Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A tale of two fairs

So I've been a bit remiss in my blogging this autumn. Not for lack of things to share--I've had a brilliant few months. I think the procrastination stemmed instead from too much to share and each weekend running into the next. Then work became ridiculously difficult, and now most nights I just want to come home and drool on the couch while watching Property Brothers on HGTV. Dimples and a Canadian accent, all the while remodeling sad homes? I can watch that shit all night.

But I'm not ready to give in to the full cocoon mode just yet. So I have decided to say screw it and blog some dated adventures from this fall to keep the autumn love going just a little bit longer.

Besides, when I was late on this year's fair blog post, I got this text. Little brother is so angry he has taken to flipping tables. I sent poo in return.

These texts continued pretty regularly. Sometimes they took an odd turn.

Then he played hard ball.

So because I want to go to the Carolina Renaissance Festival this weekend, here we go.

This year I went to TWO fairs: Deerfield, NH, and Topsfield, MA. I thought it might be good to do a seriously scientific side-by-side comparison. I do this research solely for you, dear reader. It's a selfless act, these corn dogs and animal pettings. So let's check out the offerings of each fair.

SIGNAGE: advantage Deerfield

CRAFTS: Advantage Deerfield

While Topsfield wins for moldiest pie

and most intriguing attempt at embroidery,

Deerfield has, well, me:

Shit, that's good stuff. Actually, I was a little shy about putting this piece into the fair this year. Don't get me wrong--it was difficult to make, and I watched three seasons of The Wire while stitching (if you've watched The Wire, and you're female, you know there's no reason to go on after season 3). But it's also got a skosh of an '80s feel, and I think it comes eerily close to a bear holding a heart-shaped balloon.

The judges, however, did not seem put off by the cornflower blue thread. They liked it very much.


My mom picked up my piece after the fair ended. I don't want to say my fans were there waiting for me, exactly, but I will say my mother had to sheepishly admit that she's not me. And then give out my email address. I don't want to casually toss out the word celebrity, but I think I've found my niche.

Lest you think my ego grows too large, I am kept humble by another blue ribbon winner that probably took all of four minutes. Christ, that's not even long enough for one drug deal on The Wire.

Deerfield also has my mom. Mom got a blue ribbon for quilting this year. Unfortunately, they put her quilt in front of a window, so getting a proper picture was impossible. However, here's some of the hand stitching...

My imaginary boyfriend Ted Nichols did an awesome job, as always.

Frankly, Deerfield is full of stellar art.

And this year, I entered a photo for the first time. As a photog hack, I happily accept this red ribbon.




FOOD: advantage Deerfield

The Topsfield Fair is so crowded that things like my annual corndog are ready made. At Deerfield, I go to the same awkward father-son team each year and wait patiently while they create that sodium-laden masterpiece right in front of me.

Though I must bitch for a second about getting DUPED on the fried pickle front AGAIN.

Me: Excuse me, are your pickles slices or spears?
Lying bastard at counter: Slices.
Me: Sweet--I'll take an order of pickle slices!

This is what they handed me. Little brother said it was my fault for not clarifying that I wanted pickle chips. I think it's the lying SOB's fault for lying. We still ate them.

And to Topsfield's credit, there was this gorgeous plate of potato chippy things.

And Topsfield definitely wins for largest selection of fried things that shouldn't be fried.

ANIMALS: advantage Deerfield

BUT: Bears!

Topsfield has always had sad shipping container with a sad bear in it that you pay an additional charge to see. It's super depressing, and the bear is usually asleep with its back to everyone. This year, however, there were several bears. And there were people in the shipping container interacting with the bears quite a bit to get them to walk around and allow people to see them up close. I didn't get very good pics, but I was enthralled to be so close to the animal I fear the most.

I could watch them all day. And I know--I fully understand--how depressing this whole thing is with animals. I struggle with the ethics behind it all, and I detest an animal in a sad metal enclosure surrounded by bad depictions of nature painted on the walls. I hate watching people poke at the animals and overfeed the animals and frankly scare and exhaust the animals. And at the same time I am emotionally moved by my own interactions with animals and invigorated by their beauty and character. It's a tricky fence to straddle. Phew--what's all this deep talk? Back to my research.

ANIMAL NAMES: advantage Topsfield

Can we just take a moment to appreciate cows named Lazy Burnice, baby to Lazy Burn Baby Burn Ray, and GMC Logic Party, baby to GMC Rebel Logic? It's like the fun never stops with Massachusetts cows.


I always hit a wall at the fair--that moment when I've seen too many frightening sights and keep getting stuck behind people who walk at a turtle's pace or just stop for no reason and stand there, like there isn't a 4,000-person pile-up happening behind them. But this is usually a couple hours in. Unfortunately, it was immediate at Topsfield. I came to a halt just past the entrance and stood still for minutes, feeling a little claustrophobic and texting my friends fantically to find out where they were. I wanted a machete. Instead I took a deep breath.

My friends have magical powers. As soon as we were united, the crowds parted, I relaxed, and the fun began. And according to them, the secret to enjoying the fair is pregaming at the bar. I distinctly recall one of them saying, "Oh yeah, I could never do this sober." Truer words were never spoken. Topsfield was a nightmare of angry North Shore teens. I used to be one of them. Now I'm old and shit.

Heather, Heidi, and Noelle just being generally awesome.

And with lesser crowds at Deerfield, I can enjoy one of the few times a year I get to geek around in person with Little brother.


Sorry, North Shore. For me, the fair needs to be a truly agricultural affair with intermittent unhealthy food made with love. It needs to show respect for crafts and provide plenty of sheep to pet. Deerfield offers this in a quaint package. Now if only I can talk my friends into pregaming somewhere in NH and going to Deerfield next year...then all hell would break loose.