Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inspiration Everywhere At Maine's Common Ground Country Fair

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.

early start after a late night

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.)

sweet annie
on our way
beautiful booth
garlic farm
good morning peppers
asters and lanterns

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.

a breather with friends
Jesse shows me his shirt
new baby!
the Grampies!
kitchen demo
Minecraft might have come up
this is Parker. Parker put honey on his mouth to attract bees. Bees were attracted.

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.

rolling the dough
banking the fire
finished buns
bean hole beans
350 event
Alex and Marie

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.

taking shirt orders
Autumn and Olivia
working the country store
pleased to have helped

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.

fair play
best breakfast deal on Friday
young worker at the lemonade stand
kids enjoying kids

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.

John Bunker talks apples
all that canning
Maine Medicinals
felted yurt
yarn galore
beautiful braids
family dance
oxen and steer farmer types
the fields
sleepy goat
pretty llama
well, hello
goofy goat

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.

the bees
the honey people

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.

new at the fair!
coffee run
pie cones of awesome
I knew that crab tasted familiar
seafood. eat food.
Caldwell's burger and fries, good deal

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.

leaving Saturday behind
welcome autumn

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