I usually attend two to three fairs each summer. Yet I find the older I get, the less tolerance I have for dust, crowds, heat, port-a-lets, and just the general ambiance. This year, I may end up attending just one. When the days get a little shorter and there is just a hint of fall in the air, we make our annual trek to my favorite: Addison County Field Days. A county fair, where vegetable and baked goods receive blue ribbons, and vendors sell everything from Cabot cheese, to farm equipment, to taxidermy, to religion, all under one roof. You’ll see animals everywhere, with young girls in braids wrangling their young calves in front of the judge. An old-time tractor parade Tuesday evening welcomes the start of the new year. A two-night demolition derby that for some people is as exciting as Christmas (and of which I admit I’m one of them). The rides, the Ferris wheel, The Zipper, and the merry-go-round. And of course, it goes without mentioning, the food.
Our start every year is my favorite aside from the animals, the home and garden building, where everything from vegetables to artwork to knitted wear are judged. But my favorite is the baking contest. I scan to see what kind of cookies and pies people made and who received the blue ribbon. Every year I download the entry form with thoughts I will enter something, but it’s always just a thought, it never comes to fruition.
The sights and smells are the same every year, catching up with friends and the usual events. For me, it doesn’t matter what evening we go, I know what my dinner will be. I am a creature of habit, and every year I order my spicy sausage from Tony in his little wooden booth. They’re inexpensive and delicious. Just the right amount of peppers and onions with yellow mustard on top. This year we passed on our usual basket of crispy and flaky onion rings which I said was because I was full, although, truth be told, I couldn’t find our favorite vendor.
The deep-fried sticks of butter and butter sculptures I heard about at the Iowa State Fair aren’t present, but there is still plenty of food to eat. Smoked turkey legs, funnel cakes, candied apples, cotton candy, burgers, hot dogs, and pizza. The first evening every year, they have a Vermont dinner, where your entire dinner is made of Vermont food: chicken, ham, vegetables, coffee and milk, and dessert. But you can walk off a lot of your consumed calories by going from the cow barns to the horse stables and sheep tent.
Every time we go to Field Days, it never feels like an entire year has passed. The familiar sights are just that, too familiar to have had 12 months go by; that long winter is just a faint memory, mud season and the rains of June forgotten. But it has, and like always, it will. And so we end another year with the twinkling of the Field Days lights as we round the bend toward home.