Friday, August 8, 2008

West End Fair

It is so intensely fair season in central Pennsylvania. Every small town, every county, and every fire station…as well as some farm stores, a hospital or two, and bunches of churches, sponsor fairs, festivals, or carnivals. With some of these events running for a day, others for a weekend, and still others for an entire week, it’s impossible to patronize all of them. For that matter, smaller fairs and carnivals seriously resemble each other. Unless you absolutely can’t live without fried dough, you can quickly overdose on fair season.

This past week was about the Union County West End Fair which runs for a week at the western end of Union County. Last night, my daughter and I headed out to enjoy the county fair atmosphere.

We visited a pavilion of exhibits that had been submitted for judging. These included baked goods; fresh vegetables; canned fruits and vegetables; crocheted and knitted clothing, blankets, and rugs; photos; paintings; paper crafts; sculptures; scrap books; flower arrangements; and antiques (yes, if you have an old stove-top coffee percolator, it might win a blue ribbon at a county fair).

Other pavilions held rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows, and goats. Off beyond the pavilions was a track designed for the tractor pull. Here’s a niche sport: Hook your tractor to a heavy weight, and pull the weight as far as you can on a soft dirt track. The trick is to keep the tractor’s wheels turning without letting them lose their grip on the track. From time-to-time a tractor pulls a wheelie as it approaches a stall.

Just off the fair’s midway, a large open-air stage faced three rows of bleachers and several dozen lawn chairs. A talented bluegrass and country band played for about 90 minutes, with a second set scheduled to start 90 minutes later. My daughter and I watched a few heats at the tractor pull, shared a funnel cake while we listened to the band, and left the fair after about two hours.

The music was quite good, and the rabbits and goats were especially cute. The pigs, cows, and sheep were also entertaining. Still, the high point for me was dinner I had at a friend’s sausage truck—Gunzy’s Hot Sausage.

My friend--a school teacher—has been working the sausage truck with his family since he was a kid. This was the first time I’ve seen the truck. It is actually a large trailer whose sides fold out to create an enormous restaurant at the fair. The sausage is a perfect mix of hot and sweet, and I’d have been satisfied if the entire fair was no more than my friend’s sausage truck.

Still, I had a relaxing evening with my daughter doing something “different.” We won’t be going to a lot of county fairs and firemen’s carnivals, but I’m sure we’ll find a few things to entertain us at the fairs we do visit.

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1 comment:

Robert Cropf said...

Dan, very nice observation of the fair season in rural PA. Having just returned from a vacation in northern Wisconsin, your blog reminded me of the simpler pleasures that us urban dwellers tend to look down our noses at. Two hours staring at livestock, listening to bluegrass and eating homemade sausage is hardly a sophisticate's idea of a wonderful time. But what your post evokes most strongly is a sense of people with a deep connection to the earth and what grows on and lives off it. I got the same impression wandering around a farm "museum." I guess so few people make their living from farming that we actually need museums to remind us what life was like a hundred years ago for many Americans. Perhaps in a few years fairs like the ones you describe will be more like the reenactments we see at Civil War battlefields, serving no functional purpose but instructing the children of the future what life was like for their great grandparents. I will be quite sad if I live long enough to see that day arrive.