Pet camels, poop hats, and the high cost of potatoes: What I learned at the state fair, Vol. VII

hsflogo-lgAnother Labor Day Weekend is behind us, and another enlightening weekend, it was! Each year, I work at the local state fair as the PA announcer – and it’s always a lot of fun. One minute I’m heading to the Durgin Arena to double-check the time of the cattle pull; the next, I’m chowing down on a loaded baked potato.

(Alas, that last tradition might have come to an end…read on!)

As has been tradition here at the ol’ Triple R, I always share some of the things I’ve learned from the fair because it’s as much a learning experience as it is a work experience. At past fairs I’ve learned the most despised candies in the universe; the best time to “smell” the fair; and the benefits of chainmail socks.

This year was as eye-opening as ever…

  1. Farewell, old friend.

    All good things come to an end. And yes, I’m talking about my potato. In the past, I would order a giant baked potato loaded with chili, cheese, bacon, broccoli, sour cream, chives, jalapenos, and salsa. (I tell them to hold the butter, since it’s pretty much superfluous) It usually cost me around $12 for everything, but it was worth it. This year, however, the price of the potatoes went up to $9 for just 2 toppings – so I was looking at a near-$15 price tag, which I just couldn’t rationalize. Good news: The loaded BBQ fries were only $10! Sold.

  2. (click to enlarge. Or eat, to enlarge yourself)

    Speaking of food…my donut can eat your donut. This thing was the size of a small child’s head; and because I couldn’t decide on a glazed or a chocolate-frosted…I opted for both. If you ask, they’ll take a glazed and smear frosting on top.  Oh, yes! You only live once, as they say. (Then again, we only die once, too, and this donut may unfortunately encourage the process.)

  3. You don’t need to spend 2 hours putting on makeup to go to a fair. When it comes to people-watching, it’s hard to beat a fair. There are people from all walks of life here, mingling with each other. I’d pass by locals with their jeans and John Deere caps, followed by dolled-up ladies who look like they had just stepped off the catwalk, followed by young urbanites with their babies. In fact, I saw a group of 3 or 4 fellows who looked like they were straight outta Compton, gangsta-style…and they were talking about where the goat barn was. Just goes to show, you shouldn’t judge, folks.
  4. (click to enlarge)

    No matter how early we are into the weekend, it’s still a joy to be able to scratch events off my list. Don’t get me wrong – I love the fair and love what I do. But it’s not a cake walk – it’s work, and every time I have the opportunity to shave off a little piece of my list, I relish the opportunity.

  5. Poop is now a fashion accessory. How far have we sunk as a society that poop-emoji plush hats have become popular? Or am I just too old to find the amusement in it? I was going to take a photo of the fellow who was wearing said hat – but I just couldn’t bear to be seen doing so.
  6. If a Ferris Wheel seat is turned backwards, it’s a show of respect for a loved one who has passed. Who knew??
  7. You can have a camel as a pet in New Hampshire. I had a chance to talk with a friend of mine who works for Charmingfare Farm in Candia, NH, one of the fair’s biggest supporters, and she told me camels are now a non-regulated species. I didn’t doubt her, but I had to check – and sure enough, camels are a non-controlled species, just like hamsters, canaries, and ostriches. (Yes, that’s true, too!) Think it’s time to surprise the wife with a new pet.
  8. (click to enlarge)

    I want to be a RoboCar when I grow up. This fellow named “John” (of course) and his pal, “Big Red,” meandered through the fairgrounds, greeting folks and mesmerizing children – especially when they knelt down on the ground and actually ROLLED AWAY. Yep, a living, motorized human Transformer; if this children’s writer thing doesn’t work out, you’ll know where to find me.

  9. Riding a motorcycle inside a giant metal sphere can be hazardous to your health. OK, well, I already knew this – but watching the Flying Pages Thrill Show reinforced this little nugget of wisdom.
  10. People can still be kind to one another. Considering the current climate in this over-stimulated and hyper-isolated culture we’re living in, this was a nice revelation. I saw one gentleman watch a credit card fall to the ground, and offered it to its owner, who was unaware; later that day,  a wallet was brought to the lost & found with all the credit cards and money still inside; and as a parent and young child walked past a vendor we all heard a loud sneeze from somewhere inside – and the little boy (who couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4) shouted “Bless You!” I even had a hornet land on my temple – and then fly away, without so much as a light sting. We may be finally turning a corner.
  11. Artists – and all creatives – should get paid what they are worth. #Truth

    (click to enlarge)


Flashlight Night” celebrates its FIRST BIRTHDAY in a little more than one week! Stay tuned for a special celebration post, where you could win a personally-signed copy!


Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you to everyone for your support!


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Amusement rides and chainmail socks: What I learned at the state fair, Vol. VI

(click to enlarge)

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:

  1. When you smell cotton candy at 8:30 in the morning, you know it’s going to be a great day. #Truth
  2. 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.
  3. Justin and Ryan from Recycled Percussion should not quit their day jobs.
    30 seconds after it started…it was all over for these two. (click to enlarge)

    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!

  4. 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.

    The throw…

    …nailed it!


  5. 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.  

    (click to enlarge any photo)
  6. 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.
  7. I love playing the national anthem from the grandstand tower.
    (click to enlarge)

    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.

  8. 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!

In Cambridge with Carol Gordon Ekster, who also released her new book, “You Know What?”
In Warner, NH! Good crowds both days.


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 & NobleAmazon, 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!


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Revelations from the state fair, Vol. V


Every Labor Day Weekend, I spend Friday through Monday working at the local state fair as the PA announcer, a position that requires not just a lot of talking, but a lot of walking and a whole lot of preparation.

It’s one of the most fun jobs I’ve had in my life, and I look forward to it every year. One minute I’m heading over to one of the small stage areas to double-check times or check out an act I hadn’t seen before; the next, I’m inside the administration building chowing down on a loaded baked potato piled high with every ingredient known to mankind.

(Trust me, when it comes to fair food, one needs to pace oneself.)

As has been tradition here at Triple R, I always share some of the things I’ve learned from each fair, because it’s not just an enjoyable work experience – it’s a learning experience, to boot. In the past, I’ve learned the most despised candies in the universe;  why environmentalists hate truck pulls; and even the best time to “smell” the fair.

So what nuggets of wisdom did I glean this year?

  1. The threat of a hurricane drives up Friday attendance. There was a lot of talk about whether or not Hermine would make it to the New Hampshire coast, and when. We were anticipating getting hit Sunday and Monday, the latter half of the fair, which is why I think our Friday ticket numbers were off the charts. As it turned out, Hermine never even made it, and we had a stupendous weekend all four days!
  2. sandtasticSand used for sand sculptures is not normal beach sand. As Sandtastic Sand Sculpture Company’s sculptor (pictured) explained to me, the sand they use is comprised of faceted grains, which help the sand to wedge together and stick to itself. Conversely, beach sand is worn smooth from being tossed in the water and therefore is much more difficult to work with.
  3. Speaking of sculpting…chainsaw sculptors use specially-designed chainsaws. I was chatting with Ben Risney, whose chainsaw
    (Click to enlarge)

    carvings are masterful, when he told me that some of his smaller chainsaws are custom-designed, industrial-grade. His larger saws are standard chainsaws, but the smaller ones, like the one pictured, have an angled bar and run at twice the RPMs of a normal chainsaw. The primary benefit of using a saw with such high RPMs is that the cuts are so smooth, he rarely needs to sand the sculptures once they’re completed! You can see Ben in action and more of his handiwork HERE.

  4. “Battered Savs??” Who knew? corn-dogs
  5. Some folks take their fried foods way more seriously than others. I was walking along a pathway when I overheard two young women chatting behind me. The conversation went something like this:
    “So, so sad.”
    “Yes, it is.”
    “Such a sad situation.”
    “Things like that just shouldn’t happen.”
    It was at that moment I realized they were talking about a piece of fried dough that lay on the ground; perfectly elliptical, not one bite had been taken out of it. I shed a tear, as well.
  6. Saw blades are high-tech pieces of equipment. One of the many attractions at the fair this year were the Axe Women: Loggers of Maine, featuring championship women loggers competing in axe throwing, log rolling, cross-cut sawing, and a number of other events. I learned that their crosscut saw (bottom photo) is made in New Zealand of a special metal alloy that is strong and smooth – but is extremely sensitive to moisture; in fact, if the blade is not kept properly oiled, under very humid conditions it will start rusting within 30 minutes.
    axe-2  axe-1
  7. Deep-fried pickle chips are superior to deep-fried pickle spears. This is not a decision I came to haphazardly; I spent a number of years researching the merits of each. You’re welcome.
  8. dino-2 Dinosaur costumes are a lot heavier than they look. Really high-quality costumes, I should say. I had an opportunity to chat with John and Chance Bloom and their family, who run (among other things) a business called Dinosaur Xperience – which brings a walking, talking T-Rex right to your event.
    Chance told me the lifelike suit is 80-100 pounds, and contains a metal cage around the  head and thorax, which allows for

    Yes, even dinos need ID.

    electronically-controlled motion and sound. She can tolerate about 30-40 minutes inside the outfit before she needs to get indoors to cool off and re-hydrate…so thank goodness her husband and their 4 kids are all part of the act, helping her!


Well, I hope you enjoyed this little review. It’s amazing the things one can learn at the fair – and spending so much time at this one allows me ample opportunity to discover things I might never notice otherwise. And for writers, learning and observing is crucial!

Until next time, have a good week! (and seriously, let me know your thoughts on the deep-fried pickles!)

Some examples of Ben Risney’s work, which were featured around the fairgrounds.


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

What I learned at the state fair, Vol. IV

IMG_1562It’s that time of year again! It’s fair season…and that means a wealth of knowledge and enlightenment for Yours Truly.

As you may know, I am the live announcer for one of the local state fairs, which means I spend 12+ hours each day wandering the fairgrounds, reminding attendees of all the events taking place: 4-H Sheep show is coming up at 10am in the Hood Arena! Be amazed by the Hypnosis and Magic of Marko, with 3 shows today at 5, 7, and 9pm! If you’re looking for the restrooms, they are easy to find…

Well, you get the idea. Anyway, each year I am amazed at all the things I learn and affirmations I encounter. The first year, I mourned the loss of patriotism. I have also written about giant robot dinosaurs and the most despised candies in the universe.

Last year, I shared the best time to smell the fair. (And yes, there IS a “best time!”)

This year’s fair, which took place Labor Day weekend, was no different in its ability to educate and enlighten. Here are my Top Ten tidbits:

1) There is STILL no better single food item at the fair than the loaded baked potato.

Heaven on a plate, folks. Heaven. On. A. Plate.

Yes, I love the deep-fried Oreos, giant glazed donuts, and steak ‘n cheese subs (the latter two of which you can get combined, by the way – steak ‘n cheese on a donut!?! Seriously!)…but there is nothing at all like this potato, which features chili, cheese, bacon, broccoli, salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos all piled on top of one enormous spud.
It cost me $13 and every bite was worth it.

2) If you are good at doing one job, be prepared to do every job that is similar to that first job. I am a voice artist and have experience doing recorded voice work (commercials, narration, etc.) as well as live announcing, such as what I do for the fair. However, when the announcer for the tractor pull didn’t show up, guess who was pressed into service? And when there was no announcer for the super-modified tractor/truck pull, guess who got the call? And when the fair needed someone to announce the daily parade that meandered through the fairgrounds, guess who was tagged? After a 55-hour weekend, my voice was crying Uncle.

3) Environmentalists hate tractor pulls.


IMG_9672 IMG_0117
I haven’t actually talked to any environmentalists about this because they’re still coughing, but it’s a good hunch.

4) Environmentalists also hate demolition derbies.

Again, just a hunch.

5) A lot of people in this world do not walk straight. This probably seems like an odd sort of observation, but on more than one occasion I found myself in back of a person I started to walk past, only to have him/her veer in front of me. I would then attempt to cut over to the other side to pass them, only to have them veer back in the other direction. These were not drunk fair-goers, either – they were just drifters, sort of like that car in front of you on the interstate that you’re not quite sure if you should pass or just keep a safe distance behind.

6) Anything can be a breakfast food. One day I overheard a gentleman say to his wife, “Yes!! Turkey legs! Right over there!” at which point he quickened his pace in the direction of said turkey legs. Now, this scene wouldn’t be all that unusual except for the fact that this was at 9:30 in the morning. Not that I’m judging, by the way. I’ve eaten chili, lasagna, and General Tso’s Chicken for breakfast – so it’s nice to have the validation.

7) Hornets are bad-ass.

No. Fear.

8) Kids can have the most adult conversations if you let them. Two young boys, who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old, were walking among the animal exhibits, near the pigs and cattle. One said, “I could never kill an animal!” The other replied, “You EAT animals!” The first one retorted, “Yeah, but they should be allowed to live!” To which the second one responded, “Well, then, you’ll need to find something else to eat.” Right or wrong, carnivore or vegan, these two friends continued their conversation down the path as I turned and walked in another direction. I would love to have known how this little debate ended.

IMG_03739) Concepts like conservation and environmentalism are totally lost on some people. After watching a demonstration on wildlife conservation at the state Fish & Game Dept.’s building, the ground was littered with flyers from the demonstration. Irony at its worst.

10) The best new fair food item is not something you may be able to order at your local fair. That’s because this is a unique offering by one of our fair’s longtime vendors and supporters, Pat’s Apple Crisp & Cider Donuts. What did they do, and why is it better than anything you’ll taste all season long? Take a look:

That’s a warm cider donut topped with French Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, cinnamon/apple streusel, and whipped cream. If the loaded baked potato is Heaven on a plate, this is your halo.

You’ll notice I started and ended my list with food. Because really, that’s the best way to enjoy a fair, isn’t it? I hope to eat consume devour learn more at some of the fairs I’ll be attending with my family.

Have you ever had an unusual learning experience at your local fair? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to share your story in the comments, below.

And remember, when it comes to eating fair food…you can only eat so much. PACE YOURSELF!

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

When it rains, it pours – and I’m drenched!

They say when it rains, it pours. And whoever “they” are…they know my life pretty well.

Freelancers often never know what their days are going to look like. Will I have several gigs, a few gigs, none?

Being a freelancer as well as a stay-at-home parent, this is doubly true. With the responsibilities of parenting compounded by the responsibilities of my work, I really never know how busy I’m going to be one day to the next. Some days are slower than others; it’s the way my world works. A few days ago, my world got very, very busy.

HS Fair logo - digital

I had no sooner started work on a new (and rather unusual) poetry-picture book when I found out brochures were ready for the upcoming 100th Hopkinton State Fair, taking place Labor Day weekend in Contoocook, New Hampshire. I’m not only the official announcer for the fair – I work all weekend, wandering the grounds with a microphone reminding people of what’s happening – but I also oversee all the radio broadcast purchases and production, and now that the events had been finalized, I needed to jump into high gear:

  • I have announcer notes I needed to update from the previous year (and with 4 days of agriculture events, live music, demonstrations, family entertainment, and grandstand shows, it took me over 4 hours just to do that)
  • I needed to write radio commercials – eight, to be exact – plus several short “live reads” for when the radio jocks talk about us on the air.
  • I needed to update all the telephone on-hold messages, which required that I write 3 pages of text before recording anything.
  • I needed to confirm with all the radio stations that they have everything they need to begin their promotions
  • I still need to voice and produce those eight radio commercials, and voice the audio for the TV commercial…that’s on tomorrow’s “to-do” list.

I mention all of this not because I want anyone to think I’m trying to show off what I do – but to understand that all of this was done in two days’ time! And now that that project is (almost) complete, I have a book manuscript co-authored by a client of mine I need to proofread! So far, I’ve gotten through Chapter 1. It’s a good book, but it takes longer to read it when one is scanning with an eye for grammar, syntax, and such.

What about that picture book?

I hate putting things on hold, but that’s what you have to do when you’re a stay-at-home parent with only a few hours of each day available to work. I’ve got the beginning of the picture book started, so reading it helps me get into the groove – but I probably won’t resume writing it until later this week, hopefully.

I still need to update my list of folks to whom I’ve submitted other manuscripts, and see if there’s someone out there who might be looking for a manuscript I have to offer.

Oh, and I have some short voiceover projects I need to attend to, as well. That’s the career that allowed me to stay home in the first place, so I really can’t neglect that!

First things first, though!

First, I have two kids who want to play with me, so that takes precedence. I don’t always have the luxury of playing with my 5-year-old son and nearly-2-year-old daughter (I do have dishes, laundry, and other chores to take care of!), but I try to make the time whenever I can.

My son isn’t into playing “games” like kicking a soccer ball or throwing a Frisbee per se – he’d much rather pretend we’re Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or wild lions or dogs or robots or whatnot – so playing with him is a much more physical activity than one might expect!

As for my daughter…well, she’s happy playing whatever her brother is playing.

And I can’t complain. A few years from now, he’ll probably grow tired of playing with me and spend all his time with friends, classmates, and girls. And of course, I can’t blame him. It’s way things go, right?

So as long as he and his sister want to play with me, I’ll do my best to keep up with them.

The laundry can wait.

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

What I learned at the fair, III

As I’ve mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, I’m the live announcer for the Hopkinton (New Hampshire) State Fair. For the past four days, I have wandered from end to end and corner to corner, chatting with folks about everything from giant pumpkins and cattle pulls to fried dough and magic shows.

Over our public address system, I let the attendees know where the bathrooms are, when the next goat show is going to be, and how to get their tickets to the demolition derbies.

And I learn a lot!

That said, I’ve developed a tradition of sharing some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the fair here in my blog. Last year I wrote of giant robot dinosaurs and the most despised candies in the universe. The year before that, I mourned the loss of patriotism.

This year, I’ve learned all sorts of new things…

  1. The best time to smell the fair is the first few hours of the very first day. Having been the announcer for about 5 or 6 years now, I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed this before. During those first hours of the fair, each aroma is its own: the donuts, with their yeasty, sugary delicateness; the charbroil grills firing up; the fresh hay and manure. (Yes, fresh manure counts as a ‘good’ smell for me. For those of us who grew up in the country, it’s a very earthy, honest smell). Once the fair gets going all those aromas blend into one – and although you might be able to pick out individual smells, they are much more delightful and independent when you first arrive.
  2. If your job can be done by someone else, make sure it can’t. Friday morning we had our stock farm tractor pull, where big, powerful machines attempt to pull heavy weights along a dirt path. The one that eventually goes the farthest, wins. Well, our usual announcer was unable to do it this year, so we had someone else fill in (you can see her hard at work in the photo).
    Fair - truck pullShe did a surprisingly good job; however, I’m pretty sure we’ll see Andy Mack, the regular announcer, back next year.
    Consider this, though…if you’re doing a task that someone else can do, too, you’d better provide some added value to that task and show why you are capable of doing it better. Do you go above and beyond? Are you friendlier, smarter, more positive? Whatever the superlative, make it your own! Once they discover you’re not special, you’re toast.
  3. There’s a new maple syrup grading system being put into place. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a huge deal for maple syrup-producing states like New Hampshire and Vermont. For years, customers have been confused by the names of the types of maple syrup, which have varied state to state. What might be called “Grade A Fancy” in one state (such as Vermont), is referred to as “Grade A Light Amber” in another – and what Vermont calls “Light Amber” is different somewhere else. (And don’t even get me started on “Grade B” syrup, which is darker and more robust in flavor, but is just as high a quality as “Grade A”)
    It’s taken about 10 years of wrangling, but it appears that a new grading system has been agreed upon between the states, and we’ll start seeing the new names in the upcoming spring 2015 sugaring season.
  4. The less clothing you wear, the more trouble it is. This is one of those issues women seem to have to deal with more so than men. As I spent my four fair days walking from dairy barn to music tent, from horse show ring to funnel cake booth, I noticed something. Those who wore t-shirts, button-down shirts, or dresses appeared completely unconcerned with their wardrobe. On the other hand, those who wore tight-fitting, spaghetti-strapped, midriff-baring, cleavage-inducing tank tops were constantly pulling at themselves, pinching, pulling, adjusting.
    I just don’t get it. If being sexy is that uncomfortable, suggest to your boyfriend that he try wearing that sort of thing sometime and see how he likes it.
  5. Loaded baked stuffed potatoes are still the best thing about the fair. I wrote about this last year and it remains the truth. Pure heaven.Fair - potato
  6. Patriotism still isn’t what it used to be. I’ve also written about this before. When the national anthem plays each day at noon, many folks stop and face the flag(s) on the fairgrounds; others will stand around, wondering what’s going on while others simply pay no heed and continue about their day. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but things like this really annoy me.
  7. Souped-up pickup trucks with tractor tires are deafeningly loud. OK, so I already knew that. This was just a reason to post a picture of the mud race:

Fair - mud race

Do any of these things come as a surprise to you? Am I alone in my enlightenment here? Anything you’ve ever learned while enjoying the local fair that you’d  care to share?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Revelations from the fair

HS Fair DSCF1491As you may have heard, I spent this past weekend as the announcer for the local state fair. While it may sound like an easy job – and compared to digging ditches or harvesting shark eggs, it is – it’s actually quite exhausting.

It requires five, 12-hour days of walking the fairgrounds telling attendees what events are happening and when (“The cattle pull is coming up in 15 minutes!” “The Indoor Ring is located right next to the Hood Arena!”), checking in with organizers of various events to make sure they’re on time, and acting as a walking information booth for folks who have questions.

I love the gig; yet, even though I’ve been doing it for a few years now, it’s still a learning experience. Take, for instance, the following 8 things I learned at this year’s fair:

Even birds appreciate irony.  After we dedicated a flagpole to a former fair director who had recently passed away, three doves were released as part of the memorial service. After circling overhead for a couple of minutes, one decided to perch on a giant “Chicken Tenders” sign.

If only I could’ve gotten a picture of that; it was a Facebook meme waiting to happen.

Hershey bars and Whoppers are the most despised candies in the universe.
OK, ‘despised’ is a bit harsh. Let’s go with ‘reviled.’  And I’m not going on personal opinion here. We’re talking about real, cold, hard science. You see, early Thursday morning there was a big basket of assorted candy in the conference room.  It was filled with Snickers, Milky Ways, 3 Musketeers, Twix bars, and a myriad other chocolaty delights. By day two, here’s what it looked like:


Not a Kit Kat or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to be found. Consider this case, rested.

There are still not enough people standing when our national anthem plays.
This is something I’ve written about at length before.  Everyday at noon, we play the “Star-Spangled Banner” over the PA system. And everyday, only about a third of the people I see (at best) stop what they’re doing, find a flag to face, and place their hands over their hearts. One third stop what they’re doing and look like they’re wondering what’s going on. And another third carry on like nothing’s out of the ordinary at all.

If this is any indication of the level of respect Americans have for their own country, we’re doomed.

Delicious apparently doesn’t always mean what you think it means. When I came across this sign, I had to stop and consider the ramifications of its use of punctuation.:


It’s one thing for food to be delicious. But when it’s…”delicious” (go ahead and imagine me making air quotes)…that’s something else entirely.  Think I’ll move on to the guy selling deep-fried pork belly on a stick.

Egyptians like country music.  Well, at least the ones at this fair do.  Every time I walked past their food truck serving falafel, lamb, and other Middle Eastern goodies, I heard the local country music station blasting. Nothing wrong with it, of course – it’s just nice to know that in this world there are some things like Miranda Lambert’s awesomeness that we can all agree on.

Loaded Potato
Go ahead and ‘click’ to enlarge me…you know you want to…

A loaded baked potato always tastes just like the first time.  Each year, I make sure I get one, and it’s never a disappointment. When you sit down and get comfortable with a massive, fluffy baked potato topped with chili, bacon, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, chives, salsa, and jalapenos…it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s almost like that “other” first time, but without the awkwardness and rug burns.

You’re never too old to learn new tricks – or technology. I was chatting with an old, grizzled Yankee farmer about the famous Concord Coach, and he was telling me about a coach that had been lost in storage at Dartmouth College for decades. He said he heard from a friend that the college wanted to get rid of it, and his friend suggested that he get in touch with them. When the farmer then told me he immediately sent off an email to the college, I nearly fell over.

The other lesson, of course, is to never judge books by– well, you know.

Watching a giant, fire-breathing robot dinosaur eat a car never gets old.

MegaSaurus 1

MegaSaurus 2

MegaSaurus 3

















At least if you’re a guy.  Hey, we’re simple creatures.


PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “…Although, maybe I should go back for some pizza”

It’s hard for me to believe, but it has been 13 months since I began this blog! Where does the time go?? I’m currently busy working at the 98th annual Hopkinton (NH) State Fair, where I have been the announcer for about 5 years; I remind people what events are taking place, inform them as to where facilities are, and also announce the demolition derbies Sat. and Sun nights. It’s a long, 60-65 hour weekend of talking, walking, and smiling…but I love it. So, since I don’t have the time to post something new today, I’m reposting this fair-themed poem from last year; this was originally published Sept. 7, 2012.

For all the Poetry Friday links, be sure to head on over to A Teaching Life with Tara!


poetryfridaybutton-fulllYes, that’s the title of the poem.  I know, it’s a bit odd, but so is the person who wrote it.  Actually, there’s a reason why I titled it this way…you’ll understand once you read the poem.

This was written last summer, as I was preparing for my duties as the official live announcer for the annual Hopkinton State Fair here in New Hampshire.  It’s one of the largest fairs in the state and takes place during Labor Day Weekend.

I was the announcer for this year’s fair as well, and I’m still recuperating.  It’s not the nearly 65-hours-on-my-feet-for-5-days schedule that gets me; it’s the food!  Between deep-fried pickles, Pop-Tarts and Oreos, barbecued bison burgers, and roast turkey legs that would give Fred Flintstone a hernia, it’s a fair-foodie’s dream-come-true.  My annual favourite?  A loaded baked potato with chili, bacon, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, chives, salsa, and jalapenos.

I tell them to hold the butter because I really don’t need the fat.

“…Although, maybe I should go back for some pizza”

I love the fair, but most of all, the food is hard to beat –
It’s barely 2pm, and yet I’ve had so much to eat!
I started with a burger, had a corn dog and some fries,
And then hot buttered popcorn in a box of massive size.

I feasted on the fried dough, ate a funnel cake or three,
And downed as many deep-fried foods as there could ever be.
Of course I needed ice cream, so I stopped to have a scoop;
I even scarfed a giant, cheesy bread bowl full of soup!

Had cotton candy, caramel apples, schnitzel on a stick,
And polished off a pulled pork sub entirely too quick.
I’ve eaten all the sausage my poor stomach will allow;
So really…all I want…
is just a garden salad now.

© 2011, Matt Forrest Esenwine


PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Mourning the loss of tradition

This post has nothing to do with plot, rhyme scheme, or call to action.

It has nothing to do with radio, TV, or kid lit.

It has to do with something much more important.

I needed to take a break from poetry, advertising, and children’s writing today to pass along something that has been on my mind since Labor Day Weekend.  It’s not really about 9/11 – it’s more about Americans’ attitudes toward patriotism – but since it is Sept. 11, I thought today was as good a day as any, if not better than most, to pose the question:

What’s happened to the national anthem?

Specifically, what has happened to the reverence we used to have for it?  I was taught from a young age that whenever “The Star-Spangled Banner” started to play I was to stand up, remove my hat, place my right hand over my heart, and face the direction of the nearest flag – and darn it, that’s what I did.  That’s what everybody did.  It was just the way it was.

If you could sing it, even better.

These days, however, it’s a different story.  At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic, times have drastically changed – and I don’t know how, when, or why.  I realized this while working as the announcer for the Hopkinton State Fair, a very popular event held every Labor Day Weekend here in New Hampshire.

Every day during the fair (which runs five days starting on Thursday), we play the national anthem.  As the announcer, I preface the song by letting attendees know where the four flags are located on our fairgrounds, via our public address system.  I then state, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our national anthem.”

At this point, any one of a number of things may happen.

Most people do, indeed, stand, take their hats off, and turn to face the flag in respect.  Some place their hands over the hearts.  However, many simply sit there, as if they hope the inconvenience of it all quickly passes.  And sadly, others continue about their day, walking, talking, and eating as if nothing exceptional has occurred – oblivious to what’s going on.

Oblivious, or indifferent.

Again, I ask:  what happened??

Since when did the national anthem – and our flag – become so uninspiring and disrespected, and when did we as the collective American society become so blasé and dispassionate?  How do we justify and honour the sacrifices made in our past for the sake of our freedom, if we take them for granted so easily?  How can we allow young servicemen and servicewomen to continue to die overseas when we are unable or unwilling to spare two minutes to stand up and listen to “The Star-Spangled Banner?”

I’m not even asking you to take off your hat, or put your hand over your heart, or even try to sing – but at least STAND UP and make it seem like you give a damn.  The only reason you’re able to chat with your friends right now, or eat your pizza, or write your blog, or do anything is because there were (and still are, fortunately) thousands of Americans willing to put their lives on the line and their own happiness on hold to protect this country, its people, its laws, its culture.

Asking you to be grateful for two minutes isn’t, I don’t believe, asking much.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t want to come across as being preachy, I’m just trying to understand the rampant ambivalence I witness.  Do our citizens not care?  Do they not know?  Have they forgotten?

What happened???

Although, the more important question is…what happens next?