For the first time in seven years weather at the Heath Fair was just right. Not too hot. Not too cool. Not too breezy. Just right. It seems all the world thought the day was just right, too. I don’t know how many records were broken for number of attendees or business for the various vendors, but I can tell you that when I arrived Sunday afternoon to take my turn at the new Authors Tent, set up by Jack Estes and Betsy Kovacs of Pleasure Boat Studio, I was told there was no room to park. Workers were scurrying to create a new parking area at the far end of the Fairgrounds, but they let me park ‘illegally’ so I could arrive on time to read from my book The Roses at the End of the Road.
The Friends of the Heath Library book sale broke records, for book sales and raffle sales. We have to thank all those who donate books and prizes because they are loyal supporters of the Heath Library who understand how important the children’s programming and book collection is, while also appreciating the necessity for good Internet access. The Friends of the Library support both.
When I saw Mother Earth being dressed in a beflowered and beleafed gown and readied for the Fair Parade I was sure I was seeing another record being made – for the largest puppet ever to appear at the Fair. This twelve and a half foot figure was designed by Larry Sampson, one of our newer Heath residents, whose day job is designing and building sets for movies and whatever dramatic project calls on his skills. The puppet was built by Sampson with the help of the Lyra Johnson and the children’s summer reading program, and dressed by Kara Leistyna, our Town Coordinator, who is also known for her talents as a seamstress. This was the largest dress she has ever made, with the biggest hoop skirt in Fair history.
I am sure all kinds of other records were being set by exhibitors. I know the excitement when a child wins his first blue ribbon for a piece of art, or for her squash. I know the laughter of my daughters who participated in their first skillet toss. No blue ribbons expected or needed for that competition.
The theme of the parade this year was Right to Farm. Now when you enter town on either Route 8A or Avery Brook Road you are greeted by a Right to Farm Community sign. Heath does not have the dairy farms that it once did, but there is a beef farm, blueberry farms, maple farms and bio fuel farms. Sunflowers! Some energetic gardeners are selling their surplus asparagus and eggs and etcetera from a roadside stand. Some have even been known to sell perfect produce to local restaurants. Farming is not done on the scale as in years of yore, but our whole society is now thinking of the value of small local farms and how they can be an important part of our food security.
Ostensibly there is a lot of competition at the Fair, but while competing in the friendliest possible way there are lessons to be learned, rules to be followed, and new opportunities to be discovered.
This year I entered garlic for the first time. Inspired and tutored by Rol Hesselbart, Heath’s garlic king and the man who gave me my first seed garlic two years ago, I searched the Fair premium book for the garlic category. It was not there. All I could do was enter my garlic under Vegetables – Other.
How to do it? All the other vegetable categories explain how to display your veggie – two squash or ten green beans or five onions. Uniformity is always key to winning a prize, and following directions like “stems must be on fruits and vegetables.” Surely that didn’t mean the whole garlic stem which is about two feet long.
With no direction, I finally decided I would clean five of my most uniformly sized dried garlic bulbs, trim the roots, and trim the stems to about two inches. They looked very much like some of the onion exhibits.
When I brought my entries in on Thursday night another garlic entry was already there, but with no direction, this entry was a little bundle of garlic bulbs with long stems. How were these to be compared?
In the end, neither one of us won first prize. That honor went to Doug Mason who made a whole big bouquet of garlic bulbs, with long stems beautifully bound. Well!
The judges do the best they can, but they had no direction either. There was clearly a problem. More people in town are growing garlic and more people may very well want to compete for the blue ribbon next year. The upshot is that by the time the Fair had closed we garlic gardeners learned that not only would there be a separate category for garlic next year, there will also be a special Hesselbart prize. Does that mean a blue ribbon might carry more than a $3 premium? We can only wait and see. ###
Between the Rows – August 25-2012
We try to make the Heath Fair as environmentally sound as possible.