Monday, October 30, 2017

Family, Small Towns, and Fall Fairs

I grew up in a small Canadian town. As a child, I loved that little town and fully intended to live there forever. But my story turned out differently.

I had aspirations to go to university. Looking around, as an adolescent, it was clear to see that there were not many career opportunities in my small town, especially for women. Going to university meant leaving my town to move to a big city far away.

After leaving to go to university, I came back to my home town for a few summers, but I never lived there full-time again. I became qualified in a profession that did not require living in a large city to obtain employment, but by that time, there also was my my husband's career to consider. Finding satisfying work for both of us ultimately meant choosing to live in larger centers.

Later, I made a career switch and was fortunate to find a great position in my new field. I relocated to a mid-sized city within driving distance of my home town. A decade later, I moved even closer, and lived in a small city only 200 kilometers away.

During all these years, several of my family members have continued to live in the little town. So I have returned again and again to visit, celebrate Christmas, go skiing, go hiking, and attend the Fall Fair.

The Fall Fair is an annual highlight that takes place in the late summer. Although I have attended similar fairs in other places, there is no Fall Fair quite like the one in my town. Recently, I attended the Fall Fair again.

Fall Fair Parade
The Fall Fair starts with a parade. The weather always seems to be terrible during Fall Fair week. This year we went early to get good seats on the curb to watch the parade, and found ourselves shivering in a cold wind. Someone made a run back to the house to get blankets and warm sweaters, and even so, we were thoroughly chilled off before the last tractor and dancing cow had meandered up the main street of town.

The next day, my young nieces were exhibiting some of their animals in the 4-H events. The whole family got involved in leading the sheep to their stalls in the sheep barn.

Preparing for the 4-H Sheep Event
There were two large buildings hosting the agricultural and handicraft exhibits. My mom and I strolled up and down the long tables examining the tomatoes and zucchinis; the homemade bread, biscuits, pies, and brownies; the homemade wines and jams; and the flower arrangements. When my dad was still alive, he always entered his homemade wines and usually came away with several ribbons. This is one of the first years that my mom, now in her eighties, has not entered her homemade jams and jellies.

We also spent a long time admiring the art categories. One of my brothers and my sister in law won ribbons for their photography, and my brother and both nieces won several ribbons for their art. I recalled entering my own paintings and drawings in the Fall Fair when I was a child. I also used to enter flowers from my own little garden during my teen years.

We ate perogies and sauerkraut, and corn on the cob and fries. We spent time hanging out at the barns enjoying a brief period of sunshine. Rob said that sitting around in the hay barn was his favourite part of the fair!

Robby Hayseed

Uncle Hayseed
Later on, there was a rodeo, and we cheered for my sister in law's younger brother as he rode the bucking bronc. And of course, the kids were thrilled about going on the circus rides and eating cotton candy.

I am grateful that I have family who still live there. I can go back year after year, and feel as if I still have a foot in my hometown. There is a wonderful sense of continuity of the generations that I sometimes miss, having chosen instead to lead a more transient life.

10 comments:

  1. Hi Jude! It is fun to go back and visit places we've lived, and because you have family there it is even more special. But every time I/we go back to where we used to live, it just doesn't feel like "home" anymore. We've changed so much that we just can't see ourselves going back. But I get the attraction. I enjoy going to those small town events and just enjoying. And sometimes we are reminded, like you did with the cold weather, why it wasn't always wonderful even though the memories are so sweet. ~Kathy

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    1. Kathy, that is so true. Also, the hometown of my nostalgic memories is not quite the way it is today. I have changed and the town has changed too. When I go there, everything is saturated with the memories of how it used to be: this is where my grandma’s house used to be; this is where we built the big fort; this where there used to be a trail through the swamp to the junior high school... I am glad that I can go back and visit on a regular basis even though I don’t live there anymore.

      Jude

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  2. That sounds like such fun (apart from getting cold at the parade!)

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    1. It was fun. One of the things that is so special about events like the Fall Fair is that it creates a sense of community and belonging that seems increasingly rare in contemporary life.

      Jude

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  3. I've never lived in a small town, but I've attended a few local fairs and - big or small - they are so much fun. We have a summer fair here... all very predictable, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Kudos to your family members for taking home ribbons!

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    1. Janis, I have attended fairs in various places, but I haven’t enjoyed them in the same way as I enjoy my hometown fair. I think for me, it is the level of participation and feeling like part of the community that makes this one so special. When you know the people who are exhibiting their work, and someone in the band went to school with you, and you have a chat with Mrs. X beside the baking powder biscuits, the experience has a certain depth as compared to viewing a Fair as a visitor to the community.

      Jude

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  4. I absolutely LOVE Fall Fairs, Jude. Especially, when they include 4H exhibits and a rodeo! Wish I was there! :)

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    1. Oh, and I didn’t even mention the quilt display, which was amazing. Of course the best part of all was spending time with my mom and other family members.

      Jude

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  5. You've made me homesick for times past. I grew up in a far-lying suburb that backed up to the country filled with sprawling farms. The County Fair (similar to what you've described here) was the main event for the year and a source of many fond memories. Sadly, many of the farms with their fresh dairy, seasonal fruits and vegetable and variety of livestock have long since disappeared. Being too close to the city, they were replaced by shopping malls and expanding suburbia. I am glad that your home has maintained its traditions and that you are close enough to return frequently. And I am grateful that I had farms in my childhood

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    1. Lisa, thank you for commenting. The agricultural valley where my hometown is located is quite northerly and remote. It is far away from any large cities,and that is probably why there are still family farms there and a Fall Fair. I agree with you that it is sad to lose the dairy farms and local fruit and vegetable producers.

      Jude

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