Monday, October 3, 2011

Topsfield Fair

A good friend of mine, A., invited me to the Topsfield Fair today (it runs until October 10). I hadn't been to an agricultural fair in a million years, so I was happy to join her on this mostly sunny Monday. We didn't expect to find a lot of kids there on a school day, but there they were, having fun with their families (and playing hookey?) or organized into school groups. Kids and families liven up a fair; you don't want to mingle with only retirees, unemployed hipsters, and city slickers.

We commenced with cider donuts and sat in the main barn with a small crowd to watch the horse pull competition. The horse teams were all serious professionals, but the human team responsible for quickly harnessing each pair to the sled (weighed down with thousands of pounds of concrete) was sometimes hard to watch. Some horses took off across the arena before they were fully hooked up, or the men would get their feet dangerously near the horses' hooves as they helpfully backed up for harnessing. Nobody got kicked or stomped while we were watching, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Pulling horse in harness.

We were a little freaked out by the monster pumpkins on display in a corner of the barn, which were... monstrous in size and character. They were all weirdly pallid, rather than a strong orange, and unpleasantly misshapen. I knew this from seeing news photos of past prizewinners, but encountering the real thing is still a bit of a shock. Vegetables aren't supposed to weigh a thousand pounds or more. And these were only runner-up pumpkins, the first-prize winner was elsewhere.

It would have been interesting to watch the horse teams pull the pumpkins...

This pumpkin looks like it could snack on small rodents.

These characters probably deserve to be behind bars.

We visited the fruit, vegetable, flower, and bee displays, but we were particularly interested in livestock. We both have cats; farm animals are a nice change of pace.

We saw many cows:

This beautiful calf looked so sweet and gentle.
No more burgers for me for awhile:

Got milk? Apparently.

Then we saw pigs, although there weren't nearly enough to suit us. Then we visited the sheep and goats:

I used to spin raw wool, so I love the smell of sheep.

At lunchtime, we contemplated the vast array of unwholesome food. For an agricultural fair, it's hard to find a vegetable to eat that isn't a french fry. We managed to resist all the fried dough and fudge stands. And this:

I think you can get fried candy bars, too.

Then we investigated a barn full of bunnies:

Topsfield has scores of bunnies, mostly for sale.

There's a midway, with plenty of rides, games and the usual carnival stuff. Here's one of the stranger rides, Pharaoh's Fury: 

Pharaoh, not having a good day.

It's a swinging ride with golden pharaoh heads on either side. We couldn't figure out why the Pharaoh was so furious, unless it was because he was stuck in an amusement park in Topsfield. Not exactly how he'd imagined his After Life to pan out, I guess. Must have angered the Gods.

For us, the most exciting exhibit was the poultry barn. We admired all the hens and roosters, ducks, pigeons, partridges, and geese. Chickens can be really spectacular; we saw some that reminded my friend of Magritte, while others were more Pointillist. One looked like a pinecone. We didn't admire the pigeons; since when are they considered "poultry"?  I held a baby chick. I wanted to bring it home to show Possum, but A. gently discouraged that.

Many chickens are stunning birds.

I think our cats would enjoy a chicken companion.

We split a gingerbread whoopie pie, which fortified us to visit the petting zoo, complete with a morose, sleeping kangaroo, miniature horses, and an awful lot of goats. Kids could ride on ponies, a camel, and an elephant: 

I believe this elephant dreams of being elsewhere. 
Elephants in captivity always seem sad to me.

In the grange hall, we found the prize-winning pumpkin, protected by plexiglas. Or we were being protected from It? I've been a bit wary of large vegetables ever since I read a Stephen King short story about a potato vine that lived in the bedroom closet of a charming B&B and ate all the guests.

The Great Pumpkin, somewhat off-color in more ways than one...

We'd seen everything, and so it was time to go home. Maybe I should get a hen instead of another cat....

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the memories;your pictures remind me of Maine's Windsor Fair. We were caught up in helping our daughter prepare for a move to Dallas for her senior year of college and missed the fairs. Sometime I hope you can try a Wicked Whoopie pumpkin whoopie pie.


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