Revelations from the state fair, Vol. V

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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!
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  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.
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  3. Speaking of sculpting…chainsaw sculptors use specially-designed chainsaws. I was chatting with Ben Risney, whose chainsaw
    risney-1
    (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.
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  4. “Battered Savs??” Who knew? corn-dogs
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  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.
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  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
    axe-3
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  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.
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  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

    dino-1
    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!

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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!)

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

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Cookies vs. Blog

Christmas time’s a-comin’…

This is going to be a short post because I have a number of pressing issues I need to attend to.

Like cookies.

You see, construction work on our house was finally completed this past Sunday ($20,000 worth of ice dam damage from last winter!), and only now can the family and I dive into all our Christmas traditions that we’ve put on hold.

Like cookies!

Yes, I need to get voiceover work done. I have a new picture book manuscript I need to start sending out. I have CYBILS-nominated books I need to read and judge. And the house – especially the upstairs – is in such a state of disruption that it’s hard to find the floor, much less anything else. But I’m determined not to let the important aspects of the holiday slip by.

Like cookies!

Oh, I have cards to send, stockings to hang, gifts to wrap…and a slew of other responsibilities like taking care of the kids while mom’s at work. A guy needs to have his priorities straight, though.

First, we set up the Nativity scene on top of the dining room bureau. This is, of course, what Christmas is all about. Then the outdoor lights went up. Then the 4-foot-tall fake tree was erected in the sun room, since we had no room for a real tree this year.

Pretty much all of that was done before construction began. Unfortunately, we had to put a hold on everything while walls were ripped open, siding was replaced, roofing was redone, and drywall was plastered.

But construction is complete, finally! (New paint and floors are still to come, but we’ll take care of that next year) So it’s time to rejoice in the spirit of the season! The advent wreath is on the table. The shopping is done. Our Christmas mass plans are nailed down.

There’s just one thing that absolutely, positively, needs to be taken care of at this point.

Cookies!

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Poetry Friday: An excerpt from “Dear Tomato”

Poetry_Friday logoEarlier this year, I was pleased to announce that one of the first children’s books I had the pleasure of contributing to had just hit stores. Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems – edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte – was finally available!

And although I continued to promote this collection of children’s poems, I just realized a few weeks ago I’ve never shared any of my poems from the book here. Time to do something about that!

I am very proud to have three poems included in the book, including this one:

Fair is Fair
(a lesson in Fair Trade)

Mother’s coffee,
Father’s tea,
Sister’s cocoa…
all might be
a farmer’s only
chance to give
his family
a chance to live.

– © 2015 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Dear Tomato coverI hope you’ll pick up a copy of Dear Tomato, if you haven’t already. Just click the cover graphic and you’ll be whisked away to Amazon-land!

I also hope you’ll check out all the Poetry Friday links at Heidi Mordhorst’s little home on the web, My Juicy Little Universe. Today, it’s a diverse universe of verse! Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.

Oh, and if you didn’t get a chance to read my post from this past Tuesday, please take just a couple minutes and learn about why I’m encouraging folks to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading. If you deliberately write without an audience in mind, it can be very liberating…so come learn more!

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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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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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_0474

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.

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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:

IMG_1540
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!

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Poetry Friday: “Black Dragon”

Poetry_Friday logoI need to thank Jama Kim Rattigan again for featuring me – along with many of my fellow writers – as one of her “HotTEAs of Children’s Poetry” last week! That was definitely a first…

One of the things Jama asked each of us was to share a poem about tea, if we happened to have one. Well, I DID just so happen to have a poem about a specific type of tea, which I shared on her blog post. The question (which has yet to be answered correctly) is: to what type of tea am I referring?

Black Dragon

Steam-breathed beast
touches light the ginger flower;
savors third steeping

© 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Matt Tea 1I provide three distinct clues in this little haiku, to help you solve the riddle. If you think you know, please share your thoughts in the comments section, and I’ll let you know if you’re correct!

By the way, my friend and fellow Poet’s Garage member Michelle H. Barnes is today’s Poetry Friday hostess, so be sure to visit her blog, Today’s Little Ditty, for all the links and info! Also, in case you missed it, I encourage you to check out this past Tuesday’s post about writing, networking, and really expensive scallops.

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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!

Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations: my contribution!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThe last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing some poems I wrote that didn’t make it into the newly-released Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books). Today, I’m sharing the poem that DID make it in!

The latest in the Poetry Friday Anthology series just came out on March 14 (Super Pi Day!) and I’m so happy to be a part of it. PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Published in two versions (a student edition with illustrations and a teacher’s edition with additional information on poetry and lesson planning), the book is comprised of 156 poems in English with a Spanish translation for each poem.

That’s a lot of poetry in one book!

Mine was written in honor of National Cereal Day, which was March 7. Here are both versions of the poem:

Picky Eater

I love my Fruit Loops,
love my Trix,
love Cheerios
and even Kix.
I really like
my Apple Jacks –
but please don’t give me
Sugar Smacks,
or stars or squares or flakes                    
you’ve found –
I only eat, you see,
what’s round.

 

Exigente Para Comer

Me encantan mis Fruit Loops,
Me encantan mis Trix,
Me encantan los Cheerios
y hasta los Kix.
Y también me gustan
mis Apple Jacks –
pero, por favor
no me des Sugar Smacks,
ni estrellitas, ni cuadritos                    
ni copitos encontrados –
solo como
lo redondo.

– © Pomelo Books, 2015, all rights reserved (Note: cereal brand names are trademarks owned by their companies)

mmpoetry2015-logo-mainBe sure to “check out” the complete Poetry Friday roundup at Ms. Mac’s place, Check It Out! Also, please “check out” the #MMPoetry 2015 tournament that is coming down to the wire at Ed DeCaria’s Think, Kid, Think – only FOUR authletes remain, and Yours Truly is not feeling very happy about having to vote for two of his four friends and not for the other two!

Now, if you don’t mind, there are still a couple of puddles outside that need jumping-into…have a great weekend!
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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!

Poetry Friday: We missed National Cereal Day!

Poetry_Friday logoIt’s been so crazy around here lately – between book releases, manuscript revisions, and the #MMPoetry March Madness competition – that I completely spaced on this most awesome of holidays!

The reason I’m celebrating is because I have a poem included in the newest Poetry Friday Anthology, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, which is due out in just a few weeks, and the poem is about National Cereal Day – which was last Saturday, March 7.

PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030I have to admit…as much as I try to be healthy, I’m still a kid at heart, so my favourite cereals are the ones I’m not supposed to eat. Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, and any Monster cereal that I come across are destined for my pantry. And when someone decided to make Lucky Charms with CHOCOLATE and someone else put MARSHMALLOWS in Fruit Loops…well, let me just say I wanted to shake their hands.

But what ever happened to my old favourites? Those great, long-lost bits of corn meal and sugar that are woven into my memory and are a part of the fabric that IS Matt Forrest Esenwine?? (And I’m not using hyperbole – with all those preservatives, they really ARE part of the fabric of my body at this point)

DonutzI’m talking about KaBoom; Quisp; Moonstones; Grins and Smiles and Giggles and Laughs; Q-bert (yes, the video-game hero had his own cereal!); Oreo-O’s; and the venerable Donutz!! Can I get a holla?!?

OK, well, before I go too far with the reminiscing, I’d like to share the poem I wrote that DIDN’T make it into the PFA for Celebrations. After all, once the book comes out, you’ll see which one did make it…so this is like the free toy surprise inside the box! Hope you like it:

Cereal Legend

Little Horatio Magellan Crunch
never knew what was going to happen…
one day, he would sail the seas
and all the world would call him, “Cap’n.”

– © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2014

And yes, that’s Cap’n Crunch’s real name! I don’t make stuff up, you know. I felt I should contribute something connected to my home state (the cereal was developed by a New Hampshire resident), but alas, it didn’t make the cut. And to be honest, I never even really liked Cap’n Crunch when I was young. Even as an 8- or 9-year-old, I knew there was something just plain wrong with the texture.

Hoots
I used to LOVE these…oh, Hoots, wither hast though gonest?

So what were YOUR favourite cereals as a kid? Pebbles? Super Sugar Smacks? Honeycomb? (remember Strawberry Honeycomb?) How about those lost classics like King Vitamin, with the creepy-looking dude on the box…or Baron Von RedBerry – a Monster-cereal knockoff that I still wish they’d bring back? I’d love to hear your comments, below.

For today’s complete Poetry Friday round-up, please visit Laura Shovan at Author Amok, and please be sure to check out the Madness that is the #MMPoetry competition over at Ed DeCaria’s place, Think Kid, Think! mmpoetry2015-logo-mainI lost in the first round, but it’s still a lot of fun and the competition continues throughout the month.

Be watching for the PFA for Celebrations, and I’ll be sharing more poems that didn’t make it in in the next couple weeks!

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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!