The Cummington Fair

This is the season for hill town fairs. Little towns all over New England have their annual fairs, with ox pulls, tractor shows, vegetable contests, rides and of course funnel cakes and fair food.

Today I went to the Cummington Fair. Cummington is halfway between Northampton and Pittsfield on Route 9. The fairgrounds are about a mile off the main road, past a few old tractors and some rambling farm houses. It was raining steadily, so the turnout wasn't as good as the organizers wanted. You never know in the fair business. With a nice day you can be swamped with crowds, but on a rainy day you can sit there all day and watch the rain fall on an empty lot.

I parked and walked in the gates, passing this cold, wet teenage sentinel . . .

He looks pretty sorry in that shot, but he cheered up quick when I spoke to him.

The first thing I came upon was chainsaw sculpture. Wooden bears have become popular around here in recent years. This fellow is carving one as I watch.

He was sawing away right next to the antique tractor show. Cummington had one of the best collections of vintage tractors I've seen in a while.

Here's an old Farmall, just like the ones they used on the Barstow farm when I moved to Hadley, 43 years ago.

This is a Ford 8N, just like the one my grandfather had back in Georgia.

The champion squash sit on a cart. I always wonder what they do with these when the fair ends. Do they pack them with gunpowder and set them off? Do they roll them down hillsides into passing cars? Or do they eat them? It's hard to imagine eating a hundred-pound squash.

And inside the buildings, you can see the fruit and vegtable winners. I'm always tempted to taste a winner, but then I wonder if they spray them with something nasty just in case people like me come along . . . I left them where they lay . . .

You can tell the real country fairs because the farming is always front and center. There wasn't much of a crowd anywhere today, with the rain, but the busiest aisle was this one, between the animal sheds. There are cattle on the left and sheep and goats on the right

Here they are:

I was there early enough to pass the Pickles Da Clown, headed in to work. You can never tell about these circus clowns. She looks like a jolly female, but with that costume, how do you know? Maybe Pickles is really a grizzled old truck driver, fresh out of state prison, just waiting to catch someone like me in an alley between livestock trailers. I talked to Pickles, just to be sure, and she was legit. But you can never tell. When the carnies come to your town, watch the clowns close.

She passed the big animals, waiting in the rain for the ox and draft pulls later in the day.

One of the farmers brushed his beasts as the drizzle fell

Flowers are still blooming but fall is coming soon.

Most of the carnies were friendly, as you can see. I talked to a few as we watched the rain fall. These guys travel a circuit, going from one fair to another. They live in RVs and trailers that are lined up behind the customer parking.

This one wasn't. Some carnies don't like having their picture taken, because they're on the run from the law, on on the run from child support or something else. Some are just obnoxious.

The rides are always colorful. The equipment is a little run down at this show, but I like it just the same

As you can see, there wasn't a whole lot going on in the midway.

Despite that, and despite the weather, this female in the Polish food booth was amazingly cheery. She's from Lanesboro, a bit farther west in the hills.

This Direct TV guy makes you want to run right out and sign up, doesn't he?

Local kids man the 4H food booth. Every country fair has a 4H booth. I was in 4H myself, back in sixth grade.

Buster drooled goodbye as I headed out . . .


What filter did you use on the shot of the merry-go-round horses...or was it the luck of those wonderful yellowy sodium vapor lights?
Eric said…
Wow, every time I get adjusted to life in Florida, I see one of your posts and am homesick for New England again lol. Some great shots, and helped to revive some happy memories. Do me a favor, and take some pics from the Franklin County Fair in a couple weeks, a little Franklin County in your memories never hurts. Thanks for the memories.
There was no filter at all. These were shot with a Nikon D300 with 17-55 and 80-200 lenses. There were no sodium vapor lights as this was during the day today.
Guess it was just great natural lighting thru the cloud diffusion!!!
Ive been playing with my camera and photoshopping elements lately...if I can find some free time I plan on doing a study of facial and body images and transforming the image with lighting, coloring and photoshopping where you take one area..such as eyes or lips and achieve different looks from the same photo.

The eye image on my facebook profile is part of that work in the begining. Taking my eye, masking the iris, removing color from the rest of the image...but enhancing the iris color before putting it back in the picture.
Thomas Thomas said…
thanks for the pictures John. like I was there myself
Michelle O'Neil said…
Great photos John. I don't know what's with you and Jess, messing with the cl0wns? All I can say is I'm glad they're not after me.
dawn said…
Nice to virtually experience this fair after taking my son to our local county fair today, having forgotten that there's NOTHING happening on the last day. All the animals, giant squash, and 4-Hers had cleared out, leaving the rides ("those are too dangerous for me"), the food vendors ("Can I have a pretzel and a snow cone and cotton candy?") and folks filing in for the evening's demolition derby. So we watched other people ride the rides, ate everything we wanted to, and my son took pictures of his own--mostly of me, of mud puddles, of flowers, and of the windowless wrecks revving up for the derby. I love any fair, though, be it in Ohio or New England or wherever. Thanks for sharing a slice of this one.
Baloney said…
Great pictures!
I didn't realize you guys were already wearing coats and sweatshirts. It's still in the 80s and 90s here in Oklahoma!
Me said…
Beautiful pictures!
pixiemama said…
John -
Your run of commentary on this post slays me. I am sitting sideways, holding my laughter to a minimum so I don't get busted blog-reading at work.

cath c said…
if you want to take a little drive during apple season which is approaching, there is a lovely orchard in harvard/ayer - if i remember correctly nearl the exit/entrance of i-495 at the intersection of 2a and 119 - that has a few vintage tractors out front. my aspie son loved them when he was younger and we went apple picking there every year. used to get photos of the boys on them every year. sorry i can't recall the name of the orchards. they make cider that's sold in the grocery stores locally, though.
cath c said…
aha! a little reseach goes a long way: doe orchards:
jess wilson said…
no, seriously - might want to ask that carny if he's ever done any balloon work
Descartes said…
Being a City Dweller myself, the only Fair I see on a regular basis is the Texas State Fair. Which is, of course, just a large version of your fair. Lots of people wandering around, lots of odd foods, and lots of people trying to sell you something you don't want or need.

Great photos and great commentary.
Barb said…
I am Pickles Da Clown...just to let you know I am not a "carnie" as you put it. I am not part of any fair circuit or any organization. I am a business woman that works hard! My costumes are hand made by me. Just because you think I am some horrible person doesn't give you the right to say it. I am a creative, Christian lady that has been in children's entertainment since I was a teenager. I am only 45 years old. You made me sound like I was a drunken sailor. Shame on you!
dawn said…
Barb (aka, Pickles), in John's defense, I re-read what he wrote and don't think he is really poking fun at you personally or out to make you look bad--in fact, he says talked to you and that you're "legit". A little tongue-in-cheek joking about clowns (there have, after all, been plenty of stories/movies about clowns not nearly so nice as you) seems innocent enough, at least to me. That said, I think John's photo of you is lovely, and photos can capture something of the spirit of the original subject, I think :)
Well, Barb, I see that you interpreted my comments in a negative light and I'm sorry for that. However, if you read what I wrote, I simply speculated on clowns in general and in your case I described you as "legit" after speaking to you.

I'm sorry if that troubles you but the only comment I specifically directed at you was indeed favorable.

And as Dawn said, there have been many instances of illegitimate clowns in the media over the years, so my general opinions - IMO - stand as valid.
Anonymous said…
I found this quite by accident, but it was fun to read! Just wanted to note that I am the owner for the large black ox at the end of your article - and his name is Tiger. Thanks for a fun read!

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