Fairgoers find a world of fun at Field Days

Editor’s note: One of the great things about the Addison County Fair and Field Days is there is so dang much to take in —the farm animals, the food and drink, the competitions, the thousands of friends and neighbors wandering around the crowded fairgrounds in the middle of a rural paradise. Here are a few snapshots from the 69th annual fair that we gathered last week.
Hands-on lessons 
   LILLY, 8, LEFT, and Chloe Dolan, 7, play with sand and water at a flood simulation table at the Addison County Fair & Field Days this past Thursday. The table is used by the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program to teach children about floods, erosion and other water-related issues. Independent Photo/Trent Campbell
“The chickens are dead,” yelled one child.
“The farm is still up, though,” yelled another, choosing to take an optimistic view of the situation in the 4-H and Youth Building. Suddenly, a wave of water came rolling through.
“The bridges are down,” shouted a third, sensing defeat. Her instincts were right, the entire town was soon completely flooded.
Luckily, all of this action took place on a flume simulation table last Thursday at the Addison County Fair & Field Days. The table is essentially a big sandbox, where visitors are able to design a miniature town using figurines and then mold sand to build culverts and bridges to prevent their town from flooding. Once their town is constructed, water is pumped through at various levels to see if it would survive a flood.
The table is owned and operated by Lake Champlain Sea Grant, which partnered with University of Vermont Extension to exhibit the table at the fair. Sea Grant is a federally funded program dedicated to educating folks about the management of watersheds and other bodies of water. Their goal is to promote environmental health and sustainability. The table was a hit with children at the fair.
“It’s very tactile so they get very into it, and then they’ll go, ‘Oh my house fell off the road,’” said Kirsten Workman, an agronomy outreach professional at UVM Extension.
The goal of the table, one of several that Sea Grant uses throughout the state, is to educate children about watersheds, flooding, erosion, and other water-related issues.
“We teach the kids proper stream ecology. We teach about erosion and give them a hands-on experience,” said Kat Lewis, a Sea Grant intern charged with operating the table at Field Days.
Lewis used the table to demonstrate to children how culverts work, and how they need to be wide enough so that fish are able to swim through with ease. The tables are often used in schools, where teachers find them to be a far more effective way to teach ecological terms to students.
“Without a hands-on experience it’s hard to understand,” Lewis said. “(The table) is a living textbook.”
   HAWAII NATIVE MASAYUKI Sakamoto is flanked by fellow Middlebury College students Caleb Walcott, left, and Noah Levine as they examine vegetables last week at the Addison County Fair & Field Days.
Courtesy Photo/Meredith Robertson
Hawaii native sees the real Vermont
Before he visited the Addison County Fair & Field Days last week, Masayuki “Masa” Sakamoto had never been within an arm’s reach of a cow.
“They’re huge,” he said with a laugh. “The size of the cow was kind of shocking. I’ve never seen someone actually milking a cow before.”
For the Honolulu, Hawaii native, his visit to the fair last Wednesday marked the first time he was truly exposed to many everyday agricultural practices that are common throughout Addison County. He said there are similar festivals and events in Hawaii, but there are some major differences.
“They were eating pigs here but it was barbeque, whereas in Hawaii it’s a roast pig, which is a classic Hawaiian food,” he said. “In Hawaii it would be a luau as opposed to a barbeque here.”
Sakamoto is also a rising junior at Middlebury College. Though he has lived here for two years as a student, he said this was the first time he was actually immersed and interacting with folks in the broader community. He said college students too often isolate themselves, and that they should do more to support and engage with the community.
“All of these people are providing Midd with milk, meat, and you see the farm maps in dining halls, but you don’t actually see the people, the actual animals,” Sakamoto said. “I thought getting to meet and see the people was very enjoyable and I learned a lot.”
— Will DiGravio
   JON CHRISTIANO, CHAIR of the Addison County Republicans, sits behind his organization’s booth, where he sold “Make America Great Again” hats and “Phil Scott For Governor” t-shirts last week at the Addison County Fair & Field Days. Independent Photo/Will DiGravio
Republican seeks to start conversations
In the 4-H Exhibit Building, guests found a number of vendors looking to make a sale, a connection with a potential client, or spark enough interest in their business that a visitor may make a purchase down the road.
However, one vendor at this year’s fair, Jon Christiano, was mostly there for one thing: to start a conversation.
Christiano is the chair of the Addison County Republicans, who for the second consecutive year set up a table at Field Days to talk with folks about the state of the GOP at a local, state and national level. The organization was also hosting a raffle, and had two items for sale: “Phil Scott For Governor” t-shirts, and “Make America Great Again” hats.
It is somewhat ironic that the campaign gear of Vermont’s current governor and President Donald Trump are being sold at the same table, since the two Republicans have disagreed on a host of issues, most notably the president’s approach to immigration and the environment. The two items represent a Republican Party that is divided and the contrast between what it means to be a Republican in Vermont and in the nation at-large.
In his role as chairman, Christiano emphasized that it is important to support candidates who Republican voters chose in the primary voting process, even if he may prefer one over the other. He cited last year’s gubernatorial race, where several individuals wanted to start fundraising for Scott before the primary was over. Christiano said no, insisting that they wait until the voters had made up their minds.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion,” Christiano said. “I think (Phil Scott) should fall in line behind the president, but that’s just me.”
For Christiano, the important thing is to engage in a meaningful dialogue about the issues and candidates, and respecting the opinions of others, even if they differ from his own.
Last week at the fair, a group of roughly 20 young people angrily approached the booth and confronted him about the “Make America Great Again” hats he had for sale. They asked him about Hillary Clinton and assumed that he would never vote for a woman.
“I think Hillary is dishonest. I don’t have any problem voting for a woman,” he told them. “If you want to find a woman candidate that would be really good, watch what (United Nations Ambassador) Nikki Haley is doing. Just watch her, don’t listen to me, make up your own mind. She’d be a good candidate and I’d vote for her.”
Christiano said he has seen a decline in the civility of political discourse, especially in the wake of last year’s election.
“I don’t think people want to engage,” he said “They walk by and someone will look very disgustedly at the hats instead of engaging in a dialogue, which I would be happy to do.”
— Will DiGravio
   HAND MOWER DANIELLE Rougeau of Orwell works through some tough grass in a competition at the Addison County Fair and Field Days this past Thursday.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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