Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Field Days sorely missed this year

It’s the first week of August — time to get ready for Field Days! Oh right, there is no Field Days this year, but the first week of August will always trigger that “get ready” attitude for me. In normal times it feels like most of Addison County is getting ready in the first week of August.
Kids who will be showing their calves are doubling down on their showmanship skills. Farmers are searching their fields for the best hay, the tallest corn. 4-H Clubs are painting signs and equipment boxes, preparing their displays. Young equestrians practice their moves. You will find vegetable gardeners giving special love to their most promising-looking peppers and sweet corn. Flower gardeners are shooing bugs away from blossoms, planning spectacular or diminutive or theme-based arrangements. Bakers perfect their recipes; food preservers finish this year’s batches of tomatoes, peaches and jam. Local businesses arrange their finest equipment for display and perfect their sales pitches. Demo Derby entries finish those paint jobs. Do they also modify their engines? Do tractor pullers or horse pullers practice pulling? I don’t know.
And of course I can’t forget: kids are saving their allowances — maybe even doing some extra chores — to buy crazy feather earrings and engraved horse necklaces, rainbow ice and maple cotton candy, and tickets to the rides.
I love Addison County Fair and Field Days, and its absence leaves a big sad hole in my summer.
The Home and Garden building holds special interest for me, with its displays of handicrafts, kitchen crafts and garden products. Entries here are judged and awarded ribbons from white (Needs Improvement) to red (Coming Along) to blue (Nice Job) to Grand Rosette (WOW).
The Ultimate Grand Prize for adult entries is the big shiny silver Leona Thompson Bowl, awarded to the Homemaker of the Year, the participant who earns the most and best awards for all foods and handicrafts. Competitive Homemaking — did you even know that was a thing?
For a few years in my early adulthood, winning the Leona Thompson Bowl was my goal. I will admit I was egged on by my brother Mark, who promised if I won it, he would win it the next year. “OK, Bro, you’re on!” I began planning my entries a year in advance. I knit a pair of mittens with an incredibly complicated pattern for my grandmother. I knit sweaters for my brothers. I sewed dresses for my daughters. I baked cookies and canned tomatoes and made dilly beans and jam. The culmination of my efforts was my signature bread: all-organic whole grain wheat germ goatmeal bread made with our own goat’s milk. One loaf could probably sustain a person lost in the wilderness for a whole month. Or serve as a brick to hold your door open. My original-recipe bread got a white ribbon (Needs Improvement), and that destroyed my chance to have my name engraved for perpetuity, along with the past and future Homemakers of the Year, on the big shiny silver Leona Thompson Bowl. Instead I got a consolation prize Grand Rosette on my ginger-molasses cookies and a $20 gift certificate to Agway.
That was the end of my quest for the Leona Thompson Bowl, but not the end of my enthusiasm for what goes on in that dark green building at the edge of the New Haven fairgrounds.
One reason I love the Home and Garden Department at Field Days is that everyone can participate. Yes, everyone. A seven-year-old, a seventeen-year-old or a seventy-year-old can present the cucumber she grew and the flower arrangement she made, the photograph she took and the drawing she created. Each item will be respectfully received and displayed, will earn a ribbon. Friends and family can come see and admire it all. What a feeling of accomplishment. She helped make Field Days more special.
On the other end of the spectrum, the accomplished builder, quilter, baker, gardener, artist and needle worker has a place to show his or her skills. It is truly amazing what some people can do, and the Home and Garden building at Field Days is where you can see your neighbors’ labors of love on display.
In this spring and summer of isolation, maybe you, too, have realized how important simple connections are: ordinary conversations, projects undertaken together, neighborhood gatherings. Field Days is one great big neighborhood gathering, five days every summer when we get the opportunity to appreciate and celebrate our precious community. Have you taken up bread baking or gardening or sewing with quarantine time on your hands? You can start thinking now about what you could enter in Field Days next year. A complete catalog of the possibilities is at addisoncountyfielddays.com. Next year’s Field Days will be better than ever, especially when you participate in making it so.
Abi Sessions, formerly of Cornwall, lives in Weybridge with her husband, Bill. 

Share this story:

More News
Op/Ed

Guest editorial: Legislature’s nonsensical education reform plans should be dropped

The impending 17 percent increase in property taxes has our elected leaders on the politic … (read more)

Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Let’s connect the dots for peace

It has now been more than six months since the Hamas attack of October 7, and about six mo … (read more)

Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: Aspiring house hen expands her range

I knew our hen Monique was different from other birds. But if you had told me when we got … (read more)

Share this story: