All’s Fair




Cotton candy, the ribbon awards, a stuffed pink duck, The Zipper and an ox pull — nothing like a country fair on an autumn day. By B. Elwin Sherman Attention, city slickers: I live in the New Hampshire boonies, and every late summer and fall it’s possible to spend a months’ full of weekends doing nothing but hopping the archipelago of country fairs. All one needs is a lawn chair, sensible shoes, an appetite and the intestinal fortitude for steamed hamburgers and fried dough. Upon arrival, prepare to wait for a moment above the fairgrounds in a high pasture parking lot, as two retired firemen in red vests, blue hats and wielding orange batons argue over whether you should “back in heah” or “head in over theah” to that gap in the stone wall. Be patient. This is just an extension of the lifelong arguments they’ve had over checkerboard strategies and tractor maintenance, and when they’re through you’ll end up wedged in an impossible parallel park by the rock maples anyway. Urban street smarts will serve you no good here; these are country folk. At the ribbon awards for “Best Udder,” the qualitative and quantitative differences in cow udders may be lost on you, but to the dairy farmer who has bag-balmed Bessie’s undercarriage all year, it’s his milk, butter and crop of the cream. On to the live music. If Rick Norcross & The Ramblers’ country boogie rendition of “Paint It Like A Cow” doesn’t give you happy feet, you’ve been sitting too long in the concrete jungle. Don’t pass up The Pork Chop Revue, where you’ll see a 50-pound, 5-year-old boy onstage singing “Popeye The Sailor Man,” with an 800-pound pig. Thus: Boy with microphone: “I’m Popeye the sailor man.” Big pig singing into microphone held by boy: “Toot-Snort.” If you couldn’t justify the price of admission and the shoehorned parking place up to then, that alone should do it. No fair is complete without the carnival rides and midway. Here, you’ll fill up on cotton candy, snow cones and candied apples. Lady Luck might also find you winning a giant stuffed pink duck, your prize after you finally succeed in hooking an eight-inch basketball through a seven and three-quarter-inch hoop. It can be done, and it will seem like a bargain. The rides: Here you’ll be launched above the treetops, slungshot and whiplashed silly while strapped in a human birdcage. Momentarily upended at the top of one perfectly named ride known as “The Zipper,” you’ll catch a glimpse of your vehicle on the hill being completely blocked in by a horse trailer. At the ox-pulling contest, you’ll witness two sweaty guys each the size of your car, backing up two yoked animals each the size of your garage, tethering them onto a concrete sled, and upon a cue known only to this team of man and beast, prompting them to haul it a designated distance. My favorite was the young man who stood between these tensing, hoofed freight trains and eyeballed them into submission, freezing them stock-still in the ancient power of his hypnotic, bovine whammy, then leapt out of the lane, snapped his whip and whoop-hollered them to the winning pull. Before the sun sets beneath the tilting row of portable potties, and after you’ve seen your first Sheep Obstacle Course and more jams, hams and quilts than you can stick a Shaker at, it will dawn on you, too: The country fair is not just kids living grown-up dreams or oldsters reliving glory days — it is the patchwork of life, and the best we can be. At the end of it, if you can find your car and get out of theah from heah, I’ll meet you back at hindquarters. Fair enough. B. Elwin Sherman’s humor appears on www.toolkitinparadise.com and he has recently begun logging his colorful bloviations in the blogosphere at www.Area603.com.

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