Ah, yes…fair season is upon us!
Last weekend, I spent four days at the Hopkinton State Fair – the largest fair in New Hampshire – wandering the grounds reminding people when the cattle pulls start, what stage the hypnotist was on, and where the bathrooms were.
I’m the announcer for the fair, so when you hear a voice on the PA system echoing through the trees, that’s me. It’s a very unique sort of job, and one that’s a heck of a lot of fun, but it does require a lot work; 55 hours in 4 days can wear one down, and I put in less hours than many of the other employees!
But I’m there every year, and every year I learn something new. Which is why I’ve been putting this annual post together for 7 years now…to shed some light on my lessons learned and observations made. In the past, I’ve become educated on the problems with skimpy clothing, I’ve discovered the most despised candies in the universe, and, like you, have enjoyed more than my fair share of Australian Battered Savs.
What golden nuggets of wisdom did I discern this year? Read on, faithful reader:
- When you smell cotton candy at 8:30 in the morning, you know it’s going to be a great day. #Truth
- Some people just do not know how to park. Invariably, every year we get fair goers who don’t want to follow the parking pattern or the fair employees who are showing people where to park. These folks inevitably have to move their vehicles one they’re in the gate and as far away from their vehicle as possible. Once such fellow parked his big SUV in a spot that wasn’t a parking space, and ended up blocking the fire department entrance. I spent at least 2 hours paging him over the PA system to move it, and when he finally did, he parked it right beside an agricultural trailer…which he ended up blocking.
- Justin and Ryan from Recycled Percussion should not quit their day jobs.
The band, which formed in a small town 30 minutes from here and is now a top-selling Las Vegas act, played at our fair for the very first time on Labor Day. They’re good guys, and had cancelled many of their shows in order to spend time in Texas helping with relief efforts, but they made the trek up here to put on this one show, and it was terrific. The night before the show, however, Justin and Ryan were given the opportunity to drive in the annual demolition derby…and were both knocked out within 30 seconds!
- Timbersports will probably never show up in the Olympics. Everyone was excited that the Axe Women Loggers of Maine were returning for another year. Individuals in the group hold multiple National & International Lumber Jill and Timbersports titles and their shows include demonstrations of axe throwing, cross-cut sawing, standing block chopping, and log rolling…none of which will probably ever end up as an Olympic event. Their spokesperson explained that, in the Olympics, equipment is standardized so that every athlete has a fair opportunity to showcase his/her abilities. In timbersports, one doesn’t have that luxury; if one person’s log happens to have an internal knot, it could not only dull the blade – or even break it – it completely shuts down that athlete. So “luck,” like it or not, can play a huge role in a competitor’s performance, which is a no-go when it comes to the Olympics.
- Speaking of the Axe Women…they wear chainmail socks. You know chainmail – those tiny links of metal King Arthur’s knights wore to protect themselves under their suits of armor? Well, professional timbersports athletes wear chainmail socks to protect their feet during competitive chopping events, like the one pictured. These ax blades are made of a special metal that is so sharp, one really can shave one’s arms with it – so if it happens to slip and smash into your boot, you’ll still be able to walk away with your toes intact. You might be screaming in agony, but your toes will thank you.
- Under-the-counter cheese beats over-the-counter cheese. I didn’t know “under-the-counter” cheese was even a thing, and I’ve been going to fairs my entire life! Sold by a family-run establishment known as the Yankee Cheeseman, this particular cheese is an extra-sharp cheddar that’s even sharper than their sharpest, XXXXX sharp cheddar. Aged TEN YEARS, this cheddar is so sharp, when you bite into it, it bites you back. SO. GOOD. The reason it’s called “under-the-counter cheese” is because it’s so sharp, and the texture is often a bit uneven, that many folks who are unfamiliar with it think there’s something wrong with it – so the vendors don’t even put it out on display or offer free samples. You can only buy it if you ask for it…and at $17/pound, it’s worth every penny.
- I love playing the national anthem from the grandstand tower.
It’s a tradition here the fair that we play the Star-Spangled Banner everyday at noon. It was only until this year that I realized that when I stand to pay respect, remove my hat, and put my hand over my heart…I’m also saluting fries. And that just makes me happy.
- False advertising can show up anywhere.
I spent a good 3 hours inside this place and couldn’t give away my beads to anyone.
By the way, I also learned that a merry-go-round may feature various types of animals in addition to horses. but a carousel can only have horses. Bet you didn’t know that, didja??
So those are this year’s words of wisdom! I’m already looking forward to 2018 – and also looking forward to enjoying at least one or two fairs with the family. But I’ll make sure I park where I’m supposed to.
By the way, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who showed up for Flashlight Night‘s national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA last Thursday and the local release party at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH this past Sunday!
Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017!
“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal
“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews
“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy
“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist
“An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book
“Beautiful words and amazing illustrations” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads
Pre-orders are available now through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Books-a-Million, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.
Thank you for your support!
11 thoughts on “Amusement rides and chainmail socks: What I learned at the state fair, Vol. VI”
Matt, loved this post about the Hopkinton Fair! You’re doing such a terrific job with your new book, and I’m so happy for you! Very well deserved !!
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Thank you so much, Kathy!
Under-the-counter cheese and chainmail socks — fascinating! (I almost accidentally typed “fanmail socks,” which seems like it should be a thing, somehow…)
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Ha, “fanmail socks” – those DO need to be a thing!
What a fun post, Matt. I love state fairs but do not get to the NYS one anymore since I live on Long Island. Chain mail socks-eeks!
Thanks, Carol, glad you stopped by!
Always enjoy this fun, annual recap! Thanks, Matt.
Thanks for taking the time to read it, Michelle!
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