When the weather cooperates, there is nothing more fun than a small county fair.
I’ve been going to one or another ever since I can remember, beginning with the Puyallup Fair, when I was perhaps 5 or 6 years old and it was the biggest county fair around, but still very small and manageable compared to today’s Puyallup.
That was followed by the Mason County Fair, tiny by comparison, but teeming with friends and parents of friends, people I’d known all my life.
They proudly entered their jams and jellies, cakes and cookies, fruits and vegetables and various animals, and the friendly rivalry between entrants was almost as interesting as the small midway. Who would take the blue ribbons home this year? The same ladies who seemed to trade first place, back and forth every year. Or would some young upstart walk away with top prize, surprising everyone and giving the town something to talk about until next fair time?
Later, and for many years, I was one of the moms who carted gear around for the horseback-riding daughters entered in too many events at the DuPage County (Illinois) Fair.
I watched as she barrel-raced, jumped fences, and felt my heart in my throat too many times as I watched her hurtling around on her beloved horse, Scrapiron. There actually came a time, finally, when I became jaded about county fairs, tired of all the work, planning and time it took to participate, more or less second-hand.
Then, quite a few years later, I moved to Whidbey Island and, suddenly, there it was again. The perfect small-town county fair, and I enjoyed every square foot of it, especially the addition of pole climbing and other logger-type events.
I grew up in Shelton, the epitome of a logging town, and events such as log rolling, pole climbing, chain setting, log bucking, etc. were frequent, not annual. There’s nothing quite like watching a strong young man go up the pole, but it’s even more exciting to watch him rope down, throwing caution to the winds to beat the clock. One misstep and, well, that’s a very big ouch! Exciting!
The past few years, I’ve been doing the fair in the company of two granddaughters, who first caught the enter-the-fair bug when they went home with a rabbit after the barnyard scramble, the last year it was held.
In the following years, that rabbit was entered, then another, then a guinea pig somehow found itself in their possession, and it became a regular entry, and so it went. There I was again, hauling girls, animals, feed and gear. I have to say that I looked forward to the fair every year, but with somewhat mixed emotions.
Tonight, as I wrap this column, it’s Sunday night. The fair is over for another year.
At the fairgrounds right now, there are exhausted people taking their animals home or hauling their RVs out of the grounds, volunteers trying to clean up some of the entry spaces and help people pick up their exhibits, and I am, personally, whipped. The granddaughters went back home about two hours ago, and as soon as I finish this and zap it off to Brian at The Record office, I’m off to my bed.
As I said at the beginning, there’s nothing more fun than a small county fair.
The music, the food, the animals, the friendly faces and, perhaps most important, the fact that you can feel safe letting a couple of granddaughters loose on their own to enjoy the fun while you sit and try to remember what it was like to be 16, or 13, with all that energy.
We can thank the Puyallup Fair for putting scones into our consciousness, so many years ago.
You didn’t go to the Puyallup without having a scone, and now they’re a presence at virtually every fair, our beloved Island County Fair included.
I went to the scone booth and talked to fellow tap dancer and volunteer scone baker Lois. She told me, as she was kneading the dough for another batch (and she’d be doing that until 10 o’clock that night) that scones were selling like hotcakes. (Sorry).
How can I pass up an opportunity like that to give you scone recipes, of which I have many. One, with molasses, is a bit unusual and not to the taste, I suspect, of many, but it’s a traditional “Scot” variation and very tasty if you like molasses. It was given to me by the wife of my bagpipe teacher.
TREACLE (Molasses) SCONES
2 cups sifted flour
2½ t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. ginger
1/3 cup butter
3 T. molasses
2/3 cup buttermilk
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingertips. Mix in molasses and buttermilk.
On a lightly floured board, turn out dough and pat into a circle about one-half-inch thick. Cut into wedges and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon and sugar, if desired. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 min., or until golden. Serve immediately, with butter and honey or jam/jelly. Makes 12.
How about one very quick and easy-type scone, if you have some leftover mashed potatoes? These are not like the scones you’re used to, however. I really like them for breakfast when I happen to have leftover mashed potatoes.
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
½ cup flour
3 T. melted butter
Mix melted butter into mashed potatoes. Work in flour gradually, adding more if necessary to make a rather stiff dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and roll out very thin. Cut into triangles. Prick all over with a fork.
Cook the “scones” on a griddle or in a frying pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side. Serve hot, with butter, honey, syrup or jam, and don’t try to save any that are not eaten. They’re only good right at the moment. Makes 12.
Now, for a really rich scone, again slightly different from any Puyallup or copycat, try these, another recipe from the bagpiper teacher’s wife.
RICH CREAM SCONES
2 cups sifted flour
1 T. baking powder
2 T. sugar
½ t. salt
1/3 cup butter
½ cup cream
1 egg, well beaten
¼ cup currants, or chopped seedless raisins (optional)
Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or rub in with fingertips. Mix in egg and cream with a fork. Stir in currants or chopped raisins, if using.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and pat into a circle about ½-inch thick. Cut in wedges. Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15-18 min. Makes 12.
Margaret Walton can be reached at email@example.com.