Topsfield Fair http://www.topsfieldfair.org/ – Say the words and people who have spent every year at the Fair will tell you what they go for. For some it’s the food, the rides, the animals, the giant pumpkin, the big name concerts, the food, the food.
I’ve been attending since early childhood and one year I’d earned a trip to Spain through work, and I remember thinking with a pang of sadness when they announced the dates, “Oh no, I’ll miss the Fair”. That was the first and perhaps the only year I’ve missed.
Though the Topsfield Fair shakes things up every year with new performers some new and most likely disgusting quasi edible food mutation (does everyone remember fried Jello?) and new stomach churning rides. But I don’t go for the differences I go for the sameness. Every year I get Tempura vegetables, a blueberry crisp and a pickle. It’s just how it goes and when my husband headed to the wrong crisp counter (we go to the one closest to the baby pigs), I asked incredulously – “Where are you going?” And he said “for crisp” and I immediately set him on the right path to THE crisp booth. I go through every farm animal building, check out the flowers, the veggies, the retail sales expo, buy Grade B maple syrup from the Leavitt family, I check out the quilts, and the photos, paintings and hand crafted items in Coolidge Hall. I only ever go on one ride – the Viking ship, (as a kid my daredevil Mother and I loved the Bullet that other areas called the Hammer. See it here on YouTube https://youtu.be/2f1RHO-a9Sw ) but that hasn’t been around in decades so Viking ship it is, and I take pictures of it all.
From all my experience at this year’s show and every year before, I’ve learned a lot. Did you know you can get discounted admission and food vouchers when you buy the tickets a week before the Fair starts, or that there are special admission discounted evenings on some weekdays? Or that you get free admission if you donate some time to the Fair? But that’s just the beginning – here is a list of 10 Secret Things You Might Miss at the Topsfield Fair….
10. Everyone goes to see the great pumpkin. Even when it’s not a record breaker it’s pretty impressive. But if you go on day one of the Fair and head to the Arena, you can actually watch them weigh the behemoths and other out-sized things like 10 foot long gourds, and tomatoes the size of (yes I use this descriptor often but it’s true) baby heads. Watch them gingerly maneuver these gourds that can weigh up to one ton.
9. Dahlias and the flower auction. On the last day of the fair, at 7pm in the flower building they auction off the flowers and plants that had been on display. Throughout the show you’ll find Dahlias in the flower building in random bottles for individual show. This year the fair theme is Sunflowers, and yet as in every year before the Dahlia wins my heart – it’s like the plant version of a sky-covering fireworks.
8. Pole Climbing. It’s not the greased pole of old, but rather a very slick metal pole. Kids get to compete in the Essex County Farm Yard. They likely let a ringer go first. Someone who makes it look easy. It isn’t.
7.Want a cheap thrill? Don’t ride the rides, just watch the terror in the eyes of others and hear their helpless screams and then move on to the carousel.
6. Dock Dogs – This is a perennial favorite for viewing and ring side splashings, but you can up the ante by trying to capture the best dogs mid flight.
5. Winning. Stop being just a spectator, enter. There are so many contests: food crafts, art, livestock. Put yourself on the line and go after that blue ribbon that comes with bragging rights only. There aren’t huge monetary prizes. My husband and I both got ribbons this year.
4. Veggie Horror Tales. High above the award winning pumpkins, there are fierce and frightening creatures made primarily of vegetation. Make sure to look up when you’re in the veggie building. Of course you may want to shield your picky young eaters from these unholy terrors or you’ll have to get used to them eating only chicken nuggets for the rest of their lives.
3. Church Services. You want to be first in the door at the Fair but it’s Sunday and you may feel conflicted about missing church services. No worries. Both Sundays at 10 am, the good folks from First Church Boxford start the day off with a blessing, a message and song. And immediately thereafter, the Fair is fair game.
2. Send Holiday Cards to the Military. A free and worthwhile activity. Head to the Grange Building, choose from dozens of cards and write a heartfelt message. This group takes care of the rest. Leave the card behind and a donation if you like, and you know one serviceman or woman will know they are appreciated.
1. Bacon. Nuff said? Tucked away in the Midway among the rides and close to Parking Lot E is a relatively new vendor. Bubba’s Bacon. Bacon popcorn, 1/4 lb of bacon on a stick, chocolate covered bacon and new to me – Bacon Balls (made of ground bacon with a little ground beef, shaped into meatballs wrapped in bacon and fried. It’s a bacon lovers dream come true.
And as an extra bonus – 3 favorites from years gone by….please, Topsfield Fair, bring these back…
Glass Mosaics. After being on my feet for hours pushing my way through crowds of sticky handed kids, I loved heading to the picnic table to make a cut glass mosaic. I spent a lot of time there recharged my batteries and gave my feet a much needed break as I made a colorful Lightcatcher. See some of my efforts below.
Daring Diving. Team dives from frighteningly high temporary towers into tiny pools sometimes while on fire.
Bubble show. Kids don’t need to shower on the fair days when the bubbles are flying. Giant bubbles, frothy bubbles, bubbles from wands and guns. Good clean fun.
The Topsfield Fair runs for 10 days ending on Columbus Day each year. You may need to go twice if you want to add a few new things to your personal repertoire. Fair enough!