August 01, 2006

Country fair report

It was a wonderful time at the fair, including the day before it started (last Wednesday), when Laura and I helped with the fairground preparations (accepting and sorting exhibits for the bench show plus buying up all the blue and black stamp pad ink refills in town), got a sneak peek at the prizes in the exhibit hall, and set up Tom's barn-shaped 6' by 6' shadow box full of old fair memorabilia; Sunday, when we had a mini-family reunion with some of Tom's aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids, and then had some visiting friends and their kids over for dinner; and yesterday, when the whole family participated in the fairground cleanup -- mostly cleaning straw and shavings out of various pens in the various livestock barns.

Here's a not so quick rundown:

Thursday, first day of the fair: Headed into the fairgrounds early to drop off the kids' pen of five chickens (Barred Rock rooster and his harem). The grounds were crazy busy and we barely made it out in time to get to the parade ground for the judging of the floats. We won first prize in the Seniors Division, since the museum float -- the whole museum, in fact -- is headed up by oldsters. Our family definitely moved the average age down for the day. Kids and Tom were dressed in period costume -- the boys as voyageurs in their new coonskin caps carrying gopher traps; Laura in her c1905 dress complete with mutton-chop sleeves, buttons all down the back, flowered hat, and parasol; and Tom as a dandy along with a top hat, cane, and pocket watch.

After the parade, a picnic lunch and then off to the fairgrounds. We'd had a quick peek at the kids' entries the night before, so we knew that they had done quite well, with a bunch of first, second, and third prizes for their paintings, handmade greeting cards (we've been sucked into the Stamping Up materials...), drawings, sheaves, mounted/pressed/dried leaves/flowers/weeds, Daniel's Lego balloon-powered rocket car, Laura's sweet peas, and more. All very well pleased with their efforts and results.

Our first stop was the chicken show, where much to our surprise, the kids' pen won Reserve Champion (second prize). The whole show is a lark, not at all serious like the other livestock shows at the fair -- light horses, heavy horses, sheep, hogs, cattle -- though the prizes are mostly serious: a check for $150, an invitation to a special catered dinner that evening, commemorative ball caps embroidered "Reserve Champion Pen of 5 Chickens" and "Agricultural Society - 100 Years", a certificate, and, not so seriously, a chicken cookbook. Then off to the 100-Man Threshing Crew at the old-fashioned threshing demonstration. Three wagonloads of grain went through the old threshing machine, and Tom in his top hat and the boys each had a turn (Laura didn't want to climb up in the wagon or wield a pitchfork in her dress); Daniel especially did a terrific job forking everything in, and at the end we collected another certificate and more commemorative ball caps. Then over to the John Deere pedal tractor pull for kids seven and under, where Daniel pedalled for the last time and Davy still has two more years. Everyone there wins a prize, an Ertl (Matchbox-style) small John Deere toy tractor. After our "chicken social" dinner we decided it was time to take our prize-winning pen of chickens home, as well as Sugar the ginger cat whom we adopted from Old MacDonald's Barn/petting zoo, and also a box of about 15 newly-hatched chicks; for every day of the fair, the Ag Society hatched out one incubator of eggs, and because no one else wanted the chicks (no one else seems to be set up for babies), we offered to bring them home. Then back to town for the grandstand show and home again around 11.

Friday, second day: The kids spent most of the day on the midway on the rides, with those "ride all day" wristbands, with friends and cousins. I went with them on the Tilt-a-Whirl (not as stomach churning as previous years, I'm happy to report), successfully avoided the Ferris Wheel that goes backwards fast, bought several rounds of mini doughnuts and cotton candy, and watched Davy gleefully measuring himself to ensure that hse is now at least 42" tall and can go on a good number of the rides by himself. And Daniel is pleased to be tall enough to go on the bumper cars unaccompanied. Spent some more time at Old MacDonald's Barn with the baby animals, and the sandbox outside the door, which had been salted with 100 loonies (dollar coins). Went home that night with 40 more baby chicks.

Saturday, day three: Tom attended the modified tractor pull (gah...), the kids went back to Old MacDonald's Barn and sandbox, and I went slowly through the trade show booths and all the exhibit hall displays. After dinner, we collected all of our exhibits and everyone's prize money which I confiscated for bank deposits so the kids can't blow it on Lego, Schleich animals, or caps for their pistols. Then off to the Grandstand Show where Laura was called on stage by the singer/impressionist who followed the magicians to participate in a singalong, and then fabulous centennial fireworks at 11.

Sunday we slept in, did chores quickly, and made it to Tom's aunt for a mini family reunion with aunts, uncles, cousins and all of their children, then hurried home to blitz-clean the house before two sets of friends and their families came over for a bbq dinner. A very late night visiting -- one of the families lives in BC now and we hardly ever see them -- and yesterday we were back at the fairgrounds for the cleanup, where I learned that the last incubator of eggs didn't hatch because someone sometime early on Saturday morning had turned the thermostat up to 120 degrees F. Now we know that the controls need to be locked away from intervening hands... Poor baby birds.

Aside from that last bit, it was, as always, tons of fun, and the kids had a grand time and learned lots -- Laura had seen a sign last month that said "Volunteers Make It Happen" and turned to me the other day and said, "Now I understand what that sign means" -- though it's a tiring pace to keep up for six days in a row, especially when you're home just long enough to feed animals, sleep, and change dirty clothes.

Now back to real life: a garden full of peas, beans, raspberries, and beets to be picked; more weeding all around; a funeral tomorrow for a dear, old family friend who died on the weekend; laundry; and trying to figure out when and how I can get to the big city and the little city for some back-to-school clothing and school/art supply shopping.

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