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It is free admission night at the Vermont State Fair here in Rutland, our small city set in the valley, in the midst of the beautiful mountains. My husband and I (and piles of families) go every year on this night, because you do not have to pay for rides you don’t use, you get to stay away from weekend crowds, and the music is from Christian bands and singers. I am inviting you to come along.

We park around the corner, and we can enter the gates. You can pick up on the energy of the event even way outside. It is like a surge of expectation. The field beyond the midway is totally packed with parked cars, the yellow and red striped tents are beckoning, the Ferris wheel is marking the corner of the midway, and the giant tractors for the tractor pulls are on the field. In the gate and off we go through the exhibition barns…tradition, you know. You have to admire the walls of entries: photos, and paintings and lovely and amazing quilts, and even the antique circus display. Inside exhibitors call to you to buy their cupcakes, shake their hands, talk to their politicians, see their wares, and get charged up. This is just the beginning!

Why, right outside of all the blue ribbon winners displays is a professional trailer with antique and collectible Indian motor cycles in it…I even thought they were stunning. Don’t touch. Out of the trailer and pow! The blitz to your visual senses begins.

Carney booths, games, hawkers, balloons, tee shirts with everything on them for sale, jewelry, more booths, rides, more booths, and everything is either red or flashy yellow…packed with people on foot, in strollers, climbing out of strollers, in motored wheelchairs…watch your step. Stay close to us or you will get swept away in the tide of visitors, for sure.

Next wave: the nose assault! Vendors with every bad for you but good to taste fair goodie available you can imagine….ohh smell the fries, and the sausage and peppers and the fried dough, and the cotton candy and more fries and cheesy burgers, and all of those smells mixing together right beneath your nose! We all give in and get fried dough, spread with maple sugar, of course. Sprinkle on the powdered sugar and gobble. Toss the empty plate and let us press, I mean press on toward the rest of the fair…through more bodies than you thought could fit, surging with and against the crowds, until – ahhhh- ahead of us, within reach, is the more open spaces of the fair…the animal barns, and the 4H stuff, and the tents, the peppy square dancers to watch, the pig races and relative peace. It is like there are two fairs. Finally you break free, and you get onto the walking paths, choosing to go to the maple syrup building. Why? The famous soft serve maple ice cream you have waited so long for. Good thing you can taste it in your imagination, because the line is really, really long. Worth waiting for. Maple is king in Vermont and you can’t miss this!

Carrying your ice cream, you head for the full sound blitz you know is coming- the stadium where the concert is, right next to the groaning rides, the screams of the riders, the barkers shouting their wares, the babies crying, the hubbub of a thousand voices, and the drums and electric guitars warming up. Just to sit down will be so nice. First, you see people you know and you hug and try to talk above the noise level. Not. Then you find a seat and sit, too tired to think. The music is nice, and you join in, but the system is so amplified you can feel the drum beats in your chest. The not so far away train adds to the sound that are capturing the air. It begins to all sound like BOOM BOOM.

Suddenly, you notice that it is night outside. Every light in the state seems to be blinking, flashing, spinning clockwise, and counter clock wise, in the sky. Zing and blaze, the visual stimuli is catching up with you and all that sugar you ate. It is Full On Fair now, and it is still sweet summer time…for a little while longer. Time to head out ,but that takes a lot of human GPS thinking to get out together. Out the gate finally. Whew, you walk with us, leaving the blaze of fair behind and walk toward the car we parked a couple of short blocks away. We turn the corner to a residential street and we stop. Do you feel it? Do you hear it? The quiet steady song of crickets in the grass. What a gentle Vermont ending to a memorable night. Thank you for coming.

Same time next year?

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