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Around the Bend: Summer fair glory proves elusive

Once again Addison County Fair and Field Days is here and once again I did not win the Leona Thompson Bowl.
The Leona Thompson Bowl is, as everyone knows, the holy grail of Field Days awards, bestowed each year to an individual who proves herself to be an all-around ringer in pretty much every craft and foods category at the fair.
You’ll recognize the reigning champion if you see her, as she’ll be gliding gracefully through the Home and Garden Building in ermine robes and a tiara, clutching her bowl and smiling benignly down on the mere mortals who hold only a ribbon or two for their lesser efforts.
Last year’s winner wowed the judges with 100 or so entries, including everything from strawberry jam and banana bread to a king-size quilt made from 42,000 1/2-inch blocks and an accurate scale replica of the new Champlain Bridge constructed entirely of mini-marshmallows. I didn’t stand a chance against her.
Then again, I never actually entered anything, so I can’t be surprised at going home empty-handed.
Here’s the deal: I’m pretty much a failure at Field Days. If there were an anti-Leona Thompson Bowl given to the least successful Field Days attendee, I’d be lugging it around the fairgrounds every year.
Blame it on my flatlander heritage; my family didn’t do fairs. When I was little my parents took their yearly anniversary vacation during our county fair in September (hardly a coincidence, given they were married in December).
So even after more than two decades of attending Field Days, I’ve never developed the passion that grips most Addison County residents. My failures are egregious. To wit:
1. In my mind, “going to the fair” is an annual one-evening event. Vermonters, however, insist it means going all day, every day — or even, if they have animals to show, bringing a camper and staying the whole week.
2. Despite my burning desire to take home the Leona Thompson Bowl, I have never entered a single item in any competition. 
3. I have never watched an entire heat of the demolition derby (this admission alone is enough to make frequent fairgoers hurl deep-fried Snickers bars at me). I just find the premise of the derby so, well, hostile. Keep in mind, I also feel that bumper cars would be a lot more fun if everyone drove less aggressively and traveled in the same direction.
4. The only thing less enjoyable to me than spending three hours supervising cotton-candy-fueled children on carnival rides would be going on those rides myself. (I have to take a Dramamine just to walk past the Scrambler without getting sick.) Those days are behind me now, but I’ll never forget the fierce competition among parents for a spot on the only park bench on the midway, or the amplified hard rock, sirens and headache-inducing strobe lights of the Matterhorn, a torture device no doubt invented by teenage boys.
5. And, finally, I didn’t discover maple creemees until 2010. I don’t know how I managed to walk blindly past the Maple Sugar Building all those years, but anyone who heard me delighting in that first creemee last year would have known immediately that it was a new and unexpected pleasure. I embarrassed my family but I make no apologies.
All right, so I’m no good at Field Days. But I just know if I applied myself I could do better. I’ll probably never come to the fair more than one night a year, and I doubt I’ll ever jockey for a front-row seat at the demolition derby. But baked goods and handcrafts are right up my alley.
So here’s the plan: Next year I’m going to submit my best coffee cake. The year after that I’ll enter a batch of cookies, a flower arrangement and some knitting. And that will lay the groundwork for 2014, in which I will make a play for the coveted Leona Thompson Bowl.
Going from Field Days failure to queen of the Home and Garden Building in just three years sounds pretty far out of reach. But think of it this way: If I managed to go to Field Days 24 years in a row before tasting my first maple creemee, anything is possible.

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