Labor Day weekend has always meant the symbolic end of summer for me. Since I was a Walworth county farm girl, that meant the fair. The end of August seems to me to be the perfect time for a rural fair, since now is the high season for produce. I still enjoy wandering through the agricultural building to see boxes of dented seed corn, onions, apples and various squashes. Then there are the tall tall stalks of corn, and the giant pumpkins. I also like looking over the floral displays, the little centerpieces all centered on some theme. Who makes centerpieces any more? I didn't see what I used to enjoy when I was a child, row upon row of gaudy gladiola spikes and giant dahlias. Perhaps they were in another building I missed. There is a lot to take in at the fair.
I went on opening day, before the midway opened. It was sunny and not too hot, perfect really. Lots of buildings still had judging going on, at least in the open class areas. The 4-H judging was complete, so all the art projects, woodworking, posters explaining electrical circuits or the life cycle of bees, sewing projects and plates of cookies already had ribbons or stickers. But the adults were seated anxiously on park benches, watching panels of judges make hard decisions. Hearts ready to be broken were worn on each sleeve.
My parents never let me take animals to the fair. Mother said something about not wanting me to sleep in the barns, but I don't think anyone ever does that. I suspect they just didn't want the hassles of transporting an valuable animal to the week long event, and the daily responsibility that entails. Still, I think I might have liked fussing over a cow, learning to show her.
I walk through the dairy and beef barns, but I have grown to look forward to the goats. We never had goats, but I like their gregarious nature. Many of them seem to look forward to their visitors, and sniff and delicately nibble the hand that isn't feeding them. Almost all seem to enjoy having their ears scratched, pretty much like my cat does.
Then there is food. When I was a child I looked forward to hot buttered sweet corn, at the tent with salt shakers suspended by strings for easy access. These days I don't bother with the corn, but head straight to the cream puff stand. The one I favor is in the row with the 4-H building, the fair office, and the agriculture building. The stand is ancient, wood clapboard painted white with blue trim, and it looks like it has been there since the 1920s. Actually they sell eclairs, brownies and cream puffs, but I am a cream puff only woman. No drizzled caramel or nuts, please. Just a sweet pastry filled with whipped cream and dusted with powered sugar. Wear light colored clothing when tackling one of these babies - the sugar shows less when you've finished.
Alas, I think I am too old for rides. Maybe if I had a wee child in tow I might, but I don't. I have to enjoy all that going round in circles vicariously. In truth, my stomach might not be a strong as it used to be, especially after eating a cream puff. I just wander the midway, nodding at the carnies, and taking pictures when I can.
The fair is a fine way to usher out summer. The sweet thing for me now, is that I do not have to go to school on Tuesday.