The Good, the Bad and the Tasty

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript October 21, 2013

Well, it’s Fair week here in Tri-Town land. And at Casa Baird we are creatures of habit. We always park in Lot E because there is generally less traffic, and we always begin our visit by getting the worst part over with. So obviously, we start on the Midway.

Something wicked this way comes, indeed. The Midway is my personal parental nightmare with its bright lights and blasting music and carny-game operators relentlessly calling out to us. The rides hypnotize with their spinning and twirling and dropping. The psychedelic blankets and t-shirts with screen printed wolves howling beneath full moons . . . I can hardly breathe.

Our girls love it.

Thankfully they are still young. We do not yet have to release them into that hazy land of independent teenage fair exploration. But they are also too old for the more peaceful, and tempered Kiddie Land. That’s how I found myself swinging in circles ridiculously high above the fair, gazing out upon the foliage, gripping both girls and yelling, “I’m totally going to throw up!”

Did I mention that I’m not great with rides?

My tendency for vertigo, nausea and low-level anxiety oozes off me in waves of motherly stress, and my husband claims his height as a ride non-starter. So the girls rode the rest of their rides sans parent. This included another spinning ride operated by a guy who couldn’t bother to speak with actual words. He performed his ticket taking and, ‘safety checks,’ with grunts and glances from his blood shot eyes.

I was letting my two girls fly in swooping circles locked inside a cage-like device managed by a stoner.

But that’s what the pounding intensity of the Midway does: it wears you down till you’re willing to believe that this won’t be the time that the swings fly off into the swamps of Topsfield, and that the ride operator, who clearly isn’t playing with a full deck of cards, will at least play one more round with you.

Thank goodness once the tickets ran out, the Midway could fade into the recesses of suppressed parental memories, and we could turn our attention to the wholesome, crispy apple, golden fried, old time, farmy side of the fair.
We love the Country Road section with the banjo players and folk singers and apple cider demonstrations and working ion forgery. We are huge fans of the animal and farm barns where we can eat pickles and hold baby chickens. This year, we watched dogs jump off docks, and the honey bees do their honey bee thing. We pet sheep and goats and watched little baby pigs be adorable.

Then suddenly we realized that we were starving.

This is where the fair really finds its stride. Fabulous, greasy, hearty, crazy food. We are fans of the Middleton Congo food stand. Their chili is so packed with meat you could practically build a meat hut out of it. I can’t get enough of it unless . . . unless it’s dessert time.

All that is wrong about the Midway is righted in a small food item that is so delightful, so full of dreamy creamy bliss, that one bite undoes at least one near-death ride experience. I speak of course of the Whoo(pie) Wagon.
You can deep fry Oreos or pickles or Snickers or your winter pajamas for all I care, just give me a whoopie pie. It is pure joy sandwiched between two cakey sides of perfection with the occasional rainbow sprinkles thrown in for good measure.

Stuffed to the gills with magical whoopie powers of good, we were able to fend off the Midway and return to our car. Some years we stay late, other years we burn out early. But we always have fun. Smudging cream filling off her cheek, our six-year-old smiled as we walked out the gates.
“Mommy, I already can’t wait for next year!!”

As creatures of habit, I can assure her we’ll be back.