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Fair week


August 23, 2012

It is fair week again. It feels like the summer has whirled away like the interchanging swings of the midway’s merry mixer. It has brought us to this moment.

We have spent the week at the Delaware County Fair in Walton, NY. Yesterday I watched my kids and their fellow 4-Hers give their public presentation speeches for fairgoers on subjects as varied as Arcadia National Park, remote control trucks, banana cream pie and my son Sam’s topic: the life and writing of Stephen King.

We ate Italian ices. And my daughter rode the swings, joining the swarm of kids as they pick through the pile of flip flops flung off for the ride.

Each year I look for the new heights in deep frying—this year I noticed deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have joined the ranks with the standard offerings of fries and bloomin’ onions and the not-so-standard deep-fried twinkies and deep-fried Milky Way bars (at which I have always drawn the line).

This year I was struck by the specific sameness of the fair. Each year we set up our displays, eat funnel cakes and look at the exhibits of zucchini and table settings. We visit the commercial tent for bags of licorice and examine the handbags and shell necklaces. It is great for a day, but a little wearing for a whole week.

Still, I can never grow tired of the people. I like to sit and rest my feet and watch the people stroll by. It is like a prayer to see the kids with ice cream or the baby squealing with delight over the spongy feel of a sheep’s woolly back. We will make of ourselves the most glorious exhibit of all.

This year my son also helped fellow 4-H club members with their sheep. For him, it was a new experience and a crash course in sheep showmanship and care, which he greatly enjoyed. Although, when asked if he’d like a sheep of his own, he said, “only at fair time.” It is a statement that at least recognizes the enormous work and time that goes into raising and readying animals for the fair.

But it was fun to see him studying diagrams of sheep anatomy and helping to wash and comb the animals in preparation for the show. They clipped the animals and applied foot blacking. In certain circumstances, exhibitors use a shop-vac to clean their animals—an amusing sight. I also learned that there are people planted in the show crowd who are ready to jump on a wild and running sheep should such circumstances arise. It is a kind of like a sheep secret service. One exhibiter almost needed their assistance, but she hung on for dear life as her animal attempted to bolt from the show ring. She took it well—as a matter of course.