The Deerfield Fair
The Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire is a family tradition that typically falls on the last weekend of September into October. While I am not an expert on fairs in this region, I have been to a handful and this one is definitely the best. No way am I biased!
I only learned this year that The Deerfield Fair is billed as New England’s oldest fair. I’m not about to vet that but it’s 145 years old so it certainly seems plausible. Who knew people almost 150 years ago took the time for something as frivolous as a fair when they had to wash their clothes by hand and grow their own produce and all that? (Turns out that fairs are as old as the Bible, so that shows what I know.)
As in ancient and more recent history, the Deerfield Fair is a center of exposition and commerce for farmers, skilled craftsmen, equestrians, antique peddlers and so much more. I really haven’t scratched the surface to be honest, because I have either been to this fair only as a child or adolescent, or as a parent of children who don’t care about much except the rides and sweets. But you can feel it in the air wafting up from the sausage and apple crisp stands: This fair is the real deal.
Last year, we were able to watch a horse pull, with draft horses dragging huge weights for spectators. On display in the swine barn are pigs the size of a bear. The quilts on display in the exhibition halls look like they came right out of Amish Country. The trailers for the trainers and young riders in the horse shows are packed in tight near the barns. I dream of the day when I can peruse the many events and wares at a leisurely pace, but this year it just delighted me to walk by and have a quick glimpse of all this industry and talent.
For now, I can say that the fair looks exactly the same as it did when I was child attending with my parents and brother and sister, and I love that in this world that feels so different in so many ways, my kids get to experience the same fair we did. It’s SO much fun to relive it with them!
For us, The Deerfield Fair is a day trip — about two hours from our home — and we hope to keep up our annual tradition but would LOVE to make it an overnight next year. Our kids are getting to an age where sleeping in a hotel room with them is tolerable. But if you want to make a night or weekend of it, you have to book well in advance because this fair, combined with the start of foliage season, means rooms are hard to come by. The fairgrounds feature campsites for those who have trailers or RVs and wish to rent for a small fee.
The tickets are just $12, and children 12 and under are free. Of course, you’ll be shelling out cash for rides and food and souvenirs, so plan on that!
As far as other fall fairs in New England go, I’ve enjoyed The Cumberland Country Fair in Maine and the Lancaster County Fair in Northern New Hampshire. The Big E in Massachusetts is a large fair that is very popular though I have yet to experience it. If you have one you recommend, I would love to hear from you!