The end of summer is such a bittersweet time of year. The hottest days are behind us, the swimming is a whole lot colder and everything seems to end earlier in the evening now that people are back in school.
But the end of summer and beginning of fall also brings us fried dough, the Tilt-A-Whirl and animal exhibitions. That’s right. I’m talking about the fair.
New Hampshire is lucky to have so many great agricultural fairs. I’ve done most of the fairs on the east side of Interstate 93 and a few in Maine and Massachusetts. For the past few years, my friends and I have invested serious time and money into studying the art of fair-going and I can confidently say we have perfected the trip to the fair. Here are my tips for maximizing your time this fair season.
1. Get full first
Many people will disagree with this, especially those who like rides. But now that we are all a little older and wiser, can’t we just admit we go to the fair for the food? Why torture yourself longer than you need to?
I usually go with a decent-sized group of people, maybe 5 or 6, all of whom I am comfortable with sharing food. This is the only way I have found you can make it through the wealth of so-bad-for-you-it’s-good cuisine each fair offers. Once you arrive, take a tally of what everyone wants to eat. Then get something right away that’s easy to share, like French fries or a bloomin’ onion. Snack on this as you stroll up and down the food aisles looking for the special fair treats you want. I get a turkey leg and give my friends take a few bites. Another friend gets deep-fried Twinkies, which everyone wants to try, and yet another friend buys a giant root beer with a keeper cup which we can sip to wash down the feast.
2. Buy just enough tickets to ride the rides you want
Don’t get suckered into the ride-all-night bracelets or buying the big sheet of ride tickets. Buy just enough to ride once on each of your favorites. If you want more, go back, but chances are you won’t. An annual ride on the Zipper is about as much fair riding as any adult needs.
3. Visit only the animal exhibitions you like
Don’t go into the chicken exhibition if birds creep you out. You’d be much happier cooing over the baby calf in the cow barn. You have only so much time at the fair. Don’t waste it.
4. Don’t skip the art exhibition
This may seem contradictory, since I just told you not to waste your time on sub-par exhibitions, but the art exhibition building is one of my favorite parts of the fair. People young and old enter their paintings, drawings, photography, knitted works and other artistic pieces every year. These are landscapes, still lifes and many carefully executed drawings of cars and unicorns done by children. There is something so touching and wonderful about these works of art, no matter how good or bad the artistic skills, that bring me incredible joy. If you are looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of the midway, ducking into the art exhibition building is a rewarding and relaxing option.
5. The fair comes only once a year
Half the New Hampshire Fairs are already over, but there are still some of my favorites coming up in September and October. If you are trying to decide which one to attend this year, the Vermont and New Hampshire Fair Association has a listing. Whatever fair you choose, have fun.