Monday, September 26, 2016

The Durham Fair

In 1916, Durham's first fair was held on the town green. There has been a fair in the town almost every year since. (The few exceptions were due to the 1938 Great New England Hurricane and World War II.) 100 years later, the Durham Fair is the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut.

Last weekend, I ventured to Durham to see what that might entail. Though bigger than the one similar fair I've been to (Woodstock, way back in 2010 when I still had tiny blog photos), the Durham Fair was manageable; you can easily walk through the fairgrounds and see most of the exhibits in a couple hours. (It would take longer, obviously, if you went on rides, stopped to watch any of the scheduled shows, or crammed so much fried dough into your face that you had to rest and recover.) The parking situation is a bit confusing - there are many lots, at various distances from the fairgrounds, charging different prices. Free shuttle service is provided at some of the more distant lots, but I was happy to pay $10 to park behind the Durham Fire Department on Main Street, a few blocks from the entrance.

The Durham Fair is advertised as "Good. Clean. Wholesome. Fun." which I think means you're supposed to bring your kids. Having no kids, I brought my mom, who did say the experience reminded her of being a kid at the Calgary Stampede, eating corn and candy apples, and buying magic wands and kewpie dolls.

Not being into rides or fair food (though it all smelled delicious; I probably inhaled 6,000 calories worth of doughnuts, kettle corn, and fries just walking past the dozens of vendors), my favorite part of the Durham Fair was the animals. Even for grown adults, there's just something undeniably fun about getting a close-up look at so many different breeds of rabbits, birds, cows, and llamas. Sadly, we managed to miss most of the goats and sheep; their section appeared to be roped off  when we passed through. Still, there were giant pumpkins and vintage farm equipment (both surprisingly interesting) and prize-winning tomatoes and pies (not particularly interesting, yet hilarious nonetheless.) There was also a tent full of crafty items for sale, and there was wine, which I ignored but would have very much enjoyed tasting if I hadn't had to be awake enough to drive back to New London afterwards.

Oh, and of course there's the other, very important thing the Durham Fair offers, free with the price of admission: photo ops.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Around Sharon Town Green

In May of 2014 I wrote a little post about the clock tower in Sharon and made a note to return soon to take some more photos of the historic center of this small town. I didn't think that "soon" would mean over two years, but it's OK - this is Sharon, it's not like anything was going to change much.

As I walked around the town green, reading plaques and admiring church doors and perfect houses, one dog took exception to my presence and barked loud enough to wake up all of Litchfield County and possibly a few people in New York State as well. Not knowing if the dog was restrained by an invisible fence or about to tear me limb from limb, I was slightly alarmed. But I didn't blame the dog. I mean, just look at this town - poor puppy probably has to fend off nosy, envious visitors all the time.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Nutmeg Poisoning

I have a lot of links this time! First, a shameless plug. The Fall 2016 issue of Connecticut Explored is out now, and I have a story in it. You can buy a copy at these stores in Connecticut, or order one online. Plus, I was interviewed about my piece for the Connecticut Explored podcast, Grating the Nutmeg. You can listen here.

OK, now on to random Connecticut-related links from around the internet lately.

- The NYT explores a New York story that happens to take place in the "sleepy village" of Ivoryton.

- Here's a food website's list of 50 of America's best diners, one in each state. What is it about lists like this that always make me click, just to CTRL-F "Connecticut?" (Their local selection is in Groton.)

- Here's an art website's suggestions for arty day trips from NYC, two of them in CT

-The Wall Street Journal has another story on more CT art, this time in New Britain

-The Boston Globe has yet more art - this time, places around New England where you'll be inspired to create your own. There's one CT pick - you probably guessed it's in Ridgefield.

-More Ridgefield in the WSJ - not art, but real estate. 

-Some more interesting real estate possibilities - you (well, someone) could live in a lighthouse in West Haven.

- This is hilarious, and so Connecticut. Salon has an AP story about 2016 life vs. a 17th c. document in Lebanon

- Is there anything Hamilton can't be tied to? Nope. Apparently, the success of the musical about the short-tempered protean creator of the Coast Guard (sorry!) could even help New London.

- The New England Historical Society has some neat presidential trivia about Branford

- People, which I don't think I've ever encountered outside of a doctor's waiting room, has a great example of a type of story that always cracks me up: the rich, semi-famous couple with a country house in "Connecticut." Not any specific town or region, just, ya know, Connecticut. Because it's all that vast wasteland outside New York, right? Oh wait. People does specify that the location is "quaint." Of course it is.

- And finally (I saved the best for last) the Valley Indy has a story that's sort of about Derby and Shelton but is really about the idiocy of those Best/Worst/Whatever-est Towns listicles.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Shailerville-Tylerville Cemetery

Haddam's Shailerville-Tylerville Cemetery evokes the days when New England villages were centered around single prominent families, and the Connecticut River was synonymous with shipbuilding and trading.

The Shailers of Shailerville were "very wealthy ferrymen, merchants and sea captains who owned most of the land in the area. They deliberately isolated themselves from the rest of the town and were ardent Baptists. Many intermarried with first and second cousins rather than seek partners outside their community. Shailerville at one time boasted a post office, schoolhouse, factories and commercial stores."

The Tylers of Tylerville, to the south of Shailerville, "operated shipyards and a successful river port trading with other coastal ports and the West Indies. Most family members were either shipbuilders or mariners including the seven sons of Simon Tyler who were known as the 'Seven Sea Dogs.'"

The cemetery was established in 1759, and though it's still in use today, it - like the town of Haddam as a whole - still feels like the best kind of roadside time-machine.

(A note about spelling. Shailer/Shaler/Shaylor/Shailor is spelled in various ways in different sources. I went with Shailerville-Tylerville Cemetery for the title of this post because that's what the Haddam Historical Society uses.)


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