Column: Enjoy the Fairs In Our Backyard

  • Sophie Hammond, 13, left, Lily Hier, 14, and Emily Bourne, 14, all of Claremont, N.H. ride the Scrambler at the Cornish Fair in Cornish N.H. on August 18, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • A bantam rooster at the Tunbridge World's Fair in Tunbridge, Vt. on Sept. 12, 2014. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

For the Valley News
Published: 6/18/2016 10:00:57 PM
Modified: 6/18/2016 10:01:09 PM

You don’t know cold water until you’ve been dunked in a tank. A few years ago, I volunteered to spend 30 minutes in the Norwich carnival dunk tank. Much to my dismay, friends and strangers had great aim and I was dunked many times into frigid water. (Thankfully, my chills were rewarded. The Lions Club made about $70 for my time.) Afterward, I treated myself to a plate of fried dough and a spin on a thrill ride (which dried my wet hair faster than a blow-dryer). It was good old-fashioned fun and one of the most memorable summer days I’ve had in the Upper Valley.

Fair season here is short and sweet. And as much as I love the sweep of the September Tunbridge Fair, it’s the smaller local fairs that quench my palate for pleasure during the height of summer. As soon as I see the colorful signs posted around town announcing local fairs, I get a wave of childlike excitement.

I have a friend who is particularly peeved by traveling carnivals. She doesn’t like all the fried food and fanfare. And while I agree that cotton candy probably shouldn’t be a staple, I can’t help but delight in the short-lived pleasure of carnival season. For a weekend, we’re graced with a fantasy land of spectacle before it packs up and travels to the next town.

In my time in the Upper Valley, I’ve attended quite a few of these fairs. I’ve attended the Enfield Family Fair a few times, as well as the Quechee Balloon Festival. I’m proud to say that in my many years in Vermont, I’ve never missed my hometown fair in Norwich. The Norwich Fair has become a staple of summer for me. I’ve had a first date at the fair, where I’ve flirted over freshly squeezed lemonade. I’ve had a mini family reunion at the fair, where my cousins and I squealed with excitement as we spun around on the Tilt-A-Whirl. I’ve even attended a fair with a dozen bachelorettes from Boston who were up for a girls’ weekend. (They were particularly disgusted and delighted by the meadow muffin contest.)

Last summer I was able to share the fair with the next generation of fairgoers: my young nephews and niece. It was remarkable to experience the fair with toddlers whose eyes widened with every new attraction. They giggled as they zoomed around on the spaceship kiddie ride. They delighted in winning a small teddy bear during the water balloon race game. And they cherished every lick they took of oversized ice cream twist cones. For a few hours, the Norwich Green became something bigger, more wondrous and more magical for them, and likewise, for me.

Most importantly, however, for us Upper Valley folks, there’s something endearing about the way our neighbors and community groups come together during these weekends. I love buying a hamburger from a Boy Scout to support his troop at the fair. I love listening to a local rock band jam on the gazebo. I enjoy the friendly competition among neighbors in the pie contest, and I admire the local fire department’s “Touch a Truck” event for children. I appreciate the volunteers who help make these fairs available to our community and who raise money for local charities.

I’m pregnant this year and won’t be sitting in the dunk tank, but I certainly won’t miss the fair. (My pregnancy cravings are calling for caramel apples.) Instead, I’ll be on the other side of the dunk tank with a softball in hand. Let’s hope that the unlucky Norwich citizen in the tank on July 22 is ready for icy water. I’ve been working on my pitching.

Becky Munsterer Sabky lives in Norwich.

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