Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Washington County Fair

I visited my parents yesterday. They happen to live in the same house where I grew up and on my way to their home we passed the fairgrounds for the Washington County fair. My hopes that my kids would not notice the fair were dashed when Aidan shouted "Ferris wheel" as I drove by.

So...after visiting with my folks Aidan, Fiona, and I went to the fair. Run by the local grange, the fair has been an August staple in southern Rhode Island since before I was born. Aside from the carnival section (where my kids wanted to spend all of our time), the fair is primarily an agricultural event. Farmers from Washington County (better known as South County) and from across the region bring their livestock to the fair to compete in a variety of competitions. Yes...the smells from the lower end of the fairgrounds can be a bit strong.

Horseback riding competitions, oxen and tractor pulls, and a number of other activities are conducted in the main ring. My favorite one is the dung throwing contest where contestants throw dried manure for distance and accuracy. I am not making this up.

Along with the local granges and 4-H organizations, local fire departments and ambulance companies, many of whom are volunteer organizations, act as food and beverage vendors at the fair. By doing so they are able to do an impressive amount of fund raising. The food is pretty good and ranges from hot dogs and hamburgers to clam cakes and fried chicken.

Local gardeners also show off their produce. I won a blue ribbon one year for my string kids were completely unimpressed by this as were they uninterested in the livestock...they were all about the carnival...thank God they were unable to talk me into going on the Tilt A Hurl...I mean Tilt A Whirl. I would have surely hurled as I dinned on the Carolina Fire Department's johnny cakes (johnny cakes are pancakes made from cornmeal) and french fries from the Hope Valley Fire Department.

While I am not a big fan of carnivals...I love fairs...despite my initial hesitation about going. My kids had a great time, they were able to experience a wholesome bit of Americana, I was able to relive some very nice childhood memories...and I was able to avoid the Tilt A Hurl.

I never do this....but the fair is really a great thing and represents a piece of rural American culture that is fast disappearing Go to your local fair.

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