Grange fair brings Wilton’s past forward

Pickles were the surprise hit of the Cannon Grange Fair last year, and so they will be back in a big way this year. Lambs, too, will take center stage along with pies, homemade bread, pet rabbits, watermelon and other old favorites when the Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair opens for the 83rd time on Sunday, Aug. 30, from 10 to 4, rain or shine. As always, the fair is on the grounds of Grange Hall, 25 Cannon Road in Cannondale.
The fair hearkens back to Wilton’s agricultural roots with contests for baked goods, fruits and vegetables, flowers, spirits, needlework, rabbits, poultry and eggs. But the contests have been updated, too, to include things like Lego creations, photography, and collections of all sorts.
“We’ve had in the collections kids bring in Lego assemblies, really young kids doing flower arrangements … just about everybody gets a ribbon,” said Bil Mikulewicz of the grange. “It’s a great thing for kids to submit to a country fair and get a blue ribbon. It’s great for kids to have their stuff on the table and point out ‘that’s mine’.”
He added that none of the entries are by professionals, adding to the “down home” feel of the fair. “If there isn’t a category for what someone brought, we’ll make a category,” he said.

Pickles


There are 20 entry categories for baked goods and preserves, and one of those is pickles. But for those who do not make their own, the fair will feature the sale of grange president Doug Shepheard’s “very tasty cold-packed dill pickles.”
Last year Shepheard brought some pickles to the fair, which were cut up and given away as samples. “They were wiped out in like three minutes,” Mikulewicz said. “We decided probably on a hot summer day pickles are very attractive.”
Quart jars may be ordered in advance for $6 and picked up at the fair, or purchased the day of the fair for $7.

Lambs


The painting of the lambs grew out of the popularity of the painted cattle displays that pop up in towns and cities, and the grange’s use of plywood sheep as advertising for the fair.
“We thought it might be fun,” Mikulewicz said. “It seems to spark people’s interest.”
Noting the fiberglass bulls are very expensive, he said, “we’re low-key, low-tech, low-cost at the grange. We thought it would be fun to do plywood lambs.
“We have so many kids come to the fair, to do a creative thing and have people ooh and aah over it” would be a crowd-pleaser. “Maybe some crafty people would like to do something. It will help brighten up the grounds.”
Small, unpainted lambs for children are $15; large, unpainted lambs for adults are $20. The deadline for picking up unpainted lambs was Aug. 15, but Mikuleicz said arrangements may be made for picking one up later by calling 203-762-1900 or emailing info@cannongrange.org. Painted or otherwise decorated lambs should be returned Saturday, Aug. 29, from 1 to 4.
There will be prizes for most original, realistic, whimsical and fairgoers’ choice.

Baking contests


A country fair would not be complete without a baking contest or two.
The grange fair offers more than a dozen baking entries from brownies and chocolate chip cookies to coffee cake and gluten-free recipes.
But there are also three Association of Connecticut Fairs contests.
The adult baking contest is Anadama Bread sponsored by King Arthur Flour. Anadama is a cornmeal and molasses yeast bread.
Folklore credits the creation of anadama bread to a disgruntled fisherman from the north shore of Boston who got so tired of eating his wife’s porridge of cornmeal and molasses that he threw it in the oven grumbling, “Anna, damn her!”
The Junior Baking Contest is a more sedate Toast & Sandwich Bread. Juniors must be 15 and under as of July 1.
Bishop’s Orchards is co-sponsoring the annual two-crusted apple pie contest, open to all residents of Connecticut over the age of 7 as of July 1. Commercial and professional bakers are not eligible.
Rules for all contests and recipes are in the fair’s program, available at cannongrange.org as well as from local merchants and banks and at Wilton Town Hall and Wilton Library

Watermelon


Another favorite, special event is the watermelon-eating contest that will begin at 3:30. This messy but tasty contest always draws a hungry crowd.
Fairgoers may enjoy musical entertainment all day, and partake of the baked goods sale, demonstrations, civic and educational exhibits, and concessions. The vendors all come from Fairfield, Litchfield, New Haven and Westchester counties and sell handmade items of good quality.
Exhibited baked goods, fruits, vegetables, and flowers will be auctioned at 4:15 in the Grange Hall.
Admission to the fair is $2, $1 with a canned food item for donation to the Wilton Interfaith Food Pantry. Free parking is available across the street at the Cannondale railroad station and village.
Founded in 1899, Cannon Grange is a chapter of The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, which was formed in 1867 to promote the economic and political well-being of communities and their agricultural interests.
Information: 203-762-1900, cannon.grange@yahoo.com, or cannongrange.org.