In typical contrarian fashion, I left Salem on Thursday when everyone was coming in for the big parade that signals the beginning of our city’s Haunted Happenings festivities. I was going to try to get in the spirit this year, but I’m not sure if I can. It is certainly difficult to be dour all the time when there are so many fairy princesses running around Salem and I’m sure I annoy everyone around me with my constant critique, but it’s just difficult for me to jump on the “festival” bandwagon: Salem’s transformation into Witch City, the Halloween destination, seems so solidly and cynically grounded in the 1692 witch trials and the tragic death and suffering of innocent people. I can’t forget that, so I went to the Topsfield Fair in search of big pumpkins.
The Topsfield Fair has been held every year since 1898 as the county fair for Essex County, a region that was urban/rural a century ago but is now quite suburban. Essex County farmers are dwindling but Essex County gardeners are still going strong, so there were great fruits and vegetables on display but relatively few animals: and far too few pigs! Here are some prize-winning chickens (in the Court of Honor–love that), carrots, garlic, honey and a quilt that seems to summon up the spirit of the fair: a very random sampling.
But it was the pumpkins I came for, and one in particular: the pumpkin grown by a Rhode Island man that set the world record at 2,009 pounds. I found it encased in the middle of the plants and vegetables building, while the second, third, and fourth-place finishers were shunted off to an empty arena, alone and forgotten. I accidentally came upon them when I went to look for the Clydesdales. I was glad to see the white one (grown by one of Topsfield’s own) as I jumped on that bandwagon quite a while ago.
Appendix: One idea for my own (smaller) pumpkin, back in Salem: