Lord Have Mercy! Peach Dumpling at the Fair!
Late August brings one of my absolute favorite events of the entire year in central Pennsylvania: the Grange Fair, in Centre Hall. It's one of the very last encampment fairs in the nation, which is both pretty peculiar and awesome indeed. Even better, one of my best girlfriends comes to visit - the only time I see her each year - and we do up the fair right. We walk around, seeing everything there is to see and eating everything in sight!
So we walked around and bought weird stuff - bamboo sheets and Tupperware and a pair of window-breaky things and a pillow and tiny plastic bags and duct tape and a magnetic picky-uppy thinger for me - plus plenty of food!
We usually start the evening by splitting a large order of fried veggies with ranch dip, courtesy of my friend. We're partial to the fried mushrooms and fried onion rings - and we sat and ate them while watching two guys making them, hands full of huge slices of onions, dipped in batter, tossed into frying grease, pulled out when they reach the point of golden, crispy perfection.
We end the evening with Kozee's monkey bread (cinnamon rolls) with icing, usually bagged up to eat later. (My husband at home usually waits up for this sweet treat to arrive.) And in between, it's whatever we fancy! Maybe tacos, or pizza, or a real hot sandwich of some kind, or ice cream, or french fries, a milkshake, or something fried. But let me cut to the chase and tell you this: what you see above is the BEST THING YOU WILL EAT AT THE FAIR!
Let me tell you about it. *ahem; gets emotional; wipes eyes; clears throat* What you see in this photo is a peach dumpling, hot and juicy, baked inside a slightly crispy tender golden flaky crust. Yes, that's sugar you see sprinkled on top of it. And that big round thing to the left is a hearty scoop of cinnamon ice cream.
I bought one for myself, and I bought one for my girlfriend. Because that's just how we roll, OK? :-) There was a short line. We stood in it gladly. The peaches were still very hot inside that golden crust. When the guy put the scoop of ice cream on top, it broke the dumpling, and the warm, cinnamony peach goo came rushing out. It was an awesome moment. I could cry just to think of it.
And then we sat at a table, laughed and talked and made new friends, met up with an old friend and her granddaughter, and enjoyed our sweet treat in the waning moments of daylight on an absolutely perfect August evening at the fair. Then we stood up, wiped off our sticky mouths and hands, and fortified with peaches, continued on with the fair.
There are barns with animals in them, and all kinds of things to buy and do and see. There are men gathered around testing their strength by whacking one of those big hammers that sends a metal thing hurtling up to whack a bell at the top; nobody rang it while we were there. There are climbing walls, and rides, and tents selling all kinds of weird things. You never know what you'll end up with at the fair!
I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the encampment itself. You have to see it to believe it, so I've included just one photo in the extras, though I took many. People try for years and years to get a tenting spot at the fair; those who get them pass them down through generation after generation. The waiting list is still quite long; you probably won't get one in this lifetime.
There are rows and rows of crappy old green tents, in which people camp for more than a week in every kind of weather. People bring all sorts of amenities from home: beds and tables and chairs and refrigerators and televisions and decorations. Entire families gather round in the evenings at the fair.
In the photo in the extra, dusk has just arrived, and the lights have been lit. This particular tent looked very lovely, I thought. It even had a tiny outhouse (not a functional one, to be sure, but it was cute to look at, with a moon engraved on the door) out in front, surrounded by lights.
And finally, we'd done and seen and eaten our fill, and our feet were tired, and we headed for our cars which were parked on the street. And then it was good-byes and I-love-you's and a quick packing of the cars before we took off for home, just as the stars began to twinkle in the sky. *happy sigh*
The soundtrack for this posting is for the image above, featuring sweet, delicious peaches: the Presidents of the United States of America, with Peaches.
Bonus links: prior years' postings for the Grange Fair :-)
August 28, 2012: Meet Me at the Fair!
August 27, 2013: In Which We Make New Friends at the Fair!
August 26, 2014: The "Monkey Man," and the Monkey's Kiss
August 25, 2015: Here There Be Cows
August 24, 2016 (possibly my favorite image): The Grange Fair: Sunset on the Midway