We are slowly returning to a fall routine after having spent all last weekend at the Common Ground Country Fair. We attended all three days and stayed at the Bradstreet Homestead which is a half-hour from the fair. It was a wonderful fair and we had amazing weather--bright and sunny, a little cool, downright nippy at night--perfect. This was our second year since retiring from coordinating the Children's Area at the fair, which we did for four years. It was really great to be free agents again this year so we could experience the fair with our children and friends. This was our 18th fair!
Friday, Day One
When we arrived, Olivia, 11, went directly to the Youth Enterprise Zone to see her sister unschooler and friend who had a booth selling homemade (and amazing) lip balm and hand-salve. Olivia was thrilled to be on her own all day with her friend and we heard they put their best sales moves on other fairgoers. It was a milestone for all of us, this independence at the fair that she embraced with joy, and we missed her on Friday, but we knew she was happiest doing her own thing, and so we were happy for her.
We visited the Exhibition Hall and checked out all the amazing vegetables and homearts with Adam, 9 but we lost him to friends soon after when he found a familiar posse of unschoolers to hang with at the cardboard-sledding hill. I found my own friends and relaxed on the commons for a bit while Alex checked out "Cooking With An Outdoor Wood Oven". We ate, we shopped, we visited, we checked in with the kids. It was a pretty relaxed and typical Day One of the fair. We returned to the homestead tired, dirty and happy.
Saturday, Day Two
We arrived at the gates just after opening, and good thing since this was to be a record-breaking day for fair attendance. It was busy! Crowded even. We didn't meet up with quite so many friends that day but we did see the the Grampies, which is always fun. We mostly compared our Obama buttons and exchanged hugs. I think both the kids were feeling a little bereft of their gang from the day before and a little too old for the Children's Area and too young to volunteer, for instance, on their own. We did go see the animals early in the day, where we motheresed like idiots to the chickens, rabbits and goats. Jerry the Ox appreciated our attentions, let me tell you. We had an understanding.
The highlight of Saturday was watching Olivia on-stage with Randy Judkins. Randy chose her from the audience to help with his act, where he proceeded to call her anything but Olivia, tripped her up on her facts and generally got us all belly laughing, including her.
More food, more playing on the commons and then we trudged back to the van, put on Joni Mitchell and admired the beauty of the countryside at dusk on the trip back to the homestead. Before bed we combed the fair schedule and made a plan for Sunday, with the goal of seeing more of the fair besides food, crowds and grass.
Sunday, Day Three and final day of the fair
I am happy to report that we made our plan and we stuck to it, more or less. The kids didn't want to make sweetgrass angels with a bunch of sour looking elderly women, okay, we let that go. But we did attend the fascinating demonstration on making acorn flour. We sampled some acorn flour bread, which apart from being a bit dry, was tasty and reminiscent of dark brown sugar (minus the sweetness) and coffee. We also learned a lot about goat milking, backyard urban chicken-keeping (we might be tempted, if our town cooperated), angora rabbits, Maine heritage apples, blacksmithing, cutting chicken for value-added products, plus we toured the Common Ground Homestead.
It sounds like a lot, but there was plenty of downtime in between demos and the kids had lots of time for more play, facepainting and generally being fair urchins.
Plus we ran into old friends and scored some deep-fried turkey at the chicken-cutting demo. We found that having this sort of plan worked really well for our family and it provided for a unique and memorable fair experience. By the time the fair was coming to its close and we ordered our last calzones, pea soup and haddock, I had scored some organic whole milk, two and half gallons for $2.50, thanks to a vendor that was looking to unload some of his leftovers. We packed up, waved good-bye to friends and left, feeling very good about our day and time at the fair.
Before we left for home, we stopped at the Bradstreet homestead again, threw the kids into showers, had them change into pjs, while we had tea with Alex's parents. His mother had picked apples from her tree for us, giving us an entire grocery bag and she filled an entire box with potatos from her garden and put that into our van also. Our trip home had us feeling grateful, laden with our bounty of food, knowledge, milestones met and precious memories that will carry us until our next fair and beyond.