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!

Poetry Friday: “American Discontent”

Happy Independence Day!

celebrations,fireworks,pyrotechnics,special occasions,festivals

My fellow citizens here in the U.S. are celebrating our country’s birthday today. Some might be going on trips to visit relatives, others might be having cookouts at their homes. Still others may be headed to the beach.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMe? I’m heading out with the family to go pick some strawberries before it gets too late in the morning and they’re all gone! (By the way, if you missed my repost this past Tue. about what you can learn from berries, please check it out!)

Today I’m sharing the type of poem I rarely, if ever, share:  an unpolished one, and a hastily-written one, at that – I only spent about 30 minutes on it, at best.

The reason I’m sharing it is because, even though it can be tightened up, I thought it would be appropriate for today, the Fourth of July. It was originally written from a prompt by poet and blogger David L/ Harrison, who asked visitors to write couplets about the sun – or lack thereof. What’s funny about writing poetry is, you never quite know how a poem is going to turn out until it’s done – even if you know the ending, the punch line, the hook, the twist, or anything else. It’s always a bit of a surprise.

So I hope you like it! There’s more to Poetry Friday, of course, so head on over to Heidi Mordhorst’s Juicy Little Universe for all the links and fun!

American Discontent

In winter, we complain it’s cold –
then summer’s heat starts getting old.

As soon as there’s a drop of rain,
we wish to see the sun again.

When life’s too fast, we want a lull.
When life slows down, we say it’s dull.

I wonder if we’ll ever be
content with simply being…free?

© 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine


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!

Independence Day, 2013

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration:

Georgia:    Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

North Carolina:    William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:    Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr.,Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts:   John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Maryland:   Samuel Chase,William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:   George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania:    Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:    Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

New York:    William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:    Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:    Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Rhode Island:    Stephen Hopkins    William Ellery

Connecticut:    Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott


Happy Independence Day to the United States of America! 

Putting the ‘civil’ in civil discourse

By definition, “civil discourse” refers to a conversation intended to promote understanding between those involved.

Unfortunately, these kinds of conversations seem to be getting rarer and rarer.

I’ve noticed that many people of late are falling out of relationships with those with whom they disagree about the upcoming presidential election.  I’ve read articles about company employees of one political persuasion trying to keep their opinions quiet, so as not to upset other employees of an opposite persuasion; I know folks who have been saddened to discover friends of theirs ending their friendships, refusing to talk to them over differing political ideologies.

I’ve come to the realization that too many people in this country have forgotten – or possibly never considered – that we’re all in this together.

In the wake of last night’s debate, and in light of the fact that Election Day is coming just two weeks from today, I felt it might be worth a reminder.  And while I make references to politics, civil discourse is something that should be practiced in everyday life.

We’re all on the same side…

I never get into politics here; and really, today’s post is more about human decency than anything else.  It doesn’t matter which ‘side’ you’re on…we’re ultimately all on the ‘same side.’

Most of us want the same thing; the problem is, we don’t always recognize this, and even if we do, we disagree on how to get there.  Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, independents, and most of the other parties out there all want the same thing:  a bright, promising future not only for ourselves, but especially for our children.  Rare is the person who wants the country’s economy to collapse and bring about an end to the nation’s system of government as we know it.

We are so passionate about our own personal beliefs, though, we forget this.  Indeed, that passion proves how much we love our country, our families and friends, our cities and towns; after all, if we really didn’t care, why would any of us be so vociferous?

I recall a conservative friend of mine once saying, “Liberals just want to tear this country apart!” while in a separate conversation, a liberal friend posed the question, “Why do conservatives hate this country so much?”  Now, knowing these two individuals as I do, I can tell you that neither one hates this country, neither wants it to fall apart, and both are good, upstanding citizens with homes and families and hope for the future.

Both are genuinely good people.

But it really took me aback to think that, even though they didn’t know each other, each had such a negative view of the other.

Beyond The First Amendment

We shouldn’t need to fall back onto the First Amendment as ‘protection’ for what we say.  We should be willing to listen to an opposing viewpoint simply because it’s the decent thing to do, and not fear retribution for our own beliefs.

My wife and I, for example, are nearly polar opposites when it comes to politics.  We always say that if we had used eHarmony.com when we were single, we’d have never met – the computer algorithms they use would have either never matched us up, or would’ve crashed trying.  You know how some couples say they never talk about religion and politics?  My wife and I talked about religion and politics on our first date.

And believe me, we have some great arguments at our house, too – heated, loud, impassioned – but never mean-spirited.  We love each other, and we know each of us wants what’s best for the country, as well as our kids’ future.  Just because we disagree on how to get there, doesn’t mean we don’t have the same goal.

We’ve opened up each other’s minds, too – I think each of us is a better person because of the insight we’ve gained from the other.

I also have plenty of friends I’ve known for years who are at complete opposite ends of the political spectrum – but we’ve remained friends for so long because we respect each other.  (The preponderence of a growing lack of respect towards others in general could make a whole OTHER blog post)

Civil ≠ Dispassionate

You’ve probably heard plenty of politicians asking for more ‘civil discourse’ over the last few years.  How has that turned out?  I think people assume that one cannot be passionate about something and still be civil.  The pervasive rationale is that one has to be mild-mannered and timid in order to not be offensive.  I don’t buy it.  Personally, when I get riled up about something I’m passionate about, my voice rises, my speech starts picking up, and my pulse quickens.  That doesn’t mean I’m offensive or disrespectful.  I’m just animated!  I’m excited!

But I’m still civil.

So the next time you start discussing the merits of one candidate or the other, or one policy over the other, remember that everyone in the conversation has the same goal: the improvement of our lives today and the security of the future of the generations to follow.

Remember that we’re all trying to get to the same place:  a place of happiness, prosperity, peace.

Remember my wife and I, who debate economic policy as we’re getting ready to go to sleep!

Differering opinions can coexist within a household.

And if they can exist in the bedroom, they should certainly be able to exist on the campaign trail.

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?