SO: The Union Fair. The fair has been held in Union annually since 1869, and started as an agricultural and livestock centered event. Every year when my cousins and I were little, we and our fathers would pile into my uncle's wood-paneled station wagon and trundle the twenty minutes inland to Union, windows down, "oldies" blaring from the tinny speakers. We purchased tickets for rides and spent hours going on the ferris wheel and the mini-dragon roller coaster, getting lost in the house of mirrors (where I shed many tears), screaming through the haunted house ride, and clambering through the house of fun. We got sick on cotton candy, sno-cones, and hot dogs, and spent far too much money playing games involving popping balloons, shooting targets, and smashing pop-up gophers. Some of my most vivid memories of being little come from the fair, such as watching tractor-pulls and demolition derbies, eating blueberry pies, and returning one year to find that I was finally tall enough for the bumper cars.
While most of my memories revolve around the amusement park aspect, the Union Fair has a rich agricultural history. The fair gives awards to the best vegetables ranging from zucchini to coriander, and hosts vendors of wooden-crafts and knitwear, as well as devoting an entire field to barns where farmers can exhibit their prize farm animals.
Ben and I went this year with a full backpack: my Nikon d80, Ben's flipHD video camera, sandwiches, a notebook, and plenty of nostalgia. We parked and out of excitement I thanked a woman who had done nothing for us. We arrived earlier than most people, so the fair looked like a ghost-land: empty and creepy beyond belief. Here are a few eerie shots:
Ben in front of a ride called "A Bear Affair."
Our first stop was a game vendor, where I popped two balloons with darts and won a lime green flourescent horse, which I named Gladys after the woman who manned the dart station. She kindly obliged when I asked if I could take her picture. Here she is with her namesake:
And Gladys the horse proceeded to ride around in the side-pocket of my backpack for the rest of the day:
After we won Gladys, Ben and I went to check out the animals because the rides didn't open up until one. So off we trotted to the vendor's stalls and the barns. We saw belted galloways cows, chickens, roosters, turkeys, alpacas...and all of them prize winning. There was a majestic turkey and a fuzzy alpaca I particularly liked:
We then met the star of the Union Fair, Ray. Ray makes fudge and candy and wears a hat that says "Ray's Candyland." When I asked if I could take his picture, he said "last time someone asked to take my picture I ended up in a book! Do you know Joyce Tenneson?" Yes, in fact, I do, I told him, and I was going to her house for dinner that very night! She put him in her book Amazing Men. Ben has footage of Ray telling us about how he "died" when he was in first grade after getting hit by an oil truck and dragged along the road 300 yards. I hope to post that footage soon because it was pretty amazing. So here's Ray:
Of course we had no choice but to go on the rides once they opened. Rather, I should say ride singular, because the only one we weren't completely terrified of was the ferris wheel. Here is the ride we wouldn't be caught dead on:
And here is our safer alternative:
And the Amazing view from the top:
Our Union Fair excursion ended with a Maine Wine Tasting. We sat near the wine tasting tent and watched carriage races. I wanted to bet on the horses but that was after my fifth taste of wine and Ben had to good sense not to let me....
It was such a strange day, because mixed in with all the childhood memories of how I remembered the fair was the reality-- people selling confederate flags, signs and booths all over the place for the tea-party candidate running for governor in Maine, and now that I'm older I saw the true grunge of the rides and games. However, I also saw farmers proud of their harvests, I saw families thrilled to be at the fair, and I had a wonderful time taking pictures of the proud people who worked there. I'll put up more portraits in a post in a little while, because I think you readers are probably ready for this to end.
Despite the strangeness, I think the Union Fair was one of my favorite days of the whole summer. Ben and I were so open to adventures and to anything that presented itself, which made every moment surprising and so much fun.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my weekend.
we are glad to be part of a land
that remains so beautiful under its green skin
of woods and open fields, that is glitteringly
bordered by thousands of miles
of breaking waves, and that is lovely,
too, with an unbroken tradition
of concerns, with the kind, enduring grace
of its neighborliness."