I've wanted to go to the Fryeburg Fair ever since we moved to Maine nine years ago. It's the latest fair in Maine, falling on the second week of October, and it's one of the oldest. This year, the kids happened to have a teacher in-service day during the fair's run, so Tom took the day off work and we struck out for western Maine.
A word about Maine roads: while there is a lovely, modern, multi-lane north-south running highway (Yes, a . We have only one interstate here in Maine.), there is no east-west highway. Sure, there are roads that they call "highways" laced all over the place, but they are two-lane (and often with no shoulder to speak of), densely wooded, twisty little roads with houses sprinkled along them every few miles. It gives you a taste of what America was like before the interstate highway system.
We were heading mostly west, so it was twisty little backroads for two hours. The leaves are stunning right now, the lakes the deep rich blue of fall, and the sun was shining. On the other hand, I had two girls prone to carsickness (one of whom is also terrified of twisty little roads) in the backseat. I passed out the Dramamine and sneaked occasional surreptitious glances back at them as we drove, checking for imminent puking. It was a gorgeous, yet harrowing - and thankfully, uneventful ride.
The fair was everything a fair should be: gaudy, noisy, overpriced and lightly perfumed by onion rings, fries, and caramel. Plus, there were flush toilets, which pleased me immensely. One reaches a certain age in life where one feels one has reached one's quota of Port-o-John usage.
There were many darling farm animals to coo over, like these two goats cuddled up together.
This alpaca was practically Disneyesque in his adorableness.
The oxen fell less in the "cute" and more in the "formidable" category. I declined to walk through their building with Tom and the girls. Dudes, they were about eight feet tall and loosely tethered in open stalls. I wasn't about to walk two feet behind them. Instead, I loitered outside and watched a woman blow-drying a calf in preparation for judging. Then this gargantuan steer and I eyeballed each other. I was pretty glad when Tom and the girls emerged from the barn untrampled.
We watched oxen pulling because Tom wanted to. In terms of entertainment, I rank it somewhere between watching my breakfast cereal get soggy and attending a tax seminar.
We rambled through exhibition halls, while the kids asked repeatedly when we could go back to the midway.
We ate some surprisingly decent Filipino food and passed around one $3 water bottle.
We shuffled through the craft hall, while the kids asked repeatedly when we could go back to the midway.
We walked through barns full of livestock, while the kids began to make passionate cases for purchasing some ducks, or perhaps just one chicken. I offered to take them to the midway.
Speaking of fair animals, have any of you every seen an adult male boar? In person? I guess I hadn't because when we sat in the packed grandstand to watch a little livestock judging and they trotted out some boars, I about fell off my bench. First of all? HUGE. Like, six feet long with their heads close to waist-high on a man. Second of all? HUUUUUUGE. Their, um, scrotums.
They looked like two partially deflated basketballs. I mean, that big. Seriously. Bug perused the judging for a couple of minutes, then asked in a clear, ringing tone,
"WHAT is that THING hanging off the pig's butt?"
Bear shot me a panicked look of embarrassement, a clear please, please shut her up message in her eyes.
Tom, sitting next to Bug, murmured something about "discussing it later."
She sat quietly for a minute or so, then asked loudly over the murmur of the crowd, "No, seriously, I have to know. WHAT IS THAT THING HANGING OFF THE PIG'S BUTT??"
Tom leaned down hastily and spoke at length into her ear. I watched her expression slide quickly from curious to horrified. Bear tried to cover her face with her hair and slid microscopically further away from her sister.
We left soon after that and decided to break for a snack. We girls all have our particular fair food weaknesses.
No fair experience is complete without hitting the midway, although neither of my kids are fans of fast rides. As a mom who has watched several hidden-camera 20/20 shows about the (un) safety of fair rides, I was OK at giving the rides a pass.
The girls were gung-ho to try some of the midway games. I was very clear with them before we got to the fair that we would pay for them to play two games, but they'd have to cough up their squirreled-away allowances if they wanted to play any more. One glance at the luridly colored stuffed animals dangling enticingly from the booths, and they happily plunked down their dollars. (I only let them bring a specific amount, or I'm sure they'd have each burned through $50 in pursuit of prizes).
They were steely-eyed with concentration as they threw darts at a balloon, tossed rings around bottles, or threw baseballs at piles of cans. Tom rolled his eyes elaborately but wisely said nothing. Blowing a wad of cash at a fair midway is a childhood rite of passage.
They were divinely happy with their armloads of junky prizes. And broke.
It was a great family outing and a beautiful fall day. We often talk about going places for a day trip, but don't always make the effort to make it happen. It's all too easy to get caught up in mowing the grass, painting the garage, and the myriad of other things that need to get done. There are always things waiting to get done. Sometimes it just feels right to set aside time for fun. I'm so glad we did.