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The Franklin County Fair in Greenfield, MA | "The Oldest Continuously Operating County Fair in America"

The Franklin County Fair in Greenfield, MA | “The Oldest Continuously Operating County Fair in America”
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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.

Mim's Market

Photo/Art by Annie GravesMim’s Market

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.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesThrough the gates, the roundhouse waits…

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.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesCounty Fair show ring

As it turns out, cows are still very much in the picture.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesCompeting at the fair

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…

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesFairs are exhausting…

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.

Franklin Country Fair Midway

Photo/Art by Annie GravesMidway through the Midway

The Midway here is pretty cute for the most part, although some of the booths make you stop and ponder.

Franklin Country Fair Booth

Photo/Art by Annie GravesReally?

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?

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesWaiting for customers

Naturally, there’s a lot of colorful food, too.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesAh, dough…

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.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesEven the mustard and ketchup fit in

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?”

Franklin Country Fair Frisbee Dog

Photo/Art by Annie GravesDog flips

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.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesMike and friend

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.

Franklin Country Fair Pigs

Photo/Art by Annie GravesYou read it right…

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.

Franklin Country Fair Pig Racing

Photo/Art by Annie GravesPig racing

There were Shriner Clowns to be seen…

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesClown ride

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.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesAbove the crowd

And finally, there was a mouth-watering display of award-winning bounty in the roundhouse.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesTomatoganza

Hard to pick a winner with this much natural beauty.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesFresh perspective

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.

Franklin Country Fair

Photo/Art by Annie GravesNice cow

People still love a good fair.

 

Annie Graves

Author:

Annie Graves

Biography:

Annie Graves is a regular contributor to Yankee. A New Hampshire native, she has been a writer and editor for over 25 years, while composing music and writing young adult novels. Find out more about Annie at anniegraves.com.

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