The Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show 2014 has come and gone. As always I went all three days and what a pageant and procession it was. Although the fair is very much the same in many ways every year it always seems different. On the fairgrounds there are vantage points where I just sit and let the fair come to me.
A new top favorite this year was sitting on one of the benches next to the hall of fibers more or less in front of the Elder Home Wine Bar while drinking not wine but coffee and eating kettle corn. The coffee and sugar combo kicks me into an alert state ready to really see and appreciate whatever walks by. This year there were lots of rhinestone ankle bracelets worn over boots and with sandals — super feminine the perfect accessory for a fair full of show and sparkle. Pretty much everyone has their “fair outfit” and it is a pleasure to see what people pick to strut their stuff.
My favorite grandma look was a lady in coordinated pink roses from straw hat to t-shirt, Capri pants and even rose-toed sandals. One tiny toddler had bright red lights on her shoe heels that lit up every time she took a step down the midway making her look like one more tiny carnival ride.
Working at the Lion’s booth I saw plenty of spanking new cowboy hats (or at least very, very clean ones) topping handsome happy faces as they turned over their hard earned $100 bills for cold beers. How good those beers taste when enjoyed surrounded by friends in the hot, hot fair air. The really amazing thing about watching the fair roll by is the variety of humanity attending.
For three days in the Anderson Valley the young, old, rich, poor, local, imported, beautiful, crazy and the serene all seem to “get along” eating, laughing, and screaming (the Zipper) or simply sitting in dazed silence. Another great perch for watching the fair scene ebb and flow is the Hall of Fiber, which is cool and where rows of folding chairs invite a welcome rest.
I have logged on many hours watching the rabbit and sheep shearers work and catching random snatches of the conversations going on around me. The devotion to the cultivation and appreciation of animal fleece is deep and fierce. A young woman with two Churro sheep in tow was waiting for a turn with the shearer and told me that the sheep’s names were Comet and Persephone, which is enchanting. I was there for part of both the AV Soccer game and AV Football games where our local teen-agers showed that they can really suck it up when it comes to the discomfort. Both our teams and our cheerleaders did a great job of holding up in the extreme heat and looking totally checked in while withstanding it. The girls with their perky hair ribbons and sparkling pompoms were as super cute as cheerleaders should be. Coaches Steve Sparks and Danny Kuny have instilled a great discipline in their teams and they really looked good and focused on the field.
When the temperature really starts to rise I like to head for the Hall of Flowers where they hose down the concrete floor to keep things cool for the flowers and plants. Robyn Harper and Taunia Green really did a great job of arranging the displays and keeping things looking good which was challenging in the heat. Late on the last day I was stationed at the back gate where I got to see the “animal people” as they entered to retrieve their stock. I can never keep from smiling at any small goat on a leash - they always look like they are hatching a plan to bolt and the owners always look nervous like they know what to expect from their mischievous charges. The younger the person on the other end of the leash the bigger my smile. Goats wear chains around their necks when they are being lead around the show ring. Some of their neck chains are quite delicate and the prettiest goats always seem to have the most beautiful necklaces. A visit to the goat barn was oppressively hot, as the breeze wasn’t blowing from the right direction.
We spoke with Penny Royal Cheese maker and goat herder Erica who was working hard to keep her goats comfortable. By the way, the local cheese market near the turn off to Ukiah at 253 is coming soon and won’t that be a great addition to the valley and a good stop for all our houseguests? Another little noticed but huge asset of the fair is the chance for youth to peel off with their friends and prowl around the fairgrounds more or less unsupervised. I saw happy parents walking hand in hand without their kids as if they were teen-agers in love.
As the Second Step teacher at the Elementary school last term I taught all kids from every grade except kindergarten so it was very fun to walk along with cries of “Hi Miss Ryder” piping in from all sides. I noticed that many of them were in little clusters of friends two to five strong and doing their own thing very happily. Those of us who had childhoods in the 50’s and 60’s will remember that we had lots of time to roam with our friends unsupervised and this is one way we learned about who we were. I lament the passing of that “free time” and am happy that the fair provides at least a glimpse of that bygone era. Mega thanks to Jim Brown, the Fair Crew and the Fair Directors who did a dedicated and awesome job setting the Fair up and keeping it all going and together. I hope they are all going to sleep in for a few days now that the party is over (until next year). Thank you!