“The party’s over,” the white-haired woman carrying the bag to claim her good said to me as we passed on the bridge between the parking lot and the fairgrounds. I carried my entries and my ribbons from the fair and I nodded in agreement. “It certainly is.”
We were referring to the close of the Tunbridge Fair. The buzz has died. Few animals remain. One sole tractor relocates the remaining hay bales. The merry-go-round is all packed up. A few stragglers, like me and the white-haired woman drop by to collect our entries.
The fairgrounds had been booming with excitement only the day before. Four days earlier I had dropped off my photographs and drawings in Floral Hall, walking past oxen drinking from the river and farmers hauling hay. I felt a part of a working farm. On Saturday, two days earlier, the fair was in full motion. Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, beer hall, carnie games, blooming onions, roasted corn and cotton candy dominated the fairway. I saw friends and acquaintances, caught up with the former manager of Borders and then of BAM (Books-a-Million) who had finally left to go elsewhere. We even chatted about Obamacare before parting paths in search of food. I perused the photos in Floral Hall, looking for names of fellow artists, finding few I recognized.
I like being a part of the party. Some could say going back to the fair is akin to going back in time – to a day when we were closer to the land and to each other; when neighbors conversed while haying instead of over Facebook, but I have a feeling that for many of these people, the fair still represents their way of life. They pickle and bake pies, knit, crochet, sheer sheep and plant pumpkins in their gardens. They still know that Carl Adams field is called the flattop and remember when Dan Riley used to mow it.
This weekend my best friend visited her family of Vermonters, whose grandfather had left his farm in trust. She remarked that some of the siblings were chatting over a piece of land called the Porkchop, “whatever that is,” she said, and I had to laugh because my family has names for my grandfather’s property such as the rounded piece of hill known as the Hogback. Next door from my brother’s house sits the pristine field called Sugar House Flats. Much of the land has these names, but I have become disconnected from them. I visit the farm where my Dad grew up. I do not live there. Only recently have I realized how tied to this rural world I really am – that I, like so many of my friends and all of my family, have never strayed too far from home. Today, I met a new student who proudly proclaimed he had grown up in Tunbridge and had returned there to the fair yesterday. He was slow to speak and once he finally acknowledged his origins, I saw the Yankee in him, realizing his reticence came naturally.
“My dad and grandpa grew up on a farm,” I told him.
“ ‘bout four or five roads lead there,” he said.
I’m beginning to see more and more roads lead back to my roots. I may not be a farmer, although I have owned a horse and shoveled my share of manure in my time, but I take my pictures to the fair, every year! And, I bear my first and second and even third place ribbons with pride. I walk the dirt roads and covered bridges near the homes my grandparents forged and buy my milk downtown. I have written for my local newspaper and proofread its pages. I help Joan haul in her wood and I have become adept at following moose for long stretches down her road. The party might be over for now, but I celebrate rural life each day. I am a part of it.