This year was our twentieth Common Ground Country Fair attendance. We attend all three days and you might think that there would not be anything new to do, see or learn, but I assure you, there is inspiration at every turn at the fair. There are the comforts of the known and familiar, certainly, and we look forward to those things that mark the beginning of autumn for us; the fair as ritual, in other words.
Summer's bounty is evident everywhere, in crates, on tables, in piles of brilliant color and texture. It's difficult to narrow our selections to a couple (or five) items. (The guinea pigs are thrilled with the ten pounds of ugly carrots we got at bargain prices from one farmer, so it pays to look and chat with the vendors.)
The fair, too, is the place we meet with friends and family. We sit and talk at the kitchen demo while the kids prepare a squash dish or we find a bench outside the animal barns to reconnect. We kiss the head of a friend's new baby. Unfortunately, I never seem to get enough photos of all the loved ones we see, but since it's because we're too busy talking and laughing, I don't actually feel that unfortunate.
At the fair, Alex and I spend a great deal of it as a couple, exploring things that interest us, while the kids are off on their pursuits. For instance, Alex and I went to see the primitive skills demos and got to sample some hot off the fire cinnamon rolls baked by a Maine Guide, or we attended a couple of presentations, one on preserving Maine's farmland and another on living mindfully with the rhythm of farm life. On Saturday, Alex and I caught up with some friends and participated in the 350 event promoting awareness about climate change.
The fair has always been child-friendly. Once upon a time our kids spent their fair days hammering nails into logs or jumping into hay or getting their faces painted in the children's area. In later years, they spent their days helping out friends in the youth enterprise tent or roaming with a group or hanging out on the hill. I think this year we saw them begin a new tradition--volunteering. Saturday afternoon they both worked at the country store and they enjoyed their four hour shift so much, they did it again on Sunday. Their coordinator told them that their team was the best crew he's ever had working at the store. It's rare to find organizations that are willing to take youth volunteers and I think MOFGA has always been wonderful about encouraging young people to get involved.
Even if children are not volunteering, children are welcomed everywhere at the fair. I saw children helping their vendor parents or running their own booths, children with freedom to run and explore and even invited to play. And since this stands in stark contrast to how unwelcoming much of the world is to children and youth, the fair becomes a most refreshing haven for learning and thriving.
Another thing I so appreciate about the fair is the abundant beauty, from the people, the knowlege shared and demonstrated in skills and hand crafts to the animals, who always delight with their sweet or funny personalities.
Even little things, like witnessing the variety of bees that found the honey booth and wondering at their ability to find packaged honey from far and wide, was beautiful.
And of course, the food. Fair food, sourced from Maine's farmland and oceans, is one of the greatest pleasures to be had at the fair.
Every element of the fair inspires. Some years we leave with a desire to grow a new type of tree or save seeds. Some years we leave wanting to recenter ourselves and cultivate more beauty in our lives. Other years we simply feel energized by being in an organization that embraces sustainability. And like this year, sometimes we leave feeling inspired into action, to take stock of our lives, to change things up, in small and big ways. I don't know exactly yet where that road will take us, but I know the fair will be a guidepost on our journey.