Learning Ahead: Agricultural Fairs

Local Traditions & Cultures: Agricultural Fairs

As summer winds down and signs of autumn appear, annual agricultural fairs throughout Western Massachusetts mark the season with celebrations of local culture through the lens of farming traditions. Beginning as early as August, these annual fairs honor the unique character of towns throughout our region, fostering community pride, and strengthening intergenerational relationships through a shared interest and experience. With a stroll through exhibition halls on the fairgrounds and experiencing both traditional skills, crafts, and customs, visitors can support their interests through various learning opportunities while cultivating relationships and strengthening a deeper sense of place.

With many exhibition categories reserved specifically for youngsters, exhibition halls offer families the opportunity to share their own work, projects, and produce with others – and the opportunity to share the active role that they have in preserving local culture. See our post, Youth Participation at Agricultural Fairs Learning about History, Agriculture, Science & More.

Agricultural fairs help to preserve our local history by showcasing the skills, crafts and home-grown produce unique to rural life that have been cherished and passed on for generations. Through participation in these rich traditions we support the preservation of culture, local history, and a connection to place.   The agricultural fair’s long-standing presence in New England history reminds people of the importance in gathering to celebrate and share, even during difficult times, in order to foster a sense of community and collaborative spirit.  Many fairs are over 150 years old and have even taken place during some of our country’s most difficult economic periods and war time.  These generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities afford families opportunities to participate in intergenerational community-based traditions while offering a myriad of entertainment and skill-sharing experiences inspired by a shared interest in traditional crafts, history, land, and art.

These annual community-based events give learners great insight to the past through current day traditions. Take the time to learn about the long and rich history of our agricultural fairs and you’ll have a renewed way of viewing the many traditions found at each fair. Historical society museums are at some fairgrounds, open during the fair for families to view primary source artifacts and antique equipment displays. Come curious and bring your questions!

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History, Culture & Community Can All Be Found at Western MA Agricultural Fairs

Agricultural Fairs Celebrate and Preserve Local Culture

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Agricultural fairs, primarily established by agricultural societies for the purpose of agriculture promotion, science and education, celebrate New England history and local culture in communities all over western Massachusetts throughout late summer and early fall.  These generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities afford families opportunities to participate in intergenerational community-based traditions while offering a myriad of entertainment and learning experiences through the lens of culture and food.  Read the rest of this entry »

Local Agricultural Fairs Showcase Rich Local Heritage

Multidisciplinary Learning Opportunities for Children

It’s almost agricultural fair time!

Much more than a midway and a ticket-per-ride miniature amusement park, Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs honor the generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities. A tradition for many generations, agricultural fairs showcase the unique skills and talents specific to rural life in western Massachusetts – and in doing so, fairs offer families the opportunity to not only celebrate local culture, but to actively participate in preserving it. The exhibition halls at agricultural fairs are always filled with locally grown fruits and vegetables, homemade and home-preserved canned goods, handmade quilts and clothing, and beautiful photographs, paintings, and crafts created by local artists. With many exhibition categories reserved specifically for youngsters, exhibition halls offer families the opportunity to share their own work, projects, and produce with others – and the opportunity to share the active role that they have in preserving local culture.

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200th Anniversary of the American Agricultural Fair in the Berkshires

200th Anniversary of the Modern American Fair
& Founding of the Berkshire Agricultural Society

The “father of U.S Agricultural fairs,” Elkanah Watson, exhibited his two Merino sheep beneath an Elm tree in the public square in Pittsfield in the fall of 1807, drew an admiring crowd and sowed the seeds for the development of the modern American Fair. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The first ever agricultural fair in the US took place in Pittsfield’s Park Square!  On Friday, Nov. 4th, there will be a bicentennial celebration of the fair, complete with demonstrations, historical reenactments, animals, and exhibits- all to teach visitors about the history behind the modern American fair.  Fairs play an important role in our culture (especially rural culture)- they are celebrations of all things local and provide spaces in which to showcase farming, gardening, crafting, etc.  The bicentennial fair, which is also part of Pittsfield 250th birthday celebrations, will begin at 4pm and is sponsored by the Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Association.  For more information, call 413-205-5019.

Suggested Events 08/29/09-09/04/09

Click on image to see schedule.

Click on image to see schedule.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

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If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, location, age appropriateness and costs before attending

CUMMINGTON FAIR, AUGUST 27TH-30TH

The way I see it, there is only one thing happening this weekend, and that’s the 141st Annual Cummington Fair.  The Biggest and Best Little Fair in the Country!

A friend recently emailed me to see if I know about discount coupons for the fair.  I don’t (do you?).  But I did share with her our stratagies in years past to save a few pennies.  I’ll share them with you here, but I’m no expert on the Cummington Fair.  Just been going with my family and friends for the past six years.

First I should share that kids under 10 get in free and their adult companions only pay $8. Kids ages 10-16 are $4. There is also the option of buying a 3-Day pass (save $4 per adult) or a 4-Day pass (save $7 per adult). You also have to pay for parking, anywhere between $3-$5 per car.  So carpool if you can to save a few extra dollars.

The fair starts Thursday night and you can buy a $10 wrist band for the kids to ride the midway unlimited all night long (or until they’re too dizzy to stand).  It’s also Truck Night, which has always been a little too loud for us with a young child, so we’ve always tried to skip this night.  But I imagine if we had one of those kids that yelled and pointed, “Tuck!” every time one passed by, this would be an excellent night to go!

Half price tickets for rides on the Midway are sold on Friday night. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Friday is Demolition Derby Night. Crazy as it sounds, I know several dads that love to take their sons to this one, but I’m certain there are moms and girls that would enjoy it too.  What you need to know is that on Friday night you can buy discounted tickets for the rides, which in years past meant 1/2 priced tickets for the rides on the midway. This is where our penny saving strategy comes in.  We give friends who go on Friday night money to buy us a ream of tickets.  The secret … you can use these tickets all weekend long! Hopefully the same is true for this year.

Saturday is Old Fashion Fair Day.  Families can come early and stroll around in the morning looking at the antique tractors, watch the 4H kids proudly share their animals, visit the petting barn, and check out the craft barn.   After 11am the shows begin.  This year Pickles da Clown,  Youth Gymkhana Horse Show, Tommy James Magic Show, Rosaire’s Bears, Tommy Vee Hypnotist and Lucky Bob will be giving shows all weekend long.  As well as the Draft Oxen Pulls and the Ox Teamster Challenge.

The community Roast Beef Dinner’s first seating happens around lunch time and then again as an early dinner.  There are also loads of food vendors selling food.  In the afternoon hours, in between shows and performances, families can check out the exhibitor hall and see all the glorious produce local gardeners have grown and crafts artisans have made.  After the dinner hour families can listen to the Cottonwood Band or square dance with the Country Friendship Band.  Then in the evening, new this year, there will be FIREWORKS!

Red Bucket Sugar Shack sells maple syrup cotton candy at the Cummington Fair. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The bonus on Saturdays for us is we can let our kid and her friends ride the midway twice as much because we purchased our tickets for half the cost on Friday night.  We do end up shelling out extra money for games and simulated rock climbing. To save a little more money we often times pack sandwiches, fruit and water to hold us over … but who can resists Red Bucket’s Maple Syrup Cotton Candy (hope my dentist isn’t reading this!)?

Sundays are great days too!  It’s Senior Day, an excellent opportunity for grandparents to take their grandkids! The Lumerjack Championship happens in the morning, and later in the day is the Draft Horse Competition, Skid Steer Rodeo and the community turkey dinner.  New this year is the Firemen’s Muster at 1pm.  And Fireworks happen again in the evening!

The Cummington Fair is held every year at the Cummington Fairgrounds (97 Fairgrounds Road, Cummington, MA).  It’s located one mile off of Route 9 from the center of Cummington, or 5 miles off of Route 143 from the center of West Chesterfield.  Click here for Fair Schedule.

AGRICULTURAL FAIR LESSON PLANS

I’ve linked to several state fair lesson plans below for all our homeschooling and afterschooling families:

BULLETIN BOARD

  • Did you get a chance to take our poll?  As our 1,001 post we’ve posted a poll to help HF better serve our readers.  Please take a moment to answer a questions.  Pretty please with a cherry on top! Click here to go on.
  • Suggest an Afterschool or Homeschool Class Bulletin Board: Families are invited to post homeschool & afterschool classes they would like to recommend to other families. Please feel encourage to post your recommendations in the comment box on this page, and let other families looking for classes know about this community resource. If you instruct a class and would like to spread the word via Hilltown Families, contact us about becoming a local sponsor. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.
  • Kyra Anderson of Northampton, MA writes: I’m trying to put together a game club for kids in the 8-10 age range, either after-school or during the school day (for homeschoolers, like us) who love all games, especially especially Magic, The Gathering and D&D.  My vision for this class is that it would be free and meet weekly at our house here in Noho (time and day flexible).  Any interested parties, please feel free to email me kyra@davidmilgrim. or call 413 341-3689.
  • Brent Williams writes: Great coverage of Ann Cooper’s Lunch lesson. Whole Foods Market and Chef Ann Cooper, have just joined forces to transform lunch in schools across the country with the “School Lunch Revolution” campaign. This national effort, aims to enable schools to improve the way children eat. The free, first-of-its-kind Lunch Box Web site – thelunchbox.org – will provide the necessary resources for food service directors to make tangible changes in their cafeteria menus.  I thought you and your readers might find this a good follow up to your recent post + there are some great videos with Chef Ann which offer back to school food tips for parents. You can find these videos @ http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/schoollunchrevolution/videos.php
  • Seth Eisman of the HCDC in Chesterfield, MA writes: Website Marketing for Businesses of All Sizes Workshop begings on September 16th.  Click here for more info.

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Events Happening in the Hilltowns

SATURDAY – 08/29

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