I grew up in inner-city Winnipeg, the North End, to be specific. It has a heckuva reputation, and most people who also grew up in Winnipeg take a step back when I tell them where I grew up. I remember it as being quite a fine place, where I ran and played and rode my bike and dug around in the backyard with my brother. Still is, really. It's the city at its grittiest.
I spent Saturday with a friend at the Priddis and Millarville Fair. Neither of us had been before, and I had never been to a country fair in my life. I had a picture in my mind that it would be a small affair, maybe with a few stalls and some animal shows and good food.
Man, the thing was enormous.
There was a huge market full of local handmade items: woodcarvings, decorative screens, jewelry, linens... all gorgeous, all amazing. There was lots of food stalls - fudge, honey, mead, wine, candy, popcorn, burgers of different types, smokies... all smelling fantastic. And there were horse shows, an auction, a rooster crowing competition, and a bunny hopping course! Of course, there were sheep and llamas, and maybe one or two yarn stalls *wink*.
What I loved the most was the exhibition hall. It was delightful: displays of sheaves of wheat, honey, cakes and pies... mmm... pies. And my most favourite part was the contributions from children: a board with samples of different local plants, labelled by hand in child's scrawl. Rocks painted to look like animals. flowers, faces. Dioramas of landscapes. Clay models. Poetry. Handwriting. And, the "any other article" category, which I really, really liked because it gave everyone a chance to show off what they were good at. Pictures of cats. An old fencepost painted to look like a pencil.
Did I mention the pies?
The category that struck me the most was "Depiction of Rural Life." I read beautiful poems about the wind, the landscape, the people and the hard work of harvest. I saw pictures of people working in the field. Words like, "family," "close," "work," "tired," "happy" came up again and again.
Really, really different from my inner-city childhood.
I know I'll never be a farm girl. And I know I only sampled the best of rural life. There was no mention of droughts and frosts, disease and accidents. It was a rosy view of a very different life, and not many would want to do it. My brain tells me that this way of life must be dying out, that fewer people want to grow crops and raise animals, but this fair may have proved me wrong. If there are so many children who enjoy showing off their day-to-day activities, then there must be people out there who are glad to continue nourishing the province, growing the food we eat, encouraging pollinators, understanding the ground beneath them and the sky above them. I am in awe of such awareness, and I felt relieved to know that the knowledge is still thriving. It's a knowledge of which I have so little, and would really like to have more.
I'm going back next year, for sure. This city girl needs to keep tasting this country life. Maybe some of it will rub off on me and I won't moan so much when I can't get to the nearest mall as quickly as I would like, or when I can't get the imported fruit I want. My appreciation for these folks is overwhelming.
I just wish I'd bought some of that pie...