Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fairest of the Fairs

It’s fair season, that magical time of year of blue-ribbon canned vegetables, barnyard animals, rides galore and sugar-heavy elephant ears fresh out of the fryer. Of course the mack daddy of this variety is the Puyallup Fair, the biggest, craziest spectacle for miles around. I personally prefer one that’s slightly smaller and feels a bit more like it has a sense of place, and on this side of the state that’s the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe.

Maybe it’s because I grew up going to the Spokane County Interstate Fair, but I’m a complete sucker for all of the traditional fair stuff. I love going through the rooms and rooms of all kinds of things vying for blue ribbons: sewing projects, vegetable creations in the shapes of animals, canned fruits galore, floral arrangements and baked goods. The live, non-vegetable animals are always a favorite, particularly when they’ve been raised under the auspices of 4-H or Future Farmers of America. And who doesn’t love pygmy goats? I was never a big fan of the rides -- something about being turned upside down and flung around that never really appealed to me -- but fair food is a definite yes. Elephant ears, deep fried Snickers bars and Fisher’s Famous Scones all figure prominently in the fair experience for me.

Today, though, I got to enjoy a fair of a very different kind, Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair. It is a single day event, unlike those mentioned above, and given Seattle Tilth’s commitment to “support local food systems in order to cultivate a healthy urban environment and community,” it has a distinctly crunchy/city feel. The chance to meet urban livestock, stock up on compost, get ideas from PCC chefs and buy extra produce to donate to the Solid Ground meal programs all show that it isn’t a fair of the Puyallup variety.

In addition to educational programs like Demystifying Organic Fertilizers, Lawns to Lettuce and Harvest the Rain with a Cistern, there were a bunch of activities, including a station where you could craft your very own herb crown.

No fair worth its salt would lack entertainment, and the Harvest Fair was no different. On the stage while we were there was a duo in grass skirts, clearly a big hit with the kids, singing a very educational song about worms at the ladybug picnic.

We couldn’t leave without a stroll through the farmers market section of the fair, the bounty of late summer/early fall fruits and vegetables on full display. Check out this stunning array of peppers!

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