Being a good Midwestern girl, I love the county fair. I look forward to it every year, mostly for the deliciously awful food, but also to see animals and crafts and displays of how hick people become during that one magical week a year when it is completely socially acceptable. Granted, many of them are that hick year-round, but let’s move on…
Naturally, when I moved to New England, I believed the glory days of fried food and barns were behind me, happily I discovered this was not the case. The hillbilly-repressed Bay-Staters also take one week a year to embrace their unpolished side and revel in products of the great outdoors. They too highlight livestock, produce, and continue the fight for a high national weight average. It is very comforting to know they are not so different from their Midwestern cousins.
So it was on Sunday last, I drove my little car to meet friends at the Topsfield Fair: America’s Oldest Established 1818. And so it was the East Coast fair culture shock began.
In all fairness, the general principles remain the same: eat a lot, look at animals, look at produce, eat some more. It’s the general feel and attitude that is really different. For one thing, the Topsfield Fair is generally held at the beginning of October as opposed to the Midwest where fairs usually take place in July/August. Topsfield also resembles more of the state fair feel rather than your typical county fair. It’s much bigger (though not as big as a state fair) and many more people attend because this is one of the only fairs in the state. People come from all over New England and even Canada making the midway much more crowded and the atmosphere less happy and jovial and more…well…more East Coast-y.
The names for some things are different of course (elephant ears = fried dough) and they have never even heard of Lemon Shake-Ups (travesty, I know). It is more just a week of play then of actually showing what agricultural strides have been made in the previous year. The whole ambience is just off.
I still had a good time with the friends I went with and I got my funnel cake, which is all I really needed to achieve. I also got to see a pumpkin that weighed over 1,600 pounds, which in itself was worth the price of admission. It was not the county fair of my childhood, but as long as I can get my once a year funnel cake, I think I can deal with it.