What comes to mind when you think of a county fair? Do you have childhood memories of rides and cotton candy? Or perhaps of working hard all summer on something you want to submit for a competition? Perhaps you’ve never been to one, but you’ve wanted to check it out someday? Let me take you with me to the Queens County Fair held every September in the picturesque village of Gagetown, New Brunswick.
This year, 2019, marks 74 years of this event, and it is exactly what I am looking for in a county fair. It is not an impersonal city event, too large to fully enjoy, but rather something that welcomes your family into their home, have a slice of pie, take a look at how the garden is growing, and chat with their neighbour. Local 4H clubs submit their projects, gardeners bring in their best pumpkin, or a grandmother that spent summer afternoons showing a child how to stitch will now sit back with pride to see a ribbon beside the fruit of their efforts. There are barns and stalls with animals of all sizes that are fun to look at for both the children and the adults. There are horse competitions – barrel racing, draft horse pulls, costume class, etc. If you are looking for the required fair food with cotton candy, popcorn, mini doughnuts, fries, and ice cream – you will not be disappointed, and there was plenty of other food and hand-crafted items provided by local groups and clubs looking to do some fundraising. Of course, no county fair is complete without a midway – there were a selection of rides and games for all ages and stomachs: from gentle, all the way to I-shouldn’t-have-ate-those-fries-before-this-ride. Live music wafted in the air along with children’s shouts of delight, horses neighing, and the scents of sweets and deep-fried foods.
Sadly, these county fairs seem to be something that is dying out across North America. I think it is a great way to teach children history and to continue skills of the past, to realize there is more to life and your community than the small part that you take part in, and that hard work and fun go hand in hand.
We decided to take advantage of this outing to also visit the Boyce Farmer’s Market in the nearby city of Fredericton. There were many delightful scents and sights here as well. The market was bustling with the typical local crowd, as well as visitors in for the annual Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival that is taking place in Fredericton this week.
I found a particularly exciting stall at the market – a dairy-free/gluten-free/vegan cheezes and dips company, Scottage Cheeze. They had samples of their dips – the dill pickle was my favourite! – and I left with new products to try and the happiness of finding another resource for dairy-free items which I am always on the lookout for. The owner, Margaret Scott, was lovely to talk with and I spent several minutes chatting with her. She sells to several restaurants and shops in the Fredericton area, as well as a few more in the broader southern New Brunswick region. She has some of her places listed out on her Facebook site. One of the products I bought was a spicy pepper jack cheeze which I tried this morning with my breakfast. It is just a step above a soft cheese in texture, and had the perfect amount of spiciness and a nice cheese taste. I also bought the dill pickle dip because it was too good to leave behind. It is a similar texture to a spreadable cream cheese and had small bits of dill pickle for flavour. I spread it onto toast and was in heaven.
As these days grow cooler, marking the end of growing seasons and the beginning of bountiful harvests, why not check your local listings for a nearby county fair or farmer’s market and partake of some of the wonderful things your surrounding communities have to offer.