The Franklin County Fair in Greenfield, MA | "The Oldest Continuously Operating County Fair in America"
I began hearing buzz for the 165th Franklin County Fair when I stopped at Mim’s Market in Northfield, 15 miles from the fairgrounds in Greenfield, Massachusetts, for one of Mim’s infamous donuts, just in case I didn’t meet my full quota for fried stuff that day.
Sadly, the donut was stale (the chocolate ones are best), but at least my appetite was primed. Seems everyone in Mim’s was on their way to the fair, had already gone, or was planning to swoop in later that day.
Billed as the oldest continuously operating county fair in America, the Franklin County Fair started as a cattle show on the Town Common in November of 1848. It prides itself on having survived “world wars, dust bowl droughts, even stock market collapses.” I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, despite being pretty firmly ensconced in the country, I’d never actually been to a country fair. It seemed overdue.
As it turns out, cows are still very much in the picture.
Competition was stiff, and the ribbons were flying. There wasn’t a lot of chit-chat, but it was a pretty interesting instant immersion into a totally foreign world. The judge would run her hands over an animal, grab in what I would term inappropriate places, and then hand out a ribbon.
My own judging ran more along the lines of “oooh, nice cow” or “pretty eyes” or “she looks friendly.”
Animal judging can be exhausting, and some of the participants were taking a time out…
Nobody likes to be judged.
Over time, the Franklin County Fair has changed, of course. There’s a lot going on now that wouldn’t have made much sense to a farmer back in the 1800s.
The Midway here is pretty cute for the most part, although some of the booths make you stop and ponder.
And raise some fairly existential questions…like how IS it possible to live without a head?
Who would not be blinded — or possibly enticed — by these colors?
Naturally, there’s a lot of colorful food, too.
I’m tempted to put the word food in quote marks, but it’s such a cheap shot that it’s hardly worth the time it takes to type I just hit the motherlode of trans fats.
Imagine that 1800s farmer wondering, “What’s an onion bloom?” Or, on another note, and perhaps even more fantastically, “What’s a Frisbee-catching dog?”
For 15 years, the wiry Mike Piazza and his Flying High Frisbee Dogs have been making the circuit, and he’s quick to tell the audience that he’s a multiple world finalist, and that he’s performed for the NBA, NFL, Animal Planet, and ESPN.
His lightning-fast dogs work the crowd like pros, with an intensity of focus that’s awe-inspiring. They’re just about impossible to catch in motion.
Not so much Robinson’s Racing Pigs.
The young Vietnamese potbellies are adorable, and about as motivated as a three-year-old. Ambling around the track only when pointedly followed by a man I assumed was Mr. Robinson, they did seem to revive in the water.
There were Shriner Clowns to be seen…
and a pretty, young aerialist from the New England Center for Circus Arts, in Brattleboro, Vermont, who swooped and twirled and made us feel earthbound.
And finally, there was a mouth-watering display of award-winning bounty in the roundhouse.
Hard to pick a winner with this much natural beauty.
It sort of brings us full circle, back to the essence of it all. What hasn’t changed is that a country fair brings everyone together, draws folks out of the woodwork, entertaining us in a way that proves we’re not too good to watch pigs race, laugh at Shriner clowns, or marvel at our reflection in the eyes of a prize-winning cow.
People still love a good fair.