Bethlehem Fair 2013

The annual Bethlehem Fair, in Bethlehem, CT took place September 6, 7 & 8 2013. The weather was perfect, crisp and clear. Little children approaching the gates with their parents were jumping up and down and gazing with wonder at the spinning rides and bright lights.

A group of us attended the fair. Bethlehem is a small town, with a human population according to the 2010 census 3,661 and according to my own observations, at least an equal number of farm animals – cows, bulls, goats, horses, rabbits, chickens, sheep, pigs, ducks, llamas – many of which were on display at the fair. We were also treated to all sorts of bright lights, music and commotion. There were carts selling typical fair foods and food items more peculiar to this neck of the woods. There were farm items for sale – tractors and feeds – and items made at our local farms – jams, produce, maple syrup, leather goods and other hand-made items.

After the initial shock of so much action, lights, noise, so unfamiliar in our sleepy town, we decided to head into the building featuring small farm animals, including rabbits, chickens, ducks. This was a blast, no kidding! Who knew that there were so many different kinds of chickens and how outrageous these chickens could be, I would not be exaggerating to claim that clothing in Vogue does not have the variety and daring of external flash of these chickens.


There were chickens with long, long feathers on their feet, some with huge leonine manes, stripes and spots, and outrageous colors.


There were tiny chickens, and huge, really huge roosters - much bigger than my cat. The ducks were the most vocal - perhaps to make up for the lack of variety in their appearance. Ducks don’t go in for chic - tried and true, no nonsense animals – at least the farm variety. There are fancy ducks in the Audubon guides, but these were farm ducks. Rabbits were a huge draw in this display of small animals. First of all, what in the world would be more adorable than rows and rows of bunnies? The little wiggly noses and fat tummies and adorable little tails drew endless cooing from the visitors. Some of these bunnies were BIG, probably 30 pounds or more. These big bunnies did a lot of full out lying down, as opposed to the smaller rabbits up on their haunches sniffing and looking around. There were lots of little bunnies, with full gray scale coloration, spot patterns and all sorts of browns, but their cuteness provided that they did not need gaudy coloring. Bunnies are just cute and will keep their audience even when they are just regular brown bunnies. Also on display were doves, gerbils and geese, all animals who had not been pushed to the extremes of fashion. My daughter and I were hard-pressed to leave this building even though our friends had long since returned to the midway. We were not alone though as those around us were gawking, squealing and pointing at various chickens and bunnies. 2 young girls at a stand were selling their own hand-made wooden items. I bought a beguiling painted rabbit with a silly grin for a dollar. The youngest girl had a baby black bunny on display of whom she was very proud.

We closed the building. The lights were flickering so we joined the crowds on the midway toward the many rides and food carts. These carnival rides are marvels of portability; they fold up like toy transformers. The rides fold up either right on top of their trucks or into trailers that are hauled by trucks. These rides are huge - ferris wheels, tilt-a-wheels, those huge swings in the shapes of sea dragons or huge ships, or sweeping looping things that spin the riders upside down – and they fold up into truck sized, neat boxes!

In the end, we did not go on any rides. Foods were a big attraction. We sampled freshly squeezed – right in front of us – lemonade and a pulled pork sandwich from the array including fried chicken, boiled potatoes, french fries, sno cones, funnel cakes ice cream, pies, candy apples, caramel corn, pizza and cotton candy.


The Bethlehem Fair, like other state or town fairs, is fantastic and simple at the same time. There are lights, tractor pulls, rodeo events, music, crafts and endless delights that keep your head turning. The children are happy, the adults are happy. The Fair is simple country delight without irony, stress or apology for its simplicity. It transports the visitors to a simpler time with no regrets for stepping away from screens or fashion or the 21st century for a little while.

Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT 2013

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