Monday, October 5, 2009

State Fairs Offer a Taste of the Simple Life We Seem to Have Forgotten (as well as of some strange foods....)

By Lauren Yarger
If life seems a bit too hectic and full of technology, high finance and cut-throat competition, take a trip back in time by attending your state fair. I recently enjoyed a day at The Big E, which serves all five New England States, and while I'm sure it can't compare with the champions in the genre like Iowa's State Fair, the setting for Rodgers & Hammerstein's musical State Fair and my long anticipated destination next August, the Big E has a charm of its own.

The fair is held at the exposition grounds near Springfield, MA, where a number of permanent structures, including colonial buildings for each of the New England states and an ice hockey rink, host various exhibits. I helped out in the arts and crafts area, where it was my duty to make sure no one touched or dumped deep-fried Oreos, corn dogs, smoothies, funnel cakes or any of the other staples of fair food on the exquisite quilts and other knitted and crocheted crafts on display.

As onlookers oohed and aahed over the crafts, I thought what a joy it is that we still have someplace where people can enjoy the simple things. The quilts don't play music, show videos, wear seductive adornments or worry about being politically correct. They are the beautiful culmination of many hours of God-given talent applied with love.

For me, the trip down memory lane seemed complete with a stop at the only cooking competition at this fair (next year in Iowa, I won't be able to take in all of the food contests because there are just so many, but I really want to win a blue ribbon for pickles). Where better than a state fair to sit back and enjoy folks of all ages, mother-daughter and father-son cooking teams as they create recipes that include sponsor Hidden Valley Ranch in the name and where a pizza takes the grand prize?

"Let's hear it for Mary and her lasagna," the MC said, leading the applause. And I clapped heartily.

A stroll down the avenue took me to a miniature circus museum, a sculpture of cows grazing made out of 600 pounds of butter (at Iowa, I'll see the life-sized butter cow sculpture), the actual car used in the James Bond flick "The Man with the Golden Gun" and the Shinson Band Organ (pictured above) featuring hundreds of handcrafted pipes including a 22-note Glockenspiel. And truth be told, at one point, I could have gone to my left and paid $1 to see the world's tiniest pony, or to my right and paid $1 to see the world's largest horse. Fun doesn't get simpler than this.

Banners in the state buildings delighted me as well. Connecticut's boasted it was home of the "original chocolate-covered bacon," a claim I hardly think anyone would challenge, and for that matter, are there impostor chocolate-covered bacons pretending to be the original? I've lived in Connecticut for nine years now and have never had this delicacy offered to me. In the Vermont building, a state where we lived for 11 years prior to moving here, a banner told me that "what happens in Vermont stays in Vermont," but that nothing ever happens. I laughed out loud at that one.

In the Rhode Island building I ran into Barbara Lesko, whom I had interviewed when she lived in a lighthouse at Nayatt Point in Barrington, RI where we lived for eight years before moving to Vermont (if we live long enough, we might end up residing in each of the New England states.) She'd written a book about her experience and we chatted and shared how we missed living in Barrington (it's really one of the most beautiful places).

All in all, a pleasant, sweet afternoon. It's good to stop in the middle of the rush and enjoy the small pleasures our states have to offer.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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