Migration — Fairs of State

Friday, August 22, 2008

It’s that time of year when the towns around Connecticut put on their state fairs. Actually they’re town fairs, but I guess that sounds too much like a tire company. In central Connecticut the Durham Fair reigns. It runs for three days at the end of September and along with the usual fair fare – tractor pulls, biggest pumpkin, cotton candy, etc. – it has musical entertainment at three venues, plus extra entertainment for the kiddies. There are all manner of local curiosities, too. Last year one sister-in-law bought goat’s milk soap and another a heavy sweater made of alpaca that she wore as a coat all winter. I no longer attend this fair. For one thing, when I worked at the local paper our Durham reporter covered the event 365 days a year, it seemed. If she couldn’t find something else to write about, there was always the fair, before, during, and after. And then there are the crowds. It’s pretty much jammed from opening day until closing night. Parking is impossible because all the close-by spots are occupied by the volunteers. In fact, locals know not to drive through Middlefield too because that’s where most people mark.
Smaller and more traditional, the Berlin Fair falls at the beginning of October and is better from my point of view. The exhibits are more accessible, and there is much less emphasis on commercial vending and more on fund-raising for local groups, including the Lions Club, which sponsors the event. I’m partial to this one, too, because one of my friends won a ribbon for her embroidery a few years ago.
If you want to meet a politician, Chester begins today. And this being an election year, there will be folks seeking your vote. The last time I attended this one, I was still living in Philadelphia, and one of my former classmates tried to get me to move back just so I could vote for him for state rep. This one is small, also, and easy to navigate. For extra fun, drive down the hill and take the Chester-Hadlyme ferry across the Connecticut River. The trip is worth it just to see Gillette’s Castle perched up on the hill as the ferry swings out from its mooring.
Unlike several of the other events, the Guilford Fair has plenty of room to spread out on the spacious green. This one was a destination for my mother, my aunt,  my cousin and me for years when Anna and I were kids. Everyone else wandered around while I planted myself in front of the glass blower. I’d stand for an hour or more watching him work the pieces of glass over a Bunsen burner and then twist – add dots of color and voilà, a perfect little Dachshund! I only left when he took a break. I doubt he’s still there, but I’m sure someone has taken his place.
My one visit to Hamburg , which is actually part of Lyme, Connecticut, occurred when many of the festivities were winding down – I believe there was some sort of fund-raising dance being held in the evening after the place closed up. The event is postage sized, but very accessible.
This is just a small sampling. The Association of Connecticut Fairs lists more than 50, so anyone can get their fill of farm animals, flowers, and funnel cakes.

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