At The Fair

When you think of a fair, do you imagine a two-week-long festival with country western concerts at night, grandstands and demolition derbies, tilt-a-whirl rides, cotton candy, and endless halls filled with animals and butter sculptures and fudge vendors? The sort of fair that you can’t possibly see in one day? New England has only one that is on the scale of the classic state fairs, the Big E, and although a huge amount of fun, I prefer a different type, like the one I went to last weekend.

At the turn of the 1900s, agricultural fairs were the place to learn new farming techniques, show off your skills, meet with your neighbors, and take a break from the hard labors of the farm. There were state fairs and county fairs. There were also small town fairs. A few of these still exist. One of them is in Bolton, MA.

It does have a midway and ferris wheel and monster trucks (and racing lawn mowers!), and fried food. But that’s not why I go.

I go because people bring their vegetables hoping to win a ribbon.

They show off their crafts,

and their canning skills.

I go because there are 4–H kids holding their rabbits in a tent, waiting to be judged.

In another tent there are more 4–H kids with their waterfowl and chickens.

There a few dewy-eyed dairy cows.

Rams waiting patiently with their handlers,

and not so patient sheep making a ruckus.

A few years ago, at the Fryeburg Fair, I fell in love with Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, which is why I eventually got Pip and Caper. I fell in love at the Bolton Fair, too, but this animal is a tad too big to bring home.

This boy isn’t even two years old. Look at those ears! He is up for adoption. He was brought to the fair by the Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue. Not only did they have my favorite animal at the fair, but also the best tee-shirt.

You can purchase one here and support a good cause.


  1. Sweet! I love the Bolton Fair. Just yesterday I looked it up online, only to find that I’d missed it. Meet me there next year?

  2. Well, yes… I do want that T-shirt!
    You have shared all my favorite parts of the fair.
    The animals, the personal endeavors of
    farmers and artisans, children in 4H.
    Add an ear of roasted corn, and it makes
    my visit complete! Thanks for the fun.

  3. Great post Terry. I love the fairs for all the same reasons! Of course I don’t mind a funnel cake once in a while!

  4. One summer, I worked for the Illinois State Fair. It’s just like your fair above except a whole lot bigger! I spent a morning at the 4H building doing entries for the judges. One day, I followed the honey bee judges around recording the results. (scored some honey and candles too). My job was in the entries department, so we would get the entries, type in the details and send out the tags that you see hanging from all the goodies.

    They had a huge building that was nothing but the baked and canned goods, the veggies and the crafts. In the midwest, the county fairs look like the ones above.

    Thanks for the nice memory.

  5. I love your pictures of the fair! We’ve gone to several so far this summer, but it’s been so hot, we spent the precious little time (before the threat of drowning in sweat) looking at the chickens and goats. 4H is big in our area too, and we were able to see the young people with their goats lining up in the ring and learning from the judges about handling and showing. Topped it all off with a yummy funnel cake and a good laugh at the goat that decided to eat the “GOATS” sign in one of the agri buildings.

    • I’ve been wondering about the fairs in the heat belt and how tough it is for the animals and people. It was hot here too, but the first night there was a torrential downpour and the animals were flooded out of the tent. The kids and animals coped!

  6. Yep…me too! I go for the garden stuff and all the animals…..Do you think that t-shirt would go over at a librarian’s meeting? Us girls are thinking of giving it a go! It is GREAT!!!!

  7. Check out the Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph Ontario, a forever home for donkeys. Wonderful website with portraits of the donkeys and their stories. Hmmm, donkeys can be quite small? Would one get along with the boys? Susan

  8. I too love the fair. I go to a small county fair in Missouri with mom. Love me a plate of fried toasted ravioli.
    This fair was in the during a week of 100+ temps. The fowl were not allowed to arrive until 8 pm, judging was later and the barn had to be cleared by 10 am.

  9. What wonderful pictures and narrative!! Brings back “long ago and far away” memories.
    Thanks so much!!

  10. Oh what fun! I visited our county Fair this year and go for the animals and the garden displays. I think the sheep sensed you loved animals and wanted to go to a good home. He was calling out to you, much like Caper does. His expression said it all (take me with you). I’m glad you got to see these animals and more including your favorite one.

  11. Beautiful ducks, I have never seen a breed like that before. Does anyone know what kind of ducks they are ?
    *Thinks the sheep is more interested in getting treats or food, then being taken home.*

  12. Out here in Western Mass our favorite fair is the Franklin County Fair. I’ve been attending it since childhood. It’s also the celebration of our anniversary: 38 yrs.

    I went to the Big E once, it was wayyyy tooo much for me. I went the the 3 County Fair in Northampton once too. Still too big for me.

    I also check out every one of the 4-H exhibits, canning, crafts, and livestock. And our big thrill was the Ferris wheel. But last year they no longer had one. :(

    So the weekend after Labor Day will find us at the Fair.

  13. I too love the fair. Our only fair is the County Fair, and because our growing season is pitifully short (90 days or less here in the high desert of central Oregon) the ‘Land Products’ division is pretty pathetic. There are several entry options for green tomatoes, and only two for ripe ones — need I say more? But I go and enjoy visiting every animal barn, watching the 4H kids show their animals, and fantasizing about getting more exotic poultry breeds than I have room for in my small back yard. My favorite kid show is the pig showmanship ring, especially the youngest kids. Watching them try to direct pigs outweighing them by a factor of 2 or 3, and with more smarts than your average human, using only a thin little stick with a bow at the end, reduces me to tears of hilarity every time. About 10 years ago our county splurged on a new fairgrounds, and all the animal barns are A/C! The melting ice cream bars and greasy fair foods are still enjoyed outdoors, where it is usually in the high 90’s, though with our lovely low humidity it aint’ bad if you stay in the shade. Love the fair!