Sunday, September 21, 2008

CommonGround Fair

Yesterday, we went to the Common Ground Fair. The fair is about an hour and 45 minutes away, and everytime I go there, something happens. The first time I went was a field trip in 8th grade, back in 198 whatever it was. 1985 or 1986. It's past my bedtime, and I can't do math. Anyway, we took two school buses, and somewhere north of Augusta on Interstate 95, our bus broke down. Dead as a doornail, on the highway, broke down. The bus driver tries in vain for a good long time to contact the bus garage by radio for another bus, but the short range radio is way out of its range. So the happy bus that was still running proceeded on to the fair, called the bus garage on the phone, and an hour after that another bus showed up to take us to the fair. We spent about 20 minutes at the fair, long enough to find a bathroom and get back on the bus to go back to school. When I told Jupiter this story yesterday, she very astutely announced "That sounds like a boring field trip." She was right. It was. It was very exciting on Monday when my regular bus came to pick us up for school and it reeked of rotting octopus because some enterprising field trip person shoved some in the bus heater on the way back from Unity. It's a long ride home from the fair. Remember this later in the post.

The next time I went to the fair, Jupiter was not quite three years old. We went by ourselves, and it rained. It rained and rained the entire time, until we were walking back through the muddy field to go back to the car. We did learn about apples and saw some animals, and Jupiter's favorite, the Native American drumming and dancing. They were inside a big tent. The Native American drumming was a very popular place. But not being one to enjoy being cold and wet, I didn't enjoy myself very much.

Yesterday, we got in the car a little after 9am. Maybe 9:15. Two minutes later, we stop for gas. We drive north to Augusta. The directions I printed out from the fair website have suggested getting off the interstate in Augusta, taking Route 3 east, then taking some state route back roads to the fair. So I try it. Mostly because I want to drive over the new big bridge over the Kennebec river. Which we do. Then we drive some more, and I try to turn left into a non existent road. This seems to me an odd place to put a left turn arrow. Here you can turn left to...two trucks loaded with firewood. Which I do actually want, but that's another post. I go straight and find the left turn I'm supposed to make and follow that road for a good long while, then ask Elmo, who is in charge of reading the directions to me, where I'm supposed to turn next. We're supposed to be on route 137, and we are, and we drive through a four way intersection that goes by very quickly, then suddenly it appears that we're still on Route 137, but we're amazingly driving West instead of East, even though I have been going straight on the same road the entire time. Then we're in Winslow. Winslow is not on the directions. A little while later I see a sign for Waterville. This is not good. I don't want to be in Waterville. Had I just kept driving north on the Interstate, we would have been in Waterville about 12 minutes after we left Augusta. Well, maybe 18 minutes. Certainly not the 35 minutes it just took us to drive it. Then I got lost in downtown Waterville for awhile, then Jupiter as to go to the bathroom. So do I. So we stop at McDonalds in Waterville. Jupiter wants a hamburger. I can't blame her; I'm hungry too. So much for local, organically grown food for lunch. So I get her a hamburger. Ketchup and pickles, no mustard.
Then we get back on 95 north. Now I tell Elmo to read the directions from Fairfield. He starts embellishing the directions, saying things like "drive over the bridge in Fairfield to nowhere, then past the cow field." He's being a very good sport about the fair trip. His first wish was to go to NYC and see Yankee Stadium for the last time. Instead he's spent all morning in the car being Jupiter's paper ripper, going to a fair that is a "celebration of rural living." Kind of a far cry from the Bronx.

This time, we don't get lost. We sit in the line of traffic waiting to park for a good long time. A very long time. Long enough to make me remember why the last time I came to the fair, I swore I wouldn't come back. We park in a hayfield with 5000 other cars and hike another 1/2 mile to the fair gate. A sign proclaims "Cell phones do not work here. Make other plans." The signs are accurate. Cell phones do not work here.

The Common Ground fair, besides being intensely focused on locally grown and organic foods, seems like an old time fair. There's no midway, no carnival rides, and no cotton candy. I love it. It reminds me of every spring, when I break out my Birkenstocks and wear them to work every day in a minor dress code violation. I love wearing my Birkenstocks. Maybe I'm supposed to be a granola in California. Or even just a farmer. But I love this fair. So does Jupiter.

We go to the childrens area. Jupiter enjoys part of a magic and juggling show, which is saying a lot. She had some specific plans for the fair, and none of them included watching a magic and juggling show. To spend her time on that without worrying that she wasn't going to do all the things she planned too, well, that's nothing short of amazing to me. So we watch Randy juggle and do tricks. He's good, he makes us all laugh. He makes the lady next to me who I don't know talk a lot about how good he is. I've met Randy before, but never seen him perform. The lady next to me is right, he's good. I"m impressed. After the magic show, Jupiter gets her face painted, which was on her list of must do's. She jumps into a big pile of hay. She checks out the other activities in the children's area, but opts to go see the Native American drumming. She has remembered going to this fair from two years ago and wants to see this again. This year, in the beautiful sunny weather, the drums are outside, and we watch for awhile while I eat a veggie quesedilla and Jupiter sips a strawberry smoothie. Then, while Elmo goes off to explore and find his own lunch, we go see animals. We see chickens, rabbits, cows and horses. Jupiter pats a baby donkey. Elmo comes back. He loves this fair. We see some oxen
pulling. We find a woman who is willing to let small children hold her baby angora rabbits. Jupiter loves this.
She uses very gentle hands with the bunny. Sometimes Jupiter struggles with gentle hands. the rabbit woman is very friendly and invites us back tomorrow to hold bunnies. Then we head back to the children's area. Jupiter pounds nails into a log with a hammer. She makes a hay bear. Actually I make a hay bear. It is not artistic. She does some clay art. She jumps into the hay pile some more. All of this stuff is so simple, and the kids LOVE it. And it's all free. Kids don't even pay admission for this fair. And all the activites are free. Then, as Jupiter is exploring the woods and lean to shelters, she needs to take a break, while vehemently denying her need to pee. If she's into something, the pee could be running down her leg and she would deny her need to pee. A brief battle ensues. Elmo promises she can come back to the woods. So we go pee, determining that portapotties are gross, and that little thing on the side is because boys can pee standing up. I can't imagine what people in the neighboring portapotties think of this conversation.
While we're actually paying attention to what our body wants, I make Jupiter eat something. It's been a long time since the hamburger. She eats a slice of pizza. She runs around the giant sundial, and I"m relaxed enough at this fair to let her get more than five feet away from me and run around the giant sundial. Then we must go back to the woods and the fairy houses. We stay in the kids area until 5pm when it closes, jumping in the hay a few more times. Jupiter wants maple ice cream (something else she remembers from two years ago) but the line is huge. Elmo takes her to the fire truck test your strength while I run through the farmers market. Jupiter is done with farmers markets. No ducks pond, no farmers market. I buy two heads of russian garlic to winter plant in my garden, and contemplate some blueberries, and ignore the headache that wants to take over my life. When I find Elmo and Jupiter, they have ice cream, but didn't get any for me, so while they eat their ice cream I go stand in the ice cream line, just in time to see them erase maple from the flavor list. Rats. I get mint instead. Maple would have been better. But Jupiter is quite willing to eat it for me when I get back, and we have to physically drag her out of the fair, which is closing anyway. But she had such a good time, and totally doesn't want to leave. I'm glad she did, and want to come back again.
More traffic. Lots of traffic. All the way back to Fairfield. In Fairfield my headache is so bad I am convinced that I will either die or throw up all over the car. Possibly both. I surrender the drivers seat to Elmo. Jupiter sits in the back seat, bangs her head against the back seat repetitively, and chants. She's tired. This is what she does when she's tired. Or stressed. I can live with the head banging, but beg her not to chant. I swear that I am never going to the CommonGround fair again. Finally she falls asleep somewhere south of Augusta. I tell myself it's only 70 more miles, but mercifully, I fall alseep too until we get back to Gray. We get home and Jupiter and I both go to bed.
This morning, Jupiter's face is red. As I recall, her face paint butterfly was not red, but purple. Turns out she wanted to be a swan and colored her face with red marker on the way home while my head was exploding. I don't panic, because I thought it was a washable marker. Nope. Not so washable. But God bless the people at church, all of them tell her how pretty (or stylish, if they've been prepped by me beforehand) she is in her fushia dress, purple and blue shirt, and purple and white tights, and fake pearls. No one mentions the red marker face.
Will we go to the fair next year? Too early to say. Maybe..

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