A few weeks ago the Hubs and I spent a day at the state fair. It is a cheap date and a lot of fun when you time it right. We got lucky, it seems, especially with a break in the heat and humidity. The sky was heavily cluttered with clouds and crowds were down despite three-dollar-Thursday admission. Parking was only $5. Bonus: It was dairy day!
We smiled at the woman carrying a ginormous stuffed animal on a long trek back to the parking lot. We’d no interest in rides, games or trinkets any more than in performances or shows. We were running late due to a ’round about route — neither Google nor On Star GPS could get us to fairground parking without a hitch. Our first priority was lunch. Locally-sourced, if you please. Think Spiedie chicken or Dinosaur Bar-B-Que rather than fried dough and corn dogs. We planned a leisurely tour of agricultural barns and exhibits. Most of all, we looked forward to dairy displays.
It was so refreshing to be on location where farmers are celebrated and appreciated rather than derided or spurned. We were worn down by the struggle imposed by the barn fire last spring. All day long, we felt buoyed by an upbeat, farmer-friendly environment. Signs implored fairgoers to “thank a farmer,” just in case they missed the point.
I’m befuddled that it’s taken us so long to return. We’d last visited in 2001, having dropped our eldest off for his first semester at Cornell in Ithaca. I was a blubbering mess of emotions, so very proud of him and excited for opportunities ahead but saddened by the resultant hole in our family unit. I was already feeling lonely for him. The only thing I remember about that day at the fair was the butter sculpture.
Like most in our family, I love bubber! This is now my preferred term for this richly satisfying substance, a la grandboy Henry. As a toddler, he’d sneak an entire stick from the fridge and gnaw away until discovered. Later, he delighted in serving up same to baby sisters, also on the sly. Sometimes he even resorted to a frozen stick!
I assure you 800 pounds of butter is only more compelling. This year marked the 50th anniversary of butter sculpting at the fair. Check out this time lapse video for cool perspective on the process.
We watched as young adults showed cattle, marveling at their composure and preparation. In the show ring, a slight lad had quite a time as his heifer abruptly flopped down and refused to cooperate. We couldn’t help but laugh at the poor fella! The look on her face was priceless.
Youngsters learn important life lessons and develop great work ethics in the process of caring for animals. What a lot of work it is to bring livestock to the fair. These kids are especially dedicated. We often came upon them sleeping alongside beloved cattle in their care.
We were amused by the festive home-away-from home atmosphere. It was like an RV park inside the cattle barn, sans RVs. Cots and tents, coolers and lawn chairs were arranged to provide some level of privacy in the midst of a steady stream of curious fairgoers. Each mini-settlement boasted a custom-crafted sign announcing the farm.
Then I saw the girls. I recognized the three young ladies from local news coverage. Their entry to #DairyDanceOff lip-syncing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” in the barn went viral this spring, garnering over 40 million FB views!
It’d reached 20 million views just as we were struggling through the aftermath of the barn fire. It was a burst of hope in our gloom. It was our good fortune to land at the dairy barn just as they were preparing to show their yearlings. I was delighted for an opportunity to personally thank them for such positive energy. They didn’t seem surprised to be recognized and agreed to a photo op.
You go, girls! Don’t stop believing. This all made for a blue ribbon New York State Fair day in my book!