In which we participate in an American Tradition: FAIR!

Labour Day Weekend, already? Yes, with skies like these:
...it must be September in the Swamplands. So, off we went to the Fair.

Willy had been to carnivals in Korea, and he was eager to try the rides here. Since Jim and I are sensible people, we were happy to stay on the ground to cheer him on from the safety of the soggy pavement.

The mighty adventurer scoped out the landscape
and chose his target:

I looked with a great deal of skepticism at the carny running the ride. He didn't seem entirely sober...or particularly sane. Before collecting tickets from the kids, he summoned an equally wobbly carny from a neighboring ride, and the two of them went behind the curtains of the Ring of Fire with a couple of huge pipe wrenches. I heard two big "ka-wang" sounds--were they clobbering each other with those tools?--and then they both emerged, no more disreputable-looking than before, and went back to collecting tickets and strapping kids to machinery.

Willy wasn't worried. He was first in line to trot up the steps and grab a front-row seat in the shining contraption.
Up and around went the Ring of Fire. Beside me on the ground, Jim was shouting "WO-oooooo!" Me, I just muttered phrases like "never on this earth, I swear to god" and kept shooting pictures.


Mission accomplished--he survived it and emerged smiling.

Now for the agricultural exhibits. This part was new to Willy. I guess the whole concept of farmers congregating at harvest time to show off their best and brightest accomplishments is sort of an American (or at least northern European) tradition. Other culture groups are happy just to get the jam in the jar and the pumpkins into the cellar, but we turn the entire process into a community-wide party.

We cruised the horse barns, of course, and admired the Belgian draft horses and their incredibly gigantic feet, and also talked quite a while with a fellow who leads a local Civil War reinactment group.
This little Morgan mare has beentheredonethat, and she was ready for the crowds.
After the horses, we moved on to other livestock.
Here in the Swamplands, we take cows very seriously.
Inside the Dairy Shrine, you can refresh yourself at the vending machine:
There are some interesting skills needed for successful cow-showing.
One example: getting the cow to MOVE when she is disinclined to move.
I would think that teaching a cow to follow where you lead would be pretty simple, especially if you start lead-line lessons when the cow is still a calf. Teaching a horse colt to lead is easy, after all--especially if you start when they're little, instead of waiting until they weigh 800 pounds or more and have all their teeth.
Maybe cows are just different. Or maybe it's traditional to wrassle them for every stride--perhaps that shows off a desirable quality in a cow to the judge who is watching. Hopefully, I'll never know; cows are not on my agenda!
This cow was very patient while she was being polished up before she was dragged out to be judged. At least, I think she was patient. It's kind of hard for me to tell, with cows.
Our next stop was the goat barn.
When I was growing up, raising goats was mostly a kid-thing--a lot of the younger 4-H kids would raise goats to prove to their parents that they were ready for the responsibility of raising a cow.
These days, adults take goats very seriously.
This fellow told us a lot about goats in general, Nubian goats specifically, and his goats in particular. He spends one or two hours every day, twice a day, milking his Nubian goats. I gotta admit that I spend that much time commuting to work and back four days a week...but I don't have to spend that time on holidays or weekends and being a librarian is more financially rewarding than being a goat milker. Still, it's an interesting thought.
Our goats are wethers, though. Scheduling milking times for them is not an issue. Whew.
There were other animals at the Fair, of course:
Alpaca farming is becoming a big industry in the Swampland--I counted five alpaca farms in just the northwestern corner of our county. A little girl drew a "smiley face" indentation on the body-fluff of this baby. Very, very soft.
Less soft, and more attitude: these rastafarian sheep. Great hair-doos, gang.
Here's something that Garrison Keillor doesn't encounter when he writes a report from the Minnesota State Fair: chainsaw sculpturing.
Because the Swampland's original industries were fishing and logging, logging equipment and skills are a part of our harvest culture here. Some people have taken chainsaw carpentry to the level of artistry, creating amazing pieces of cultural work, including story poles and furniture.
Others cater to the kitschy tourist crowd. Hey, it all pays the bills.
Of course, one of the reasons--for some people, the ONLY reason--to come to the Fair is the food. Taking a photo of this menu board was as close as I was willing to get to some fair specialties. Blech.
I do have a traditional favorite "Fair Food": strawberries and scones. I avoid sugar like the plague under normal circumstances, so I only had a few bites...

Oh, that is good stuff.
The strawberries and the whipped cream are local, and most of the other ingredients are regionally-produced as well. Served by two smiling kids from the local high school, THIS is a reason to come to the Fair.
Happy harvest, everyone!

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