Growing up in a suburban landscape, I don’t recall attending any jamboree county fairs as a child. My mother would often send my sister and I off to Poland for the full summer and into September sometimes to stay with our grandparents. The last few years I feel like I’ve been compelled by random things I didn’t experience as a kid, like missed episodes of Seinfeld, I had some catching up to do!
My friend Ali invited me this past weekend to Hebron CT, the town she was raised in, where her parents still live to this day. Nearly 3 hours out of NYC, primarily cruising on a two lane hilly pass I drove in a meditative flow, mentally detaching from the city static, soon arriving in rural Hebron.
Upon arrival at her parent’s home lined with human height zinnias that contoured the driveway, it was nearly time to head out to the County Fair, the largest in CT, my first ever. The house was near the fair, and traffic was telling… this would be an event to remember. Youth walked on the grass, sipping Red Bull, some smoking cigarettes, as we slowly rolled into the parking area, a great field occupied by rows of cars, trailers and abundant handsome horses.I’ve been to amusement parks growing up; Dorney Park, Six Flags, but I never made it to a large state fair, an event locals look forward to attending each year, completely worked by carnies whose lives revolved around the constant mobile operation of their “joints” or booths; either food stands, games or rides.
By far the newest attraction to me, were the truck and tractor pulls. The point I think was to show off the vehicles’ power, and of course the high level of noise that deflected throughout the fair as trucks blasted their engines forward pulling enormous weight behind them. Sometimes the trucks maneuvered wheelies, due to sufficient torque being applied to the rear wheels. This was a crowd favorite, and all ages sat by the adjacent field patiently and waited for the next truck pull to echo across the fair grounds.
The food was not for anyone that had limits, and if you did, you simply forgot those limits existed while you were there. For the night, I guiltily allowed myself a fried onion bloom, a Greek gyro, accompanied by a tall root beer, deep fried Oreos, and a soft serve twist waffle cone. Together, this mix of illegal American delicacies, done no more than once a year, could barely be forgiven. The deep fried Oreos have permanently imprinted pleasure-seeking memories in my mind and my happy gut.
“I was taking a short clip of the pigs walking around and getting judged, when suddenly in my camera view, a pig took a massive number two!”
The animals showcased at the fair were a thrill to observe. From beautiful Thumper bunnies, one, which I deeply connected with and was hoping to bring home, to groomed roosters leading with strong bravados, and even the largest goat I ever saw, named Moses. Moses looked me in the eye, and almost whispered to me that he wanted me to take his picture… and that I did.
The most shocking moment belonged to the pig judging, which came with bleachers and a small but dedicated audience of your all American pig spectators. I was taking a short clip of the pigs walking around and getting judged, when suddenly in my camera view, a pig took a massive number two! I had a laugh that got me a bit high, like laughing as a child, without any attachment to adult stresses, so while it was a relatively massive distaste, I didn’t mind it, for it’s large sense of humor in that moment.
It began to rain, and we took shelter in the Arts and Crafts portion of the fair. Not only were there decorative quilts to admire, both crocheted and needlepoint stitched, but artisans from around the state submitted purses, scarves, and even crocheted dolls for the county judge’s consideration. Flowers that were homegrown, with ranging stem and bloom diameter heights and widths were also up for awards. Zinnias, Hydrangea, and Black Eyed Susans seemed to be popular entries.Vegetable and egg varietals had their fair share of presence as well. Tomatoes; heirloom to cherry to beef stake, peppers, sweet and hot, and some squash for the upcoming Fall season, received awards for best variety, picking and I am sure taste.
I don’t mind that I only got to experience this elaborate state fair as an adult. It created for a culture-shocking event, which I indulged the senses in and returned for a moment to the nostalgic and rare feeling of being a kid. And funny enough, my Polish roots somehow got laced into my trippy American maze of a night, as there were some local vendors selling pierogis… and we made sure to buy some on our way out.