Today is a day when we conduct one of our family traditions. The autumn in New England is a magical time when the air is crisp and clean, the foliage is bold and bright and the smell of burning leaves and baking apples pies is everywhere. It is the season which defines New England best and endears it most to me.
Early in the morning each Columbus Day we assemble the family and head out to the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, Massachusetts some 30 or so miles north of Boston. The Topsfield Fair is the nation’s oldest continuously run agricultural fair. It began back in 1818 as a vehicle to “to promote and improve the agricultural interests of farmers and others in Essex County.” By government decree it was suspended for three years during the Civil War and for three years, 1943, 1944 and 1945 during World War II. It has since developed the trappings and attractions of so many state fairs such as a midway with thrill rides and the usual assortment of exotic junk foods such as this year’s specialty, Fried Kool Aid (BTW, I am told that Tea Partiers are particularly fond of that treat).
Yet, despite the modern carnival atmosphere, the Topsfield Fair has somehow maintained the feeling of its agricultural history. There are assorted barn-like structures which display all the award-winning rabbits and chickens and turkeys, and pigeons, and vegetables, and flowers. There are also structures in which vendors hawk farm equipment and tractors and plows. There are dog shows and horse shows and pig chases and live entertainment. Nobody would miss viewing the giant pumpkin contest winner which is always prominently displayed in the very same spot of honor.
Nothing ever changes much at the Topsfield Fair, including the members of our touring party of about 10 or 12. Our ages change and members retire due to age and are replaced by fresh young toddlers, but the bloodline remains intact and the tradition persists. That is a nice feeling in these days of constant change and instant communication with strangers. Some quaint family traditions have that magical aura that reminds you how simple, loving and fun life can be. That might be the most rewarding and heart-warming feeling of them all.
Well, we are off to the fair!