Local News

Vermont State Fair

By Marguerite Loucks Dye and Marguerite Jill Dye
In rereading my mother’s account of the Rutland Fair in The Mountain Times from September, 1994, I am amazed at the changes in our society that have altered state fairs across the nation. The Vermont State Fair, an agricultural fair run by the Rutland County Agricultural Society, has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, and lately, the Great Recession, since its beginning in 1846.
Last year my husband and I took our friends from France to the fair. They were fascinated by the  American tradition. Although the fair was smaller, we devoured maple creemees, watched the pig race, and traipsed across the sprawling grounds from forest display to circus, bunnies, cows, goats, and sheep. We took our first selfies with a giraffe! We learned about composting, Vermont-friendly plants, and imagined how the 4-H has brought rural youth together for a century.
But now many farms are disappearing, being taken over by conglomerates, or have adapted to become chic boutique growers of organic veggies and makers of gourmet meats and cheeses in the trendy farm to table movement. It is apparent that times have changed when Vermont Open Farm Week sends people to farms during the same week as the Vermont State Fair (this year in mid-August instead of early September).
My mother’s account is of the good old days which we have always expected to find at the fair. You’ll see that Mom had a “cast iron gut,” as my dad always said.
Fair Fun (excerpts from September, 1994)
Our family can hardly wait from one Rutland fair to the next. It’s been that way since 1959 when we started building our own ski house at Killington and attended our first Rutland fair. Since then, every year, we have a vague routine we follow. First we make a beeline for a fried dough concession, nearly drooling on the way in anticipation. We sprinkle each large glob with plenty of powdered sugar and walk happy and contented with glazed eyes. Fried dough is indigestible, huge, fattening, greasy and absolutely delectable.
Next come the hot, greasy, also indigestible onion rings that are oh so delicious, then the thick submarine buns loaded with Italian sausage, green peppers and onions–all fried. It is mouth-watering, tastes as good as it smells, and is guaranteed to have you burping happily (or madly) until the morning after. Next week is time enough to worry about the cholesterol. After Roxy’s French fries with vinegar instead of ketchup, we eye the booths that are calling for us to part with our money by tossing rings, throwing darts, or shooting guns to win prizes you might not care to carry home in case you did manage to win one, although winners look very happy lugging their prizes.
We prefer going to the fair at night when all the colored lights are blinking away and the paths and aisles are bumper to bumper with people–all of them eating or drinking as they walk. The sights (some incredible), the sounds (noisy and blaring), and smells (some better than others) are all exciting.
All the time we are eyeing the wild rides, trying to determine the very best (worst!) ones available. Back in the dark ages when I was growing up in South Dakota, the fair employees would sidle up to me and say, “Girlie, if you’ll scream like that again I’ll give you a free ride.” Boy, could I scream! My parents always remarked that I came home hoarse from carnivals and fairs.
Marguerite Jill Dye is happy to continue her family tradition of supporting the Vermont State Fair. Marguerite Loucks Dye and Marguerite Jill Dye are mother and daughter.

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