Richard Cohen fair concession stand


And just like that, summer collapsed into fall. – Oscar Wilde

It would be honest to say that Oscar Wilde’s words regarding fall are nearly my favorite way to describe how I feel about this particular change of the season. The others seem to be gradual, but it feels like summer, all at once, finds itself collapsing into giggles and dances as it realizes cooler weather arrived and with it, the natural colors of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. The rustling of dying, trembling leaves high up in the branches of trees herald a time of rebirth when at last, they let go and swirl willingly to the earth.

In Farmington, Maine, last week was the Franklin County Agricultural Fair. For fun, I entered several items to be judged and left on display in the agricultural building. The agrarian exhibits are my favorite part of any fair, and if people don’t participate, there is nothing to see. That said, it’s been many years since I canned or baked anything to enter in the fair. I’m happy to report that I won several blue ribbons and one yellow. Exciting news indeed! My cookies have won blue ribbons in other contests, but for me, a blue ribbon for my yeast bread was a first! Even though I was only doing it for fun, I was elated to see those bright blue ribbons! My momma would be proud.

In the United States, agricultural fairs are big draws for people wanting to connect with old friends, make new friends, display what they raise on their farm, and see what neighbors create. In addition, there are often horse races, demonstrations of equipment and particular skills, and viewing of country creativity such as baking, needlework, and flower arranging. Did you know that in 1807 the first agriculture Fair was in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was the brainchild of Elkanah Watson and consisted only of Watson’s sheep and shearing demonstrations? Three years later, he organized the wildly successful “Berkshire Cattle Show.” However, the idea of fairs has a much older history.

Fairs date back to Biblical times. They were a time when producers would buy and sell wares. Then, large numbers of people would come together to worship. Indeed, it’s thought that the name for this event originated in the Latin word for “feria” or holy day. The fairs happened in cities. People traveled many miles to attend and needed to bring supplies with them to last several days. Often they would get enough to trade for something they needed or wanted. Eventually, the churches charged the merchants to display their goods and used the money to expand their reach.

Besides exhibits, present-day fairs include small museums, lighted carnival rides, and numerous deliciously greasy and sugary treats, like cotton candy, fried Oreos, doughboys, and blooming onions! Every fair also seems to have a Ferris Wheel. In the 1890s, George Washington Ferris invented the Ferris Wheel, which he built for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At 1300 tons, it is still the largest to have ever been made and held over 1400 passengers!



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: