Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall Fair

One of the rites of autumn in our house is the Fall Fair. As the days grow shorter, the nights colder and the corn swells on the stalks, I itch for the smell of hot dogs and doughnuts. My ears yearn for the soft lowing of cows and the thud of horses' hoofs. I want sawdust underfoot and a hot sun on my back. It's Fall and time for the fair.

When I was a child I raided my mother's flower garden and vegetable patch to create displays for the school section of the Fair. I wheedled my father into taking me for long walks in the woods so I could collect samples -- twenty different types of leaf for the deciduous display, ten sprigs of needles and cones for coniferous.

Later, I joined 4-H and a calf, freshly washed, combed, polished and trained to a halter became the highlight of the day. Keeping my own outfit sparkling white while dealing with an often stubborn, four-legged "pet" weighing 200 pounds was an education in itself. I must have succeeded to some degree, for the rose bowl I used for flowers in church this Sunday bears an inscription of "Champion 4-H Dairy Showman."
For those of you who don't know, 4-H is a club usually for farm kids, although not necessarily. In Canada it is supported by the Dept. of Agriculture. The 4 H's are Head, Heart, Hands, Health and there's a pledge. "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community and my country." Not a bad motto for life.

Years passed and I moved away from the farm, but the sense of seed time and harvest is in my genes so when I found a Fall Fair close to where I live now, I was an avid visitor, taking great pride in explaining to my non-rural husband the finer points of Holstein conformation and the value of legumes in hay. When my godsons were born, their parents joined us in the annual rite of the Fall Fair. Again, I had the privilege and joy of sharing my heritage with a new generation. Again, I was successful, with surprising results. My friend decided we needed to participate at the ground level. She's a wonderful knitter so began entering articles in the needle arts section. Within a very short time she'd won the prize for most points in a section. Imagine! My city friend was beating me at a country pastime.

So, I got the catalogue and marked the sections where I could exhibit. I no longer have a calf or a pony, but I have a garden and I can knit. I've entered roses and sweaters and preserves and jellies and pickles. The days before the fair are spent cosseting my rosebushes, trying to get the flowers to the perfect stage for display, not too closed, not too open. I check all my home canning, seeking the jar with the clearest jelly or the most golden marmalade. Knitted articles are steamed and shaped and primped. All must be transported to the Fair grounds the day before, where I fuss and fidget, trying to get the exhibit just perfect.
Then comes opening day and I'm among the first through the gate. I can't wait to see if I or my friend have won a prize. (Although, in my friend's case it's not "if" but "how many"!) Then I wander happily among the goats and bunnies and cows and horses, donkeys, llamas and swine. Children ride the midway, their squeals mingling with the sound of bagpipes as the classes of highland dancers entertain. I gaze in awe at a five pound tomato or squint to see if that eight inch dahlia is really unsupported. I admire the beautiful quilts, marvel at petit point pictures, and wish I could create the fine lace of a tatter. I've won a few ribbons and earned some cash. But mostly, because of my surprising friend, I've re-connected with my roots.

In my part of the world churches are closing because of declining membership. Generations have wandered away from their heritage, been seduced by the mad pleasures of the merry-go-round and forgotten their roots. They wander through life without guideposts. They feed on candy while ignoring true bread. I pray there will be a friend to lead them home. I pray I might be that friend.

What about you? Do you go to the Fair? Do you have a friend who has opened doors for you? Please share.


  1. A bit too far to attend your fair, but we do attend them over here in South Africa. We are currently in Sedgefield, house-sitting for my son and daughter-in-law. Their town has a full-scaled fete every Saturday. Great fun.

  2. We go to State Fair in Minnesota. The handcrafts building is my favorite. My grandchildren love the birthing barn with the baby animals, managed by student veterinarians. Mid-afternoon we hit the milk booth for all you can drink for a dollar. May those roots never be lost.