A Fair Talker: Junior Gardner
The voice of the Deerfield Fair
Photo by Ralph Morang
Say "Deerfield Fair" and a lot of people think "Junior Gardner." His is the voice - with its distinctive Yankee accent - that you hear on the radio advertising for the now-140-year-old fair. He's been doing it for more than 30 years, all without a word of copy in his hands. He just wings it and it works.
He was just a boy when he got hooked on fairs, especially the Deerfield Fair, which is just down the road from where he lives. He loved pulling horses, loved talking to people and later on loved having his family with him. These days he's retired from his well drilling business, his hayride business and from horse pulling too, but he'll never stop going to fairs. He still gets to seven or eight each season.
If you go to Deerfield this year, you might just run into Junior. He'll probably be sitting and chatting with friends, but he wouldn't mind it if you stopped to say hi. And, ayuh, his Yankee accent is the real thing.
When did your interest in fairs start?
Oh, I was 11 or 12. I went to a lot of them. I had a friend who pulled horses and he took me along. I started pulling at Deerfield at 14. I got a third place, first time. I thought that was pretty good.
You eventually became the "Voice of the Deerfield Fair." How did that happen?
That was 31 years ago. Jim McIntyre, who lived two houses up from me, was in charge of advertising for the fair. He wanted me to get on radio. I told him that I had never talked on radio. He told me to just act natural. I said, hell, I can do that then.
Why did he think you'd be good?
He knew I was a natural guy, that I say what I think and never make believe I was better than anyone.
Do you read copy?
No. What I do takes me all year; I'm finding out what's new at the fair and then I can talk about it. My wife says I'm pretty good.
What's your best line?
"It's gonna be a good one" and "Hope it'll be a fair day." Ain't that a good saying?
Is your Yankee accent real?
Oh, yes. My dad was from Maine.
Do people recognize your voice?
If I go out to eat and start talking, people say, "I've heard that voice somewhere. Hey, you're ..." The other day I found a wallet and called the number I found in it. The guy said, "That's you, Junior." I can't get away from it.
How many fairs do you go to each year?
I've dropped back to about seven or eight. When I was pulling, I'd go to around 15, in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Martha's Vineyard. I used to take the whole family. I didn't always get first, but the horses were good to me. I sold them three years ago. It was fun. What counts in my book is having fun.
What's your favorite fair?
There are a lot of good ones, but I'd say Deerfield.