Thursday, August 10, 2000

Field Days kicks off with kids: From dairy cows to the call of the carnie, fair has it all

Published in the Addison Independent

NEW HAVEN - Over at the Addison County fairgrounds, the chairs and awnings are set up, the lights are on and the merry-go-round is turning. Kids and adults of all ages roamed from the calliope to the Christmas trees, and between the handmade candles and flashing electric lights.

It was the first day of the Addison County Fair and Field Days.

At the booth displaying the machines of Middlebury's Champlain Valley Equipment, things were quiet in the early afternoon.

"Nighttime is better," Matt Deering said. He and his brother Pat and their boss, Jerry Gordon, were waiting for customers to appear for their tractors, barbecue grills and other equipment.

The threesome were in good spirits and enthusiastic about their products, and were looking forward to increased traffic later in the day.

Tom Verner is performing his magician's act for the first time at Field Days. He does two shows
each afternoon. His first show drew a good number of spectators, including a group from Camp Keewaydin.

"It gets bigger as the week goes on," Verner said.

Up on the midway, Mike Greenhalgh's voice rings out.

"Rollaball racin'. Firstclowntotheendwins. It's a rrrraace!"

He is reaching out for potential competitors, without a lot of success, so far.

"It's day one," Greenhalgh said. It's his first time in Vermont, and he's glad to be here.

"Rolling hills. I love 'em," he said.

His computerized game does much of the work for him, but he has to attract the people.

Two 10-year-old girls approached and asked about the game. They looked a bit uncertain, but Greenhalgh is a salesman. He told them what they want to know, showed off the stuffed-toy prizes and suggested they go get a few more friends to race against.

"The more racers the nicer the prize," he said.

The girls left, with a promise to return with a bigger group.

With all the people the Field Days draws, politicians can't be far behind. Even Bernie Sanders showed up to campaign in the evening.

The Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force was collecting signatures for its "marriage resolution."

"Ultimately the idea is equality," said task force statewide coordinator Dorothy Mammen, who is running for a House seat representing Middlebury. She said a lot of people had come by the booth.

Take it to the People was also there. "We're urging people to get out and vote," said booth staffer Jean Smith. The booth had a "petition to repeal civil unions."

"We're not pushing it," Smith said. "But people who do come by usually have a strong opinion."

The Democratic and Republican parties were also there, with candidates, balloons, bumper stickers, buttons and signs.

Several people, including some out-of-staters had come by the Democratic booth, according to Fran Putnam.

"Everybody's excited about the Gore-Lieberman ticket," Putnam said.

Bette Trucott of Barton drove down from the Northeast Kingdom to staff the Take Back Vermont booth, where things were fairly quiet.

"They come in clusters," Trucott said. "The Take Back Vermont sign gets a lot of interest. We're a nonpartisan group."

At the peewee cattle show, Allie Orlando of New York showed Pee-Wee, a calf owned by her cousins, the Weavers of Rochester. She had done this once before, as have most of the other competitors in her group, the kids who will show in 4-H next year.

The judge, Jim Gilmore of the University of Vermont, asked each youngster a few questions about their calves. He also passed along a few tips.

"You oughta give 'em a name," Gilmore said. "You want to walk slow so she looks nice. And keep her head up."

Allie did fairly well and didn't have the mammoth struggle others endured to keep their stubborn calves walking around the ring.

The Addison County Dairy Board's booth was giving away both white and chocolate milk, but only one of those was really moving.

"People love chocolate milk," said Charlie Huizenga. "It's about five to one. They come around here just for the chocolate milk."

At the Home and Garden display, the flowers and vegetables were alongside beautiful baked goods and textiles.

"We have quite a large number of entries," Carol Morrison said. The awards ceremony for the home and garden is 8 p.m. Thursday.

"We have a lot of winners," Morrison said.

Devon Karpak, Ripton's "Balloon Man," was in the 4-H building making complex art forms out of inflated rubber. A few kids could be spotted wearing his creations, though most just had the normal helium-filled balloons tied to their wrists.

Karpak is a self-taught balloon artist whose skills are well-known among his peers.

"Give it to anybody out there that's my age," he said, "and they'll know."

Anthony Mastergeorge of AJ's Catering has been making fried dough at fairs throughout the Northeast for 47 years. This fair, he said, is his favorite.

"It's the most courteous fair of the year," Mastergeorge said. "There's more families that come to this fair. Everybody says 'please' and 'thank you.'"

Mastergeorge, from Connecticut, also appreciates the esthetics of the fair and its surroundings.

"The scenery is beautiful," he said.

But more importantly, he said, it's the right kind of fair.

"They stay with the agriculture," Mastergeorge said. "Once they change that, it just becomes another carnival."