Riverton Fair Weekend
This past October weekend marked the last of the country fairs in our part of the State. Our tiny fair dates way back—and has a rich history. Generations of people from the surrounding area mark this weekend as a highlight to be looked forward to, talked about, and remembered for quite some time. Many bring home treasured blue and red ribbons on their wares, a reminder of the honor of winning, but for me, the participating– we winners and losers entertain the crowds with what we’ve produced (often giving folks the chance to praise our skills, but also to rue the fact that their even better produce would have certainly won had they entered.). (www.rivertonfair.org)
From the distance, especially if you are travelling along the river road, the multicolored lights of the ferris wheel shine gaudily and greet you through the trees. Of course the music honkey-tonks its way across the little valley as do the screams of children on the rides, and gradually the display barns, low and narrow, come into view. The bandstand is new, scene of the pie eating contest, the country western singers, and the place where the winners of the “duck race” are announced to an eagerly waiting crowd. Nearby the barnyard animals moo, crow and bleat. Huge, bulky teams of oxen strain against the heavy weights on the stone boat in the pulling ring, sweaty men and women flicking their orders to the large creatures, shouting encouragement.
Food stands border the midway (truly just a wide tarred path) tempting passers-by with such delicacies as firemen’s booth hot dogs and hamburgs, fried dough with a choice of sprinkled sugar or sauce and cheese, ice cream sundaes, and “the best (turkey) legs in town.” The aroma of “fully loaded” baked potatoes and fried clams permeate the air. My granddaughter made a beeline for the cotton candy, pink and blue and sweet, promising melt in the mouth goodness…and sticky fingers and hair, and maybe even a blue stained nose.
The cold, sometimes rainy weekend found the vendors bundled up, wearing double socks, and heavy hooded sweatshirts and woolen jackets. I pulled out my winter coat, grateful for its warm lining and hood, my red flannel-lined jeans, and my LLBean sturdy socks. I was helping my daughter by sometimes watching my four year old granddaughter Elsa, and sometimes spelling her at the table. Fortunately we were housed inside one of the buildings, a small narrow rough hewn barn, but open on either side and in the middle so that the cold wind whipped through. Anne’s table was one of several dedicated to community service. She was attempting to raise money for the Cemetery Association–hoping for enough donations and raffle ticket sales to fund the coffers–at least get enough to pay for gas for the mower which would trim the grass. Volunteers generally do the mowing, but the Association’s membership has dwindled to four–So keeping up the little old Riverview cemetery with its ancient gravestones and markers and memories of cherished ancestors has become difficult.
But Anne braved the cold frosty morning, carried her poster board and Mason jars for the raffle tickets, big brandy snifter for donations, and sat and waited. A reserved young woman, she smiled, talked to the people who stopped , and didn’t become discouraged. Her sister Becca spelled her too, and the pair became the favorites of the neighboring vendors (who sold decorated bags made of tarp material.) One of the old timers from town, the gentleman dubbed the town historian, came by and regaled them with “cemetery stories.” Once, a gravestone had fallen into the river (that’s how close the rushing water was during high water times–the cemetery actually had been covered by the raging river during the big flood of ’55) and somehow found its way down the river a bit. The old man had worked for a couple of days trying to hoist it up and return it to the cemetery. But by the time he returned with it in his truck, a hearse had drawn up, and a “newcomer” was about to be buried in the wayward gravestone’s plot!
This same elderly man, a carpenter and woodworker skilled with chairs, puts a little American flag on the grave of every soldier in the cemetery each Memorial Day. Seeing as the cemetery dates back to the early eighteen hundreds, and is the resting place for Revolutionary War soldiers as well as soldiers in every war since, that is a bit of a task. But a fine tribute to the men buried there as well as to this faithful patriot.
I met several nice people when I sat at the table. One man told how he grew up in a neighboring village and he had visited the Fair every year since. He left ten dollars and a friendly smile. Another man asked if I knew an elderly townsperson (I did know of him) for whom he had worked forty some years before. He wanted to look him up. I hope he will. It will make the old man’s day. A gratefully received offer came from a woman who said she’d like to come and mow the cemetery sometime herself to help out. And a father and son stopped briefly before the table, read the display board, and moved on. The boy, however, as he passed the table, turned around, reached into his pocket, and dropped a quarter into the donation bowl. We exchanged a smile of understanding.
A lady who came by said to Anne that people who cared for cemeteries were very special people. And they truly are. Remembering those who came before us,…respecting even those who are stranger and perhaps forgottens…and caring so much as to give of themselves. This is my special memory of the Fair this October 2012. I am proud that I have such generous and caring daughters. We packed up late Sunday …smiling and happy…next year would be even better.