Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Fair

Yesterday we joined the throngs, over one hundred thousand strong, in an annual pilgrimage to the great State Fair. Ernesto was just the tail end of weeks of lousy weather. Some vendors reported the worst numbers in fifteen years. But it was Labor Day, a holiday, the last day. For all the hordes with presale tickets, it was now or never. So they turned out in droves. I've never seen such lines just to get in the front gate. Once inside, every thoroughfare was jammed. The simple act of walking became a Herculean task. Strollers brought all movement to a halt: I wanted to give a medal to every parent I saw with their kidlet in a backpack.

I'm not sure I've ever seen the fair so crowded. Inside the buildings was no different, with few exceptions. We had room to browse (and breathe!) while viewing the photography and fine arts displays. We managed to get some fair food, Gianelli sausage sandwiches with onions and peppers. We lucked out and saw magnificent dancers perform in both the African and Indian villages. I picked up some maple candy in the Horticulture Building, to enjoy later, and tried a $1 sample of the new fried rice from MaiLan--words cannot describe that divinity. I fought for some chocolate milk at the entrance to the dairy, but missed the butter sculpture, lacking the fortitude to push my way inside. We ended up missing a lot of other stuff, too: the horses, the giraffes, the chickens, the rabbits, the rides, entire buildings worth of exhibits. I'd been warned that the cows are gone by the last day, so they were one thing I expected not to see.

Sure enough, when we entered the cow barn, it appeared deserted. Most people were simply turning around and leaving, concluding there was nothing to see. But deep inside the darkness of the virtually abandoned, cavernous building, we came across a yearling calf, tethered near her mother. There were kids petting her as we approached, and I hung back, thinking perhaps they'd raised and were caring for these cows. But then they bounded off, to be replaced by other children with outstretched hands, and it soon became apparent these cows were appreciative of the attention of strangers.

So we stepped up and joined the fun, treating the calf like a big dog, letting her smell our hands and stroking her fur. Stop for a minute, and she'd butt her head into your hand, demanding more love. The goats were the same way, sweet and friendly, clambering for attention. This is the aspect of the fair I cherish most: the chance for close encounters with animals most of us live apart from. As a child in the country, we had goats and chickens and a sheep, but I live in the city now, far removed from such creatures. It's not just nostalgia on my part, however. The joy I feel is played out on faces all around, large and small. It's biophilia in action, love of life.


Erin said...

I love this picture!

I am so jealous of the petting. I'm never sure if that's allowed, and there are always so many people around just waiting to yell at me (I'm convinced) that I rarely do much petting. Except if I'm lucky and the baby cows are close enough to pet, which they were not this year.

Yay cows!

Sara said...

I agree about the nervousness about the petting, you never really want to intrude on someones private cow. We finally discerned that the likeliest candidates for ownership of these particular cows were some young men lurking on nearby hay bales, eating fair food and sneaking cigarettes.

I think if you are smoking cigarettes, while sitting on hay bales (flammable anyone?) inside a building where smoking is clearing not permitted, you lose some moral authority. And lots of other people seemed to be getting away with it, so I deemed the risk/reward ratio to be favorable.

What about the goats? You must have petted them... they beg for it. Goats might even be more charismatic than the cows, if that's possible. I am enamored with the idea of installing one in the backyard, but frankly, I don't think the city would care for it.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I love the picture and the pettings and am sad that I missed this this year--but I sure did not miss the wrecthed crowds! AK!