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A Day in Topsfield: City Girl Meets County Fair

When I accepted admission to HBS, I challenged myself to try new things during my two years in Boston. I have always had an interest in journalism so the first of these things was writing for the Harbus. The second thing that I tried was definitely not planned but it turned out to be a fun-filled and relaxing occasion. Let’s just say it was nothing short of humorous when this city girl met the county fair.

On Saturday, October 1, 2005, I, the inner-city girl from Philadelphia, spent the day with a group of sectionmates in a town called Topsfield. Topsfield is located approximately 30 miles north of Boston in Northeast Massachusetts. About 13 square miles in size, this rural town has a little over 6,000 residents and is home to the annual Topsfield Fair. The fair is what brought my group to this cozy little community for a Saturday full of fun.

I didn’t know what to think as I approached the one main road to the Topsfield Fair. I was accompanied by NB classmates and a section spouse. It turns out that three of the five of us, Dasha, Marissa and I, were fair first-timers, while Section President Libbie (Congrats Libbie!) and Chris were more-so fair aficionados.

Libbie did an excellent job getting the group psyched about “going to pet animals” which is what my basic expectation of a fair entailed. I must admit as an on-campus resident, I jumped at the opportunity to get away from HBS for a day. The food was a huge seller for me as well.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous, sunny and about 75 degrees. The parking lot was packed, which was my first indication that the fair is a huge deal for many. With shades and comfortable clothing on, we approached the long line at the fair entrance. Before reaching the gate, the “first-timers” of the group were amazed by the size of pumpkins sitting in the rear of pick-up trucks and on flat beds. We soon learned that the New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off is one of Topsfield’s most popular attractions. The winning pumpkin was over 1000 pounds!

Upon entering the fair grounds, we were immediately engulfed by the aroma of delicious food. I was the person in the group who skipped breakfast and wanted to eat before partaking in any fair activities. It didn’t take much effort to convince the group to join me. However, it did take a great deal of discipline to decide between the hundreds of food options. Aside from the expected barbecue, there were Italian sausages, Thai chicken, Greek salads and kebobs and seafood.

I actually decided early on a lobster roll, which is very simply a sub roll filled with genuine lobster meat. As a group, we had fresh-carved turkey sandwiches with stuffing and cranberry sauce, fried vegetables, french fries smothered with melted cheese, corn-on-the-cob drenched in butter and the biggest and juiciest pickle I have ever seen. Oh and the desserts! We indulged in cotton candy, candy apples, apple crisp with ice cream and fried dough (we call this funnel cake at the Jersey Shore). The biggest quest was finding the perfect lemonade. We decided on a stand where the lemons were freshly squeezed on order. I had two!

After our bellies were stuffed (yes I felt like a glutton) we headed to the Essex County Farmyard to watch the Money Pole event, where audience members attempted to climb and touch the top of a metal pole for a cash prize of $10. Only one participant was successful out of eight. We then checked out the winning pumpkin and visited the home of the rabbits. We were awed by the newborns.

We stayed on schedule (there were so many events we had to map out a plan) and at 3p.m. headed over to Robinson’s Racing Pigs, where one of the winning pigs, Brittany Spareribs, out ran and swam her opponents to get an Oreo cookie. Crowd participation was encouraged at each event which really made the race and other fun festivities.

October 17, 2005
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