By Sara Morrissette
I’ve often told my husband that we should seriously consider inventing a car freshener scent that smells like the fair. But what would such a lovely yet abominable creation smell like? Fried Cokes, cotton candy and kettle corn, with just a hint of sawdust.
There are many reasons I attend fairs. Being a busy mother, artist, blogger and urban farm wife, “free time” is elusive and nearly mythical around these parts.
Urban Farm Euphoria for me is the agricultural and exposition portion of the fair. I found myself, almost embarrassingly, skipping on the pathway leading to the exposition building.
Walking through the heavy glass doors was like walking into a building of homespun reverence: a magical land of baked goods, spun yarn and gourmet vinegars. Kaleidoscopic quilts hang immensely overhead like proud homages to the homesteading gods. Baskets of gourmet goods burst with homemade crafts.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the Grand Reserve Champion ribbons. Royal Purple in color, the satin bows were proudly displayed on the winning entries, carefully kept under eye and even behind locked glass cabinets. The idea of receiving a reward, for what I consider an art form that is experiencing a resurgence lately, is wholly perfect. The modern urban homesteading and self-sustainability movement should remember, just for a moment, these dusty symbols of extremely talented handiwork that existed long before our current, hipster-farm mindset.
In the Home-Arts area I met another family who were handling their area together. Each was helping by answering questions and handing out recipe cards.
|Beverly Goodwin of Sweet, Idaho, in front of her winning basket for preserves.|
Beverly’s soft smiling eyes and easy handshake seem to tell me that she would answer all of my eager questions. She swiftly turned her crochet needle quick and sure while she smiled and told me that this is her eighth happy year at the Western Idaho Fair. Since starting, it has grown into a family affair that now includes her brother and sister.
Some of those I spoke with were participating for the first year, like teacher Wylene Knight from Horseshoe Bend, who was nervously awaiting her homemade bread to be judged. I wished her the best.
When we spoke, Beverly had taken an early lead and ended up walking away with numerous honors this year. She took home six 1st-place ribbons for her strawberries, apricots, grapes, thyme, tarragon and almonds.
Because this particular fair has a large open class, it really is one of the best kept secrets for those participating in the Home and Agricultural “arts” to get recognition for their hard work throughout the year.
I took my time, browsing the agriculture buildings, speaking with enthusiasts and fair participants in different areas.
Chris and Tina Abe own and operate Fuji Farm, in Nampa, Idaho, raising Nigerian Dwarf goats. Tina cheerfully considers their dream a family endeavor. Their farm is home to more than six Grand Champion prize goats. All four kids help pitch in with the daily milking and farm chores.
|Photo credit Fuji Farms. This is GCH Sandy Hollow UK 2*M|
With determined smiles they handled each of the goats, taking them individually for their afternoon walks. One by one, the goats marched out, some with noses as small as acorns and dark eyes that lure you to scratch their knobby little heads just a minute longer. I spent about 20 relaxing minutes with one of their smaller goats, who was both tame and sweet. I highly recommend goat-petting for what ails you.
Because I took my time, my fair experience has forever changed my respect for those who contribute both their talents and their time to pull off such a tremendous event every year.
|Patiently waiting with a flower in her tail.|
The Chicken Exposition building shares its space with the cavies (guinea pigs) and rabbits. So, of course, my head almost exploded with the amount of cuteness overload in one building.
|Grand Reserve/Champion Bantam Plymouth Barred Rock White|
|Handsome show rooster|
Robin Hopper has been working in the chickens division for 15 years and answered all my sometimes silly questions with a smile and wink. Chicken entries this year have gone up and she says she definitely sees the backyard chicken trend being represented more than in the last few years.
|Robin Hopper in the poultry building was so helpful|
The youngest man I interviewed (he was about 11) smiled with a boyish face behind his ginger hair. He had entered and took home ribbons with two handsome cochins. His older brother proudly held his prize-winning Polish crested hen. He talked excitedly about his interest in raising and showing his chickens and pigeons.
|Satinette Pigeon Hen|
This is a way of life for these boys and their family. Their mom sweetly pushed a stroller by the Plexiglas display holding newly hatched quail as small as dimes.
I imagined for a moment what it would be like to win one of those gorgeous, flamboyant Grand Reserve Champion ribbons for one of my chickens, a batch of beautiful eggs, or a jar of Strawberry-Ginger Jam.
As stated above, there are many reasons I go to the fair. Upon reflection, I’ll have to admit my favorite memories were not the entries that ranged the gamut from Light Horse Mule Driving to pickled pints of asparagus. It was remembering the genuineness of the people of Idaho who I had the opportunity to talk and share with. Of course next year, I’ll want a ribbon too.
|Grand/Reserve Champion blue eggs.|