I started the Photo Acclimation Project when we moved here to help me see New England through the eyes of a tourist, a leaf-peeper, a person who really wanted to be here. But now that I'm leaving in just a few short weeks, I'm no longer acclimating. Instead I'm summing up, concluding. I'll write about the full-spectrum experience later; write now (I'm serious, I just wrote "write now"), I'll emulate the positivity of the Photo Acclimation Project and bring you The Highlight Reel. A way to leave this place and put it in the category of "adventure" instead of simply being a grand sociological experiment. These two things are not mutually exclusive, and rolled all together, they produce one very important chapter in this family's life.
We'll begin our first installment with The Blue Hill Fair in Blue Hill, Maine. Held every Labor Day Weekend since the beginning of time, it is the setting for E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web." It is this real-life country fair that inspired a local author to write a book for children about a little girl named Fern and a runty pig named Wilbur.
I'm sorry but there was no way I was going to miss that.
The fair organizers aren't stupid so, as little and old-timey as this fair is, they still have a little corner of fairground devoted to the animals featured in Charlotte's Web. In addition to the obvious geese, sheep and pigs, they also have a rat. Extra points for being true to the book.
A big fake spider hanging in the corner of the barn should be fairly innocuous but it's not......it's super meaningful and makes everyone stop, smile and call someone over to witness it with them.
The geese are much more fun when everyone stopping by their pen says "Probably-obably-obably!"
We save the pigs for last because it's practically a religious experience. They don't try to pass off one random pig as Wilbur which is good; that might be a little too Jesus Christ Superstar for me. Instead they have a pen full of lovely piggies. We decide that these pigs must be Wilbur's more diverse cousins from the city.
The food "building" is a large cabin filled with people's prize cukes and berries. It's full of people like this:
They sit in plastic chairs lined up in a row, eating blueberries. It is Maine's version of caviar.
Fair food is a delicacy and, when visiting a new fair, it's always fun to seek out the food that is indigenous to that event. My favorite was the Lime Fizz. I'm pretty sure it's just limeade and 7-Up but it was damn good. The perfect beverage for a hot, dusty fair.
There are no Pronto Pups......but they do have Frankfurters rolled in bacon. Points for innovation - but I can't help but think of the reason I'm there in the first place. I think the fair organizers should institute a "no pork products" policy.
As a fan and former employee of Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar, I insist on a taste test. These were just plain cookies. You win, Sweet Martha!
I go to my first tractor pull. Pictured here is the Pulling Office (can you say reality show?). And I learned some new terminology: "Nice pull, Dale!" (after which the people behind me would clap and say to each other "nice pull.....nice pull."
I'm fascinated by the cows. I have seen plenty of cows in my day. But I have never seen cows this big. They are like mastadons. Their eyeballs are like Magic 8 Balls. I keep looking for a small triangle of text to appear in the pupil telling me to try again later. I can't stop looking them in the collective eye.
I first came upon Belted Galloway cows, or Oreo cows, when I lived in North Carolina. Apparently, they have them in Maine, too. This one is NOT huge, he's teeny and precious and his name is Whoopie Pie. I can't stand it! His name is Whoopie Pie!
We know Fern is growing up when she leaves Wilbur and goes off to ride the Ferris wheel with a boy from her class. All day, I have to keep reminding myself that Fern isn't a real person.....
.......but when we sit at the top of the fair and look down, it feels positively profound. And I say "Is this what Fern saw?"
Liam doesn't say anything. He just keeps looking down, reverently......as if it never occurred to him that she wasn't real.