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Topsfield Fair celebrates 200 years

Coco McCabe | Massachusetts, United States

After the horse pull, this little girl had a conversation with one of her family's team members.

Two centuries after the Essex Agricultural Society was born, the fair it launched in Massachusetts to help local farmers improve their herds and crops is going strong—with a 21st century bent. At the Topsfield Fair, you’ll still find cute calves and piles of piglets, honeybees and hand-made quilts. But in this modern age of big and loud everything, pumpkins now weigh in at more than 2,000 pounds, smashed-up cars careen around the arena in clouds of exhaust, and the rides at the midway are scary enough to make you wish you’d skipped the fried Oreos and the turkey legs.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people stream through the gates of this fall fair, shelling out wads of cash for the food, fun, and games. This year the fair, which organizers claim is America’s oldest, celebrated 200 years of agricultural tradition. Rain and cold marred some of the 11-day bicentennial, but that moody New England weather did little to dampen the good time most visitors seemed to have.

I visited the fair four times this year and was struck by how upbeat all the hard-working food-sellers, game-minders, and ride-operators were--despite the rain and cold on the days I went. I don't know what accounts for that good attitude, but I'm sure it contributes hugely to the fair's bottom line. People were spending a lot of money (and lining up at the ATM to get more): There was temptation at every turn, and, of course, tears when the occasional exasperated parent said "no."

For me, the fair was therapeutic. I have found our country's political divisions, heightened to an extreme during the recent Supreme Court nominating process, deeply disheartening. So, during this bicentennial event, it was a relief to wander among a throng of Americans--and, happily, some immigrants, too--and watch them, all together on common ground, enjoying themselves.

You can reach me via email at newmarch@verizon.net .

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