« Previous  
 Next »

Ready for the Fair

08/05/08 7:55AM By Helen Labun Jordan
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) Commentator Helen Labun Jordan is getting ready for the Fair in a big way this year - and looking forward to having some Big Fun.

(LABUN JORDAN) Any kid who grows up listening to A Prairie Home Companion or reading Charlotte's Web gets a clear impression early on  that state and county fairs are the pinnacle of summertime existence. In Vermont, we reach that pinnacle with the Champlain Valley Fair each August. I myself grew up in Newbury. It's a long way from the Champlain Valley's Exposition Center on the other side of the Green Mountains. So instead of attending that state fair, we had to satisfy our interest in local history and crafts at our own Cracker Barrel Bazaar one weekend, then cross the river for carnival rides and tractor pulls at the North Haverhill Fair the next.

So imagine my excitement when I learned that my job duties at the Agency of Agriculture would include helping manage an entire building for the Champlain Valley Fair.

Our planning began with a goal of promoting local food, an office mug from an earlier fair year with the theme "Big Fun" printed on it, and one rule: no livestock. Livestock have different buildings. Unfortunately, our starting rule also eliminated my starting inspiration, which was to seek out a two-headed llama for display. Llamas are both local and fun. Having two heads would make them Big Fun. No luck.

A fried Mars Bars recipe from a friend's hometown fair in the deep South provided fresh inspiration. What about a line of fryolaters ready to batter up and deep fry farmers' market produce? That could be fun, right? And a chance to prove that any local food, no matter how healthy, can be transformed into a fair-friendly indulgence. But here we encountered another rule: no foods competing with the midway. So the fryolators were replaced with a stand selling local tofu - in its natural state. But I still think deep fried fava beans have real potential.

We had plenty of ideas that didn't quite fly this year - like sheep dog trials for herding cats, or commissioning a Stephen Hunek/Woody Jackson collaboration to construct the world's first "Cowhenge." This year we'll get sophisticated, with things like an artisan cheese tasting; next year I'm willing to add in a cooking contest to invent an all-local substitute for Cheez Whiz.

The promotion of local agriculture in Vermont is satisfying work. One minute, you can be debating labeling standards, and, next thing you know, you're on the Big Fun side of the equation, watching giant oxen drag heavy objects across a dirt ring.  

We're wrapping up work on the fair building now. Anyone who wants fun with local foods can come by for cooking demos, kids' story hour, a mini farmers' market, and even local wine and beer tastings. The only thing truly missing is sculptures made from dairy products. I hear the butter cow sculpture from the Iowa state fair appeared in promotional materials for Howard Dean's Presidential bid; so the country's top butter artists must have some affinity for our state. I wonder if the cow's creator
makes road trips....
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter