Fall Festival or Fair Sentimentality


I just got a rare wave of homesickness for America.

I was reading a fantasy novel, and in it there was a Harvest Festival going on. The writer’s description got me thinking about American festivals and fairs, and I realised this is a bit of America that I miss. They just don’t do that sort of thing here. Sure, there used to be market days in my small Irish town; but those are long gone, and nothing has been done to replace them.

What got me thinking was a passage about fancy candles, and how odd that seemed to the protagonist. He thought it was a waste to burn something so pretty. I immediately thought of those crazy carved candles and how I felt the same – how can you ever burn them?!? If you’ve never seen one, this is what I’m talking about:

Image credit: doing a google image search for “hand carved candles” and taking a screen shot of the results. Is that cheating on giving image credit?

In any case, I remember booths at our annual seafood festival selling these, and how beautiful I thought they were. I also remember: hand carved wooden toys, booths of ceramics, dried flower wreaths and arrangements, and tons of other random whatnot that people had spent ages making to sell.

And the food! Things you never found any other time: funnel cakes dusted in powdered sugar, those delicious but potentially tooth-shattering candy coated almonds (not Jordan almonds, a pinkish-coating that was just heavenly), and piles and piles of fried potatoes, curly spicy ones, homestyle-cut ones with the option of adding malt vinegar or not, waffle-cut fries. Cotton candy (candy floss). The popcorn! Buttered and salted, or with cheese (white or orange-coloured dust), or caramel corn – it all smelled so good.

If you were a child, you were glad to be “off the leash” and allowed to explore without your parents because it was a safe place. If you were a teen, dressing your best so other groups of roaming teens could see you. If an adult you looked at kids and teens and remembered when you were that age, and what it meant to you – and smiled.

Or, if you fell a bit in-between, you might meet your second-grade teacher when you have a plastic cup of beer in your hand, and feel a bit embarrassed for having grown up.

15 responses »

  1. I have a relative whose house is crammed full of those beautifully carved candles and she refuses to light them! I know what you mean about American festivals – I was in PA in Autumn and was enchanted by the fabulous fairs and the sumptous food on offer at that time of year. We don’t have the weather for it!

    • I’m so glad to hear you got to experience them! I can’t really fault Americans too much for being rather on the pudgy side as a nation, it is soooo hard to say no to all the fantastically tasty food available. They sure can cook!

      We had the weather for it yesterday! And today up until about half three. Now it’s back to acting like October again 🙂 We (the furry ones and I) are gathered around the fire listening to the wind and rain.

  2. I’ve never seen these candles. Not that I can remember. Not sure what kind of festivals they have there. We have a lot of festivals here, but it doesn’t seem any of them have spared time to prepare such candles.

    Regarding image credit, I’m pretty sure that’s cheating 🙂

    I did try to read this Saturday when you posted it, but it was late, I was tired. In the middle of the second paragraph, I realized I had no idea what you were talking about. That’s my explanation for being late, and I stick to it lol

    • I like the little small town festival where someone can rent a booth and sell their wares. These candles are also popular for weddings – to be used as a ‘unity candle.’ Meaning each person takes an already lit taper and they light the fancy candle together, to symbolise unity. Whatever. Weddings are boring – I just know a lot about them as I used to sell wedding supplies! Maybe the reason I got married in a courthouse and had pizza in a pub as my ‘reception.’ Off Topic there!

      This wasn’t a very popular post among non-Americans, it seems I did a shabby job of explaining what I miss. It is very hard to describe. That’s okay, I’ve learned what is unique, and what one of my failures as a writer is.

      I don’t mind if you come in late, it keeps it alive a bit longer. Always sort of sad when a post has gotten old and stale.

      • That’s the kind of wedding I want!!

        Ah! I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking like that! I do analyze the aftermaths of my posts to, to decide where to head next, how to write better later… And yes, it’s sad to see a post going down in the tomb after just two days, when it sometimes takes me 3-4 evenings to write and edit it. Totally worth it though. (Oh shit! Freaks me out when the screensaver launches while I’m right here in front of the computer! I was lost in my thoughts… very very deep in it! I better post this and go do something else!)

Thoughts? Gardening tips? Cocktail recipes? Don't just like and leave, please - I can talk for Ireland and would love to prove it!

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