The tents have come down and the Ferris wheel has been dismantled. The caramel apples are sold out and the candy wagon has moved on.
Fall fairs across Wellington County are officially over for another season. This makes me a little sad.
There is something nostalgic about a fair that draws people from all walks of life – within a community and far beyond its borders – and, at the risk of sounding sentimental, I think that common unifier is a sense of tradition that we all crave.
It’s about neighbours and simple homegrown fun and a sense of pride that where you come from matters, because it does. Fall fairs remind us that we’re connected beyond our Blackberrys and FaceBook accounts (but for the record, the only way to stay married at a fair is to be able to text your spouse when you get lost in the crowd).
It might sound corny to those of us who were raised somewhere between the city highways and the dirt roads, but I would argue that we are the very people who need these fairs to stay grounded in that in-between space of society, because we are the ones who are best able to see both sides of the road.
For instance, we know meat scares are less likely to happen when you know the farmer who raises your food because we visit his farm. We appreciate what is at stake for the parents we see at the arena, who are fourth generation harness horse trainers whose entire livelihood depends on the only career they’ve ever known, which is now in jeopardy. We see the impact of windmills on our friend’s farm, where selling out is not an option, nor is giving in.
This past weekend at the Erin Fall Fair I met passionate people in all facets of agriculture and asked silly questions about farming life, cattle judging, horse safety and things I admit I do not understand, like tractor pulls and the desire to smash up old cars.
What I discovered is I don’t have to get it to appreciate it. I interviewed a 10 year-old boy who was proud of his jazzed-up riding lawn mower, revving its engine and smiling, despite not winning his lawn mower pulling competition. That tractor represented his family’s farm in Alma, and he built it up to race with his dad, a dairy farmer and father of five. No longer a simple lawn mower, it had become a sweet symbol of family pride. When I asked his father how he found time to work on this, he said, “Farming is hard work, all the time. I decided to make time to do this for him.” Amen to that.
When I talked to the 4-H kids showing their cattle under the scrutiny of a judge, I saw grandparents, parents and neighbours all against the fence silently willing their youths to take home a ribbon. Months of hard work and commitment to care for a cow, the cost to feed it, groom it, haul it to competitions all for a title and a ribbon seems foreign to some. Yet in a time where expensive gadgets trump reality, the bragging rights of a ribbon makes more sense to me. There is much to be said for pride in accomplishment and dedication to hard work.
Now, how do I convince the Carpenter to buy me a cow, a tractor and maybe a farm? Sigh.