Walking around at the fall fair I heard a woman bitterly state to her daughter “I can’t believe they’re charging seven dollars for this!”.
The comment made me sad more than anything. It was proof of something I have kind of had a feeling about: that people outside the communities involved don’t really understand what a fall fair is about.
I suspect this woman was probably anticipating carnival rides and stalls hocking cotton candy and cheaply manufactured “crafts”. I don’t know what those things have to do with fall, or with the agricultural society, which hosts the event, but that seems to be what people expect to see.
Fall fairs were born out of the medieval carnival tradition, when, after a season of hard work, people would celebrate the blessings of a fruitful harvest with festivities.
It was about fun and food! Yes rides are fun and cotton candy is technically food, but that’s not what I mean. It was the fun of friendly competition; proud farmers setting out their best before the community. It was about celebrating how fortunate they were to have such plentiful food.
And it continues to be so, albeit with a little more in the mix.
Today’s fall fair still celebrates the harvest and the hard efforts of those who made it happen. It still allows people to engage in friendly competition and to show off their best.
But it also helps to raise awareness about agriculture and engage people (like me) who might not know about what it takes to raise a herd of cattle or sheer a sheep.
It celebrates local talent and craftsmanship. It celebrates people and our collective history. I’d rather have that than the cotton candy any day.
I was asked to photograph this year’s fair. Here are a few of my favourites from the day.