Friday, November 20, 2009

A Child's October, Part 1

[This isn't timely, but I didn't have time to write it when it was timely...]

In August, N. and I were talking about events we were anticipating in October, a momentous month: his sister Anne’s baby was due mid-month, and of course there would be Halloween.

“There’s something else, Mommy,” N. reminded me.

“What? I can’t think of anything else.”

You know!”

“No, really, I don’t think there’s anything…”

“THE FAIR!!!!”

How could I have forgotten? N. loves the Dixie Classic Fair, the major agricultural fair for the western region of North Carolina, with a deep passion. This year we spent two whole days there, and I mean arriving at 9:30 a.m. and leaving at 5 on our first day, and that day only included 2 rides (we saved rest of the rides for another day when you could buy a pass for unlimited kiddie rides). N. attacks the fair with his usual thorough meticulousness. Our first day we wandered through Yesteryear Village, a permanent assemblage of historic farmsteading buildings from around the county that have been moved to the Fairgrounds as suburban development displaces them. We watched the blacksmiths working for an hour; we watched woodturning and eventually N. tried it for himself.

Checking out an old barn in Yesteryear Village
He examined the glass cases holding prize-winning collections of antiques: eyeglasses, medicine jars, postcards, tobacco ephemera. He insists on inspecting every one of the large dioramas constructed by various Boy and Girl Scout troops illustrating the fair’s theme (this year: “Taste the Thrill”), then the Lego entries, paintings, quilts, jars of preserves, etc. We looked at the animals – pigs, goats, and chickens on the day we were there. We watched farm kids in different age groups herd pigs in a ring in a showmanship event. We walked through the midway to marvel at the rides some crazy adults love. We sat on the grass and listened to a wonderful bluegrass band. We marveled at the state-record-setting pumpkin (1,258 lbs!)… and more!

Prize-winning chickens...
...and pumpkins!

I know many sophisticates and intellectuals who scoff at the fair. Though I didn’t notice any reference to organic farming methods at the fair, I might expect that my locavore friends would take an interest in the agricultural displays. But the agricultural aspects of the fair are geared toward farmers and 4-Hers, not urban dilettantes. All other elements of the fair seem appealing to the intelligentsia only as camp or with a thorough sense of irony. Thus I saw plenty of Facebook photos mocking Fair kitsch and the vast array of signs advertising fried foods; the most notorious are fried pickles and fried butter.

How much more pleasant it was to be able to see the fair through the eyes of my five-year-old instead! I felt lucky to be there with him. Not only does he unabashedly enjoy the fair, but unlike my sophisticated friends, it seems, N. really marvels at the labor that the fair celebrates, from Lego creations to farming to blacksmithing to music-making. Added to this, it is so much fun to see his sheer enjoyment of the rides, an enjoyment that has blossomed from very tentative to wholehearted over three years of fair attendance. It's great to be a kid at the fair.

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