not a paparazzo but I was muscling right in there for you, along with the press corps.]
Yes, it was an action-packed, fun-filled, and banner day at the Hopkinton State Fair. We now know a new way we will spend every Labor Day weekend, whenever we can. [I will post more highlights of the way home, including that yard sale, in the next day or so...]