Fair Enough?




4-H Club members plus carnies times fried dough equals big fun.Labor Day weekend is not only the end of summer but the beginning of fair season in New Hampshire. I'm a huge fan of the fair, and for over 40 years I have braved pouring rain, scorching late-summer heat and the increasing price of fried dough to attend the Hopkinton State Fair.Some things have changed over time. Nowadays the main events on the old racetrack are heavily skewed towards motorized entertainment.The trotting horses have gone the way of the peep show and "The Amazing Two-Headed Alligator," while the demolition derby now packs the grandstand.Still, a few of the rides most certainly existed when I was a kid and I swear some of the operators are the same, perhaps with fewer teeth. Apparently the heavy metal music that blares from the speakers of "The Flying Bobs" is also timeless.On a hot day one can head for shade in the time-honored agricultural fair tradition of "Traipsing Through the Campers." Sure, most people think of 4H kids showing their sheep, but some of us look forward to buying a $5 glass of water with essence of lemons and seeing what's new in recreational vehicles. In case you've missed out, these days each RV has space for at least one flat-screen TV, they all have air conditioning and even the pop-ups have showers. Communing with nature made as unnatural as possible. It's awesome!The horse-pulling arena provides another shady destination. I believe the number of horse-pulling fans quadruples in the heat - not because of the high-thrills atmosphere, but because the competition takes place under a roof.After sitting for several minutes in anticipation, the first pair of draft horses was hitched and successfully pulled the concrete-laden sled a few feet. My teenage daughter crinkled up her nose and said, "What's the point of this?"She, like almost all of the females between the ages of 12 and 25, came to the fair dressed for a special occasion. Except for the sneakers I forced her to wear, she wore a lovely ensemble, a touch of eye makeup and hair to die for. This was in stark contrast to some women who didn't go to the trouble of wearing shirts with sleeves or even straps and who clearly hadn't had a cut'n'color since the '70s.In the evening most kids dump their parents and go off with their clumps of friends. I gave mine money for dinner, although I use the term "dinner" loosely, as my son told me he bought a pretzel. Such a bland food choice probably was a good thing, as he was not among the many kids who threw up after experiencing the Tilt-a-Whirl.Some people complain that fairs are too commercialized these days. I disagree. Sure, the farm equipment vendors now sell ATVs and those giant inflatable swimming pools kind of stick out, but the cow barns are still full and people still feel the desire to make art out of vegetables.Even if you're not a big fan of dust or buffalo burgers, you really should try a maple milkshake or frozen apple cider. You'll only find them at the fair. NH

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