By Chelsea Murray Kaneb
This delicious, hot, dry summer melted away quickly.
I can hardly believe students and educators are heading back to school to begin their next year. Social media is flooded with classic first-day photos depicting a mix of excitement, apprehension, dread, and curiosity. A handful of friends in our circle have children beginning first grade this year, and grandparents warn that in the blink of an eye they’ll be learning to drive and heading off to college.
With the start of the school year also comes the glorious fair season. Although we don’t have the giant state fairs that the Midwest is famous for, we have plenty of wonderful ones to choose from around here. It can be an incredible experience for young and old and provides a great backdrop for a weekend family outing. Still, as magical as it can be for families, it can be overwhelming – meltdown city – so I put together a list of how you can try to squeeze the most out of going to the fair with kids without pulling your hair out.
• Attend the fair in the mid to late afternoon. The weather will be more comfortable. I can’t promise that the lines still won’t be obscenely long, but it’ll at least be more comfortable and enjoyable waiting in them when you aren’t baking like a lobster. It also gives a chance for your child to eat breakfast and lunch at home and hopefully take a little early afternoon snooze to help set them up for a rested, energized, and potentially less cranky fair experience. However, strategize a time that works best for you and your family’s schedule, so if that means being the first ones in the gate, plan accordingly and make it happen.
Learning to open your hand and keep it flat while feeding the animals is tricky to teach a toddler who is overwhelmed by a mix of excitement, curiosity and fear.
• Map out the most important things you want to see and do before you arrive, and try and check those off the list. Do your children love goats? Make a beeline to the livestock barns to spend time visiting with the goats when you first arrive to kick off the experience on a high note. Check the schedule of events and find one that everyone will enjoy while you’re there.
• Aside from sampling some of the fair food (think fried EVERYTHING galore) bring some healthier snacks and food options in a bag for your kiddos to munch on. They will have more consistent energy levels and potentially limit big tantrums if they aren’t filling up on fair food.
• Bring a water bottle to keep hydrated since it can be impossible to find a water fountain at most fairgrounds. For example, we wandered around for what felt like hours looking for a water fountain at The Big E, so we’ve since learned to come prepared. Either bring a small supply of disposable water bottles in your backpack of things, or a reusable one. It’s easy to find sugary drinks and sodas, but water is often hard to find, and staying hydrated on a hot late summer day is very important, especially for the kiddos.
5. Safety is key when going on big outings with kids. Make sure to point out the safety checkpoints or security booths if children are old enough to comprehend this, so they can go there if they get separated from the family group. Designate a meeting point or a family safety code such as returning to where you last saw one another and waiting there until reunited. Dress little children in bright colors to help identify them in a crowd, and possibly put your phone number on a note and stick it in their pocket.
6. Bring some cash since many vendors only take cash, and it can also help with budgeting at a local fair since everything can start to add up quickly. The ATM machines on site cost an arm and leg to use, so it’s always best to plan ahead and bring cash.
7. Have a hand sanitizer or wet wipes readily accessible. Whether your child is handling livestock or just touching random things at the fair, it’s good to have the sanitizer on hand. Kids are magnets for messes, so wet wipes can be your best friend.
8. Remember that kids may not have quite the same staying power as adults and that calling it quits before the monster temper tantrums take hold is a good idea. Traipsing around the fair, spending time out in the heat, eating different foods, sugar rushes, rides, and just the overstimulation of the fair can be a lot for kids, so figure out when it’s best to call it a day.
Upcoming local fairs:
Connecticut Renaissance Fair- every Saturday and Sunday September 3-October 16-122 Mack Road in Lebanon. All information can be found on their website.
The Big E- We don’t have a giant state fair like they do in the midwest, but we do have the world’s “only multi-state fair,” which celebrates all of New England with dozens of concerts, rides, the state buildings, and food galore from September 16- October 6. The fairgrounds are located at 1305 Memorial Ave, West Springfield MA 01089.
The Woodstock Fair at 281 Route 169, Woodstock is coming back with a bang this year with tons of rides, games, music, and more on September 2-5th. More information is to come and can be found on the website. Tickets can be bought in advance, but day-of tickets are $15 per day.
The Goshen Fair runs Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend.
The Goshen Fair, always on Labor Day weekend (September 3-5th) is one of Connecticut’s premiere agricultural fairs. Aside from the typical fair fare, rides and country and blues music, there will be local booths with produce and crafts and multiple buildings filled with local agriculture and livestock. Special events include an apple fritter eating contest, skillet throwing, animal showmanship companions and magicians performing.
The Bethlehem Fair Society is hosting the 97th annual Bethlehem Fair- September 9-11th with rides, animal shows as well as live music and local crafts and booths. It’s located at 384 Main St N, Bethlehem, CT 06751
The 44th celebration of the Norwalk Oyster Festival on September 9-11th filled with arts and crafts, exhibits, rides and vendors.
The St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Apple Festival in Monroe on September 10th and 11th with over 50 food vendors, raffles and live music.
The Berlin Fair on September 15-18th- 430 Beckley Rd, Berlin, CT. Activities include a demolition derby, live music and “The World of Wheels,” a go-kart race with the Nutmeg Kart Club.
There are still sunflower displays in Woodbury at The Farm on 281 Weekeepeeee Road.
The Watertown Fall Festival on September 17th will be held at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Watertown. There will be food trucks, craft vendors and much more.
The Durham Agricultural Fair on September 22-25th located at the 24 Town House Road in Durham, also known as the Durham Agricultural Fair Association.
The Wolcott County Fair on September 23-25th located at 245 Wolcott Rd in Wolcott. Performances are country and rock-oriented, like “Southern Comfort,” a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band.
Bristol Mum Festival at the Bristol Exchange Club on September 23-25th.
The Sound on Sound music festival on September 24-25th will celebrate local breweries and live music with great musicians including Stevie Nicks, Ziggy Marley, the Lumineers, the Roots, Brandi Carlyle and Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds.
A six day apple festival on Southington Town Green September 30-October 2nd and October 7th-9th.
The Harwinton Fair on September 30-October 2- Located at 150 Located at 150 Locust Rd in Harwinton, the festival has everything from horse pulls to the Matica Circus troupe to a wood chopping contest.
The South Windsor Apple Festival on October 1 is an occasion filled with family fun, with more than 100 vendors and food trucks as well as music and other activities. They are located at John J. Mitchell Fairgrounds.
Shelton Day on October 2nd.
The 17th Connecticut Garlic and Harvest Festival on October 8th and 9th is held at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds. This unique celebration includes garlic cooking demonstrations, a variety of garlic dips and foods like garlic ice cream and a live band.
Riverton Fair from October 7-9th located at 12 Riverton Rd, Riverton, CT 06065.
Other upcoming events:
The 40th Annual Family Nature Day at White Memorial Conservation Center is on September 24 from 11 AM-5 PM. It will be chock full of presenters and attractions. Brian Bradley will be there with his free-flying hawks and falcons. Riverside Reptiles’ Brian Kleinman will be in attendance and is considered one of the greatest minds on reptiles in the state of Connecticut. The Turtle’s Back with native turtles will be returning and learning all about North America’s marsupials with Ferncroft Wildlife Rescue and their opossum ambassadors. Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and Education Center will have Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and more on display. Gerri Griswold, the Bat Lady returns with Betty the Big Brown Bat. The Stamford Museum and Nature Center presents Edible Insects. Music will be provided by Robert Messore and Wry Bred. The day will be filled with live animals, guided nature walks, information booths, horse-drawn wagon rides, and yummy food. The Pie Sale is back this year and you can shop until you drop at the artisan market. The Silent Auction is online this year and will run from September 9-23rd. Check out https://www.32auctions.com/whitememorialnatureday for more information and to browse the offerings. You’ll find tons of nature crafts for kids too. Who will be the winner of a trip for two to Chilean Patagonia (donated by Krummi Travel LLC) with Gerri Griswold in November 2023 or paddle down the Bantam River in a beautiful Rheaume Mohawk 14 food cedar canoe donated by Kathy and Will Schweitzer? One lucky winner will receive a $500 gift card to L.L.Bean. Feed your mind, body, and soul on nature day from 11-5 PM. Admissions $6 per person, and center members and children under 12 are free.
Lyman Orchards Ben Franklin Corn Maze
September 3 – November 6
Navigate back to the 18th Century in the revolutionary 2022 Lyman Orchards Ben Franklin Corn Maze opening September 3rd. The 2022 Lyman Orchards Corn Maze transports you back to the electrifying moment Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm, making the connection between lightning and electricity. 2022 marks the 270th anniversary of Franklin’s famous kite-flying experiment, and we’re spot-lighting Ben’s discovery and the key role he played in America’s history as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. During your visit through the maze, discover the fascinating connections Ben Franklin has to fashion, fire departments, and even the Flintstones. Fourth in a series of “All American” history maze themes, the massive 4-acre Corn Maze is masterfully carved into a design featuring Ben Franklin’s likeness, lightning bolt, kite, and key, along with the hashtag #AllAmerican. Past “All American” maze themes include American Presidents in 2009, The Statue of Liberty in 2013, and Charles Lindberg and Spirit of St. Louis in 2017. One dollar of each maze admission will be donated to support the American Cancer Society. Since 2000, the Corn Maze has raised nearly $700,000 for the organization. In addition, $.50 of each admission fee will be donated to the Connecticut Cancer Foundation, which has received nearly $37,000 from the Corn Maze since 2020. The Lyman Orchards Corn Maze opens Saturday, September 3rd at 9am with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and runs until November 6th. The maze is open 1pm-5:30pm Monday-Friday and 10am-5:30pm on Weekends and Holidays. Last maze entry is 5:30pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for ages 4 – 12, and free for children under 3 years. For information on group pricing, click here. As part of the experience, each visitor receives an official Corn Maze Map to help guide them through the twists and turns along the one-mile stretch of pathways and hundreds of decision points. Corn Maze travelers are issued a Corn Maze Passport featuring ten trivia questions related to Ben Franklin. Answering each question correctly will help in choosing the right direction at each of the ten main crossroad stations within the maze. Additional passport trivia categories include music, movies, health, and sports, to name a few. Corn Cops are also positioned within the maze for extra guidance and assistance if needed. The average time needed to navigate the entire maze is 30-40 minutes.
Fun facts about the Lyman Orchards Corn Maze:
The maze is approximately 4 acres in size .
The average time to make it through the maze is approximately 30-40 minutes
Signage throughout the Corn Maze pathways feature educational content and trivia related to Ben Franklin, Lightning, Electricity, and some Lyman history, since the original parcel of land was purchased in 1741 by John & Hope Lyman during the time Ben Franklin was alive!
The Corn Maze has raised nearly $700,000 for the American Cancer Society and nearly $37,000 for the Connecticut Cancer Foundation
The Lyman Orchards Corn Maze is in its 23rd year of operation
This year, the opening of the Corn Maze will coincide with the First Annual Lyman Orchards Corn Maze Festival from 9am-3pm featuring an official Lyman Orchards Kite & Key Give-Away. The first 50 visitors who successfully make it out of the maze will receive an official Lyman Orchards kite and skeleton key. Purchase your ticket, pick up your maze map and passport, then make your way through the 2022 Lyman Orchards Ben Franklin Corn Maze. A great activity for kids, team outings, corporate team building, or even a first date. The maze is open 1-5:30pm Monday-Friday and 10am-5:30pm on weekends and holidays. Last maze entry is 5:30pm. For daily updates on the maze and Pick Your own, call our 24-hour hotline at 860-349-6015. Group pricing is available for companies or outings, please contact email@example.com.
Corn Maze: Alice In Wonderland
September 3 – October 30
Fall down the rabbit hole in the next family-fun experience hosted at The Farm. The Alice in Wonderland-themed corn maze stretches across 4 acres of corn. Get ready to fall into a mystical curious adventure. Find yourself in a labyrinth designed with the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, The Rabbit, and Alice as she falls into the rabbit hole floating in the maze’s design. “Get lost” in a fact-finding treasure hunt for both fun and educational crayon etchings, word games, and trivia questions along your way through. Purchase tickets online only at https://thefarmwoodbury.com. September 3rd – October 30th, 2022 Open Labor Day & Columbus Day. Ticket Entry Times Every Top of The Hour. Saturday and Sundays 10 am – 4 pm. Last Ticket Entry at 4pm. The Farm begins to close at 6pm.