Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Eleven

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

It was eerie walking in to the Fairgrounds this morning. The familiar sounds of laughter and midway rides and tractors and animals was replaced by solemn silence.

I thought the Fair did a marvelous job with the Remembrance Ceremony. I was struck by how appropriate it was that State Fair Queen, Sara Lynn Alford did not wear her crown. Husband and wife team Steven and Amanda Potaczek of the band 1000 Generations sang their original song, “Fail Us Not.”

Governor Daniels, First Lady Cheri Daniels and Lt. Governor Skillman gave moving talks lauding the heroics of concert audience and other Fair goers. As Governor Daniels reminded us, "There was a hero every ten feet on Saturday night."  

My burst-into-tears moment was when the Pioneer Village volunteers formed a funeral parade with antique tractors and bunting on their wagons.

My laugh-out-loud moment came after I learned that the Pioneer Village folks had “borrowed” the black table clothes to make the bunting from a catering site on the Fairgrounds.

The ceremony reminded me of why I love the State Fair and the folks that make up the community.

When I heard the chug of the steam engine tractor fire up for the threshing demonstrations and whirr of a Lemon Shake Up being shaken, everything seemed just a little bit better.

I spent hours at the Fair today. I was able to tuck into a corner of Normandy Barn and write about the Fair and the music community for two publications, Being on the Fairgrounds was the absolute right place to gather my thoughts. It was lovely to take breaks and soak in the sunshine and noises of Pioneer Village and to walk through the 4-H exhibits and Hook's Museum and wander  aimlessly down Main Street and reconnect with the Fair that I know and love. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Ten

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

There was no actual Day Ten of the Indiana State Fair, and rightly so. After the terrible tragedy of the accident on the Grandstand Stage last night, the folks at the State Fair decided to close the Fair for the day. And I'm glad they did. We all need time to digest the loss of five lives and the scores of others that are hurt. 

The rigging on the stage fell after a strong (60 mph) gust of wind caught the canopy. Four stagehands were on the structure at the time and countless other people were under, on, or near the stage. Click here for an account in the Indianapolis Star

I've leaned against that same stage dozens of times waiting for the music to start so I could snap photographs of the concert. 

In front of the Grandstand Stage waiting for the music to start last year. 

In this blog I've been concentrating on my agriculture background, but I got my writing chops by covering music for the last ten years. 

I typically write about the smaller shows; the ones that happen in living rooms and church basements and front porches and midsize venues.

I occasionally get to write and shoot photographs with the big name folks. I always appreciate the generosity of the Indiana State Fair media team in granting me a photo pass for the Grandstand shows. 

As is typical with most big acts, the photographers are allowed to the 'photo pit,' right in front of the stage, before the show starts. Traditionally you get to shoot the first three songs the band plays and then they hustle you out of the way. 

Between my love of music and the State Fair, some of my most satisfied moments have been standing in front of the Grandstand Stage. I remember being just giddy with excitement before the Rick Springfield show last year. 

It was a great feeling standing there, photographing one of my teen crushes, on the grounds of my beloved State Fair and getting to publish the photos for others to see. Doesn't get much better than that for this farm girl. 

I know that all of the folks that work in the business of live music have the same passion. Although the musicians are the main attraction, it literally takes a village to produce a show. There are the stagehands that construct the stage and backdrops and carry the gear, the sound technicians that make everything sound good in all corners of the room/stadium/outdoor venue, the lighting crews that climb up the rigging to make sure the lights hit the right spot every time, and the security people that make sure no one gets hurt during the show. And the fans. The people who love the music and everything that goes with it. 

As tragic as Saturday night was, it reminded me of why I love the State Fair and the people that attend it so. Hoosiers actually ran toward the stage and lifted trusses and carried people to safety. As Indiana's Governor Daniels reminded us, "There was a hero every ten feet on Saturday night." 

The Indiana State Fair will open tomorrow morning with a memorial service for those people caught up in the tragedy. 

Canceling the Fair today was the right thing to do. Yes, it was. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Nine

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

My trip to the State Fair was a short one today. I had to be at work at 5:00 and other errands and chores (can you believe that all other activities don't stop during the seventeen day of the Indiana State Fair?) kept me from the Fairgrounds until almost 3:00.

My main goal for today was to purchase one of Doug's magnificent paintings. I'd had my eye on one since I'd seen it in June, but didn't want to be too piggy and purchase it on the first day.

The Daily Parade of antique tractors and County 4-H Queens and mascots of soybeans and tomatoes is one of my favorite things about the Fair. I've managed to hitch a ride on a wagon a few times and I waved and grinned like a nut the whole time.

Sarah Davis, one of the awesome interns at the State Fair took me to see the balcony of the Administration Building. As I kid I'd look up and daydream about how great the view must be and wonder if I'd ever get to be up there. Decades later I made it up there. And it is as amazing as I thought it would be.

Another amazing day at the Indiana State Fair.

Friday, August 12, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Eight

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

Jennifer Dickie on the set of Indy Style 

I made it to the Fairgrounds just in time to see Jennifer Dickie demonstrate her first place danish recipe for Indy Style. Do you know how involved making danish dough is? I find just reading the recipe a daunting task, let alone making the perfect yeast dough and the having the butter icy cold. I get a little twitchy when I get to the layering and lamination parts of the recipe. Jennifer makes it look easy breezy. 

Click here for Jennifer's demonstration and recipe for Sure Cure Danish. 

Jennifer and her husband, Bill treated me to a delicious BBQ sandwich at the Pork Producers Tent. 

It was a perfect evening for the Night Glow event in the Infield. It was magnificent to see the balloon inflated and lit against the beautiful Indiana sky. 


I'm a huge popcorn fan and look forward to the Kettle Korn booth at the Fair. I grabbed a giant bag of it and happily munched away as I walked around. I've mentioned before that I'm not a Midway person, but ran into a friend who it. It was fun to stand still and soak in the sounds and laughter of the crowd. And there is no way you'll get me on a Ferris Wheel. Ever. But thanks for the offer. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Seven

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

Nora Spitznogle, Sarah Davis, Douglas David

This evening was the official 'meet the artists night' for the Farm to Fair show. 

It was humbling to hear the memories stirred by the show. I heard several stories of childhoods on the farm and grandmother's journals and other rural tales. 

Gwen has fond memories of pulling weeds with her four sisters and growing up on a working farm. 

It feels odd to watch friends and family and strangers ready my stories and gratifying to hear  that they identified with them. Hearing people laugh while reading the stories is heart-warming. 

My part of the Farm to Fair project is to tie Douglas's farm scenes to the fair scenes. Some were straightforward - dairy cow to a milkshake was easy. Flowers to a pork chop was a little more of a stretch...

The sweet smell of summer flowers help balance some of the not-so-sweet smells of farming. 

I’m looking at you, piglets! Swine have a distinctive odor and I will forever equate that smell with going to visit uncles and cousins and laughter and sunshine.

Lots of little piggies went to market, and several wound up at the State Fair. Indiana farming families sent eight million pigs to market last year – that is enough to meet the pork needs of every Hoosier, and twenty million more people around the U.S. and the world. The pork market is also the leading consumer of Indiana grain. Show your State pride by eating a pork chop at the Indiana Pork Tent. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Six

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

On the State Fair set of Indy Style - thanks to Sarah Davis for the photo. 

Doug and I had the great opportunity to tape an episode Indy Style to talk about our Farm to Fair exhibit. 

I ended my short visit to the Fair with a Tractor Tram ride around the Fairgrounds - it doesn't seem like a true visit to the Fair unless you've made a loop around the Grounds. 

Another great day at the Fair. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Five

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

Nora on stage

So, I'm in an all woman jug band, Alice Chalmers and The Stick a Cork in Your Jug Band. And I play the typewriter and rotary phone. There, I said it.

View from the stage

Playing on the stage in Pioneer Village is the best thing ever. Our band is started with the hope to play at the State Fair and we soon discovered that we (and when I say 'we,' I'm not including myself) were good. Amazing harmonies, music and giggling soon poured from our front porch rehearsals. The fact that we had use for grandmother's aprons and punch bowls was a bonus.

Miss Hamilton County, Phoebe Davis

We were lucky enough to have Miss Hamilton County join us for a song. The two hours flew by and I loved seeing friends and family in the audience. 

Pioneer Village Summer Kitchen

One of the perks of playing in Pioneer Village besides looking out at antique tractors while you perform is getting to grab a drink from the little screened in porch - I've always want to be able to go in there. 

After the show we had a grand time wandering around Pioneer Village and checking out the displays and chatting with folks. 

I especially loved meeting this grandfather/grandchildren trio and hearing about the steam engine tractor he demonstrates at the Fair.

Dad reading my work at the Farm to Fair exhibit

I was anxious to show Dad the Farm to Fair exhibit (Normandy Barn, until August 21, 9:00 to 8:00). It's one thing for strangers to read your work, but I'm nervous about family and friends seeing it. Dad enjoyed it - yay!
This was my first look at the cheese sculpture in progress.

Jennifer Dickie and her champion danish. 

We got to the Home and Family Arts Building just in time to see the lovely Jennifer Dickie win first place in the Fleischmann's Yeast contest. Her recipe is now entered in the national contest. Congratulations Jennifer! 

I wrote on my Farm to Fair bio that my State Fair 2011 goals were to win a blue ribbon on my toffee and to ride in the tractor parade. One goal was realized. I got to ride with the Third Satchel Novelty Jazz Orchestra - and the Hamilton County Fair Queen. 

Phoebe Davis, Miss Hamilton County 2011

Our instructions (besides making sure you don't fall off) were to smile and wave. Like you had to tell me that! 

Everyone loves a parade. And corndogs. 

Jeff and Jodi from Nebraska bring their booth to the Fair every year.

The rain storm didn't start until the parade was almost over. I got soaked on the way to the car as I juggled my typewriter, typing table, jug of flowers, rotary phone and other goodies. The white dress became transparent in the rain. At least the crinoline protected a bit of my modesty.

Another awesome day at the Indiana State Fair. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Four

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

Sunset at the Indiana State Fair

Today was the 22nd day in a row of over 90 degree temperatures, so the short evening rain was much appreciated.

As much as I love showing off the Fairgrounds to friends, I also enjoy the times that I am alone and can wander where ever the sights and smells take me. 

This evening the delicious smell of grilled beef took me straight to the Cattleman's Club Hoosier Ribeye Tent for a sandwich. I carried it to a table tucked inside the Cattle Barn. You can't get much closer to the food source than that!

 I'm always happy to have a chance to wear my cowboy rain boots.

I hopped on the tractor tram (powered by soy bio-diesel) for a ride around the Fairgrounds to Pioneer Village. The tractor tram is one of my favorite things about the State Fair. It's only 75 cents for a loop around the Fairgrounds. This evening the tram was fairly empty, but I sort of enjoy it when we're all squished together. It's fun to listen to kids talking about their favorite things at the Fair and marvel at the adults who can juggle a stroller and an elephant ear, while pulling out money to pay for their crew.

 Pioneer Village is celebrating 50 years at the Indiana State Fair and they've added new exhibits. This is the closest I've been to a Conestoga wagon. These mighty wagons were responsible for migration from the east to the west and moving freight before the railroad system was built.

I was thrilled to wander into a hymn sing-along in Pioneer Village. I couldn't carry at tune in a milk bucket, but I happily lip-synced along.

Another great visit to the Indiana State Fair.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Three

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

I love it when all of my worlds collide, and today was one of those days.

Today is Elanco Day at the Indiana State Fair. Elanco is working to fight to end hunger in Indiana. They invited the agencies who are working on hunger issues to set up a table at the Fair to tell their stories to the thousands of people that were visiting the State Fair.

I am the Director of Programs at Second Helpings, a food rescue, hunger relief and culinary job-training nonprofit agency. Really amazing things happen in our community every single day. Second Helpings prepares and delivers 2900 meals every day, at no cost, to fifty other social service agencies. We have a free ten-week culinary job-training class for unemployed adults.

I'm very proud of the partnership we have with the 4-H organization. This is the second year that we have picked up the vegetables exhibited by the county champion 4-H projects. In the past the vegetables were on display throughout the duration of the Fair. As you can imagine, the green beans and beets and tomatoes were looking weary, if not down right scary by the end of the Fair. Now the veggies are turned in to nutritious meals for the hungry folks in our State.

This year we picked up 1200 pounds of vegetables that were grown in all 92 Indiana counties. My heart swells at the thought that thousands of people are eating better thanks to the hard work of the 4-H kids in our State.

I'll admit that I popped a cherry tomato in my mouth when the veggies got to Second Helpings. It was championship good!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day Two

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

 Today was my first chance to get in to the Home and Family Arts Building to see how my Open Show entries fared. I'd baked snickerdoodle cookies, made English toffee and entered things in the antique division.

English toffee is my signature item. Or was. In the past I've been able to whip up a perfect batch of toffee with my eyes closed. Not this year. Out of six attempts there was only one that even looked good enough to enter. I was not surprised that I didn't get a ribbon on the toffee.

I was was happily surprised to see a third place ribbon on the snickerdoodles, there was lots of great competition in that category.

In the antiques division I'd entered the Ugly Lamp competition, but mine didn't place - I can never decide whether it is good or bad not to have the ugliest lamp. I was excited for my friend Novella, who took the blue ribbon - she deserved it, for sure! 

The piece I entered in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race memorabilia won the blue ribbon. Yay!

Anyone can enter projects in the Open Show divisions. There is a small fee, but you get enough Fair tickets to cover the cost of entering. Click here for details. 

From there I walked to the Normandy Barn to check out the Farm to Fair exhibit. I was thrilled to see folks there and talking about their farming experiences. This is exactly what we were aiming for.

I made a quick stop at the Dairy Barn for a grilled cheese sandwich, retrieved my bike from the lovely volunteers in the Pedal and Park tent and rode the Monon Trail home.

Friday, August 5, 2011

2011 Indiana State Fair Day One

Nora will use this blog to chronicle her daily adventures at the Indiana State Fair. 

Opening of the 2011 Indiana State Fair

I was afraid that my decade-long streak of attending the Fair every single day was going to end on the first day. I had work (the very awesome Second Helpings) commitments that stretched from 9:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night. 

A friend saved me with an invitation to the 6:45 a.m. Pork Producers Ham Breakfast.

The tent was chock-full of Indiana Agriculture leaders, but the standing ovation was saved for First Lt. Bart Lomont. Bart was part of the  Indiana 3-19th Agribusiness Development Team returning to Indiana after nearly a year in Afghanistan.  I was lucky enough to sit next to his parents - who were surprised by his early arrival the night before.

I was happy to learn that the Opening Day Ceremony was going to take place in Pioneer Village, my favorite corner of the Fairgrounds. The Village has new exhibits this year to celebrate their 50th anniversary (Pioneer Village and I are the same age - they seem way more excited about 50 than I am).

The ceremony had everything a State Fair Opening Day Ceremony should have. 4-H'ers, FFA kids, corny jokes- whoops, it is the Year of the Soybean - beany jokes, the Mayor of Indianapolis, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Fair Queen, washboard music and a ten-year 4-H member singing the National Anthem.

A fabulous kick off to the 167th Indiana State Fair. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Farm to Fair

The exhibit is hanging and beautiful.

Douglas' work is amazing and some of his best yet.

Please come and see us at the historic Normandy Barn. We'd love to meet you!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Indiana State Fairgrounds are buzzing

My favorite color of tractors and the Normandy Barn

The Indiana State Fairgrounds are buzzing with activity. 

It is a real thrill for me to get to wander the grounds before the Fair starts. The Pioneer Village folks are pulling wagons and tractors and displays out of storage. The vendors are starting to setup and hire their helpers. The contestants are entering pies and cakes and quilts and photographs. 

The excitement is palatable. 

It's a great time to be a Hoosier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

To a farm kid the word beans means, soybeans. Plain and simple.

Green beans and baked beans and kidney beans were called by their full names. The name beans was reserved for soybeans.  As farm kids, we spent a lot of the summer thinking about beans. And not always in a good way.

Those cute little, you-can-swear-that-you-can-see-them grow beans,  turned in to the hottest, longest, most-likely-to-make-you-want-to-take-a-swipe-at-your-little-brother-with-a-hoe summertime task.

Our family called the chore pulling weeds but I've also heard it called walking the beans or hoeing beans. 

Whatever you called it, it was a hot and sweaty task.

In retrospect, I can't believe how much we complained about the job. In the time we spent dragging our feet and doing the math of how many rows apart we could walk and still reach the weeds with our hoes we could have finished for the day before the sun was blindingly hot and we weren't speaking to each other.

The goal was to kill the weeds in the field that competed with the beans for sunshine and nutrients and choked out the beans and attracted bugs and reduced the yield. A byproduct of pulling weeds was seeing the beautiful rows of beans with nary an offending weed peaking over the top of the beautiful rows of soybeans.

Weed control has changed dramatically since the 1970s,  with the help of chemicals and more sophisticated equipment, but that doesn't stop me from judging a bean field by its weeds when I pass by.

A field of beans is one of the prettiest sights in Indiana - as long as you're not standing in them with a hoe.

Monday, July 4, 2011

knee high by the fourth of july

Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

Dad - July 4, 2011. Boone County.

I'm not sure how the "knee high by the fourth of July" idiom started, but as a kid I loved showing off our corn fields to our urban friends that celebrated Independence Day on our farm.

I can't remember a time when the corn was not taller than not only my knobby knees, but the knees of the adults. I remember feeling quite smug that our corn was so tall - that clearly we had done something above and beyond to make it so. As an adult, I know that sunshine and rain and hard work and the bank were responsible for how tall it was.

As any farmer can tell you, a good deal of growing crops is in the preparation - being ready to plant when the time is right - equipment ready to roll,  the right mix of seed corn and fertilizer and labor. And weather. It's always about the weather.

While we kiddos had plenty of chores and responsibilities around the farm, our involvement in planting was typically minimal. I remember stacking the precious bags of seed and driving them to the waiting planter. In retrospect I'm glad that I didn't have the chance to goof up sowing seeds.

Planting season is where the farm fiscal year starts. All of the cash literally goes in to the ground in seed costs, fertilizer and equipment. There is a small window to get the seeds in the ground and start praying for rain - not too much rain, of course. My farm friends and family visibly relax when the planting is done. 

As you can see from the photo this field has not tasseled yet,  which is the real July 4th goal - but that doesn't quite roll off the tongue, does it? This Spring was particularly wet (the rainiest April since 1895), and planting was late. Only 30% of the corn crop was planted by mid-May. 

The director of agronomic research for Weatherbill Insurance Co., Jeff Hamlin, estimates Indiana could see yield losses this year of between 137 million and 203 million bushels of corn. He tells The Indianapolis Star that would amount to a financial loss for farmers of between $960 million and $1.42 billion.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

year of the soybean

Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project. 

The theme of the 2011 Indiana State Fair is: Year of the Soybean.

How Does a Soybean Became a Corndog?  has been my working title for this project. I've had fun explaining that soybeans are often used as feed for cattle and swine. Thrown in some soy oil and soy milk and you've got a meal.

And celebrating the rich agricultural history of our State Fair most certainly involves food. I love talking about food! A panel of judges and readers of the Indianapolis Star were charged with the daunting task of choosing the signature food for this year's Fair.

This year's contenders are:
Deep-fried tofu on a stick.
Three generous cubes of tofu, rolled in a crisp coating, deep-fried and served on a stick with a spicy dipping sauce.
Where's the soy? Tofu (soybean curd) with a soymeal coating fried in soybean oil.

Soy-marinated beef on a stick with sesame-ginger soy-infused sauce. Chunks of top sirloin are spiced up with a sweet chile-garlic marinade and served on a stick with a sesame-ginger soy sauce for dipping.
Where's the soy? Top sirloin from soy-fed cattle marinated in soy sauce.

Bacon-flavored pork burger. 
Bacon-y pork patty is topped with Indiana-made barbecue sauce from Shoup's Country Foods.
Where's the soy? Pork from soy-fed hogs.

Grilled pepperjack cheese on sourdough.Toasted sourdough bread with plenty of spicy pepperjack -- made in Indiana at Deutsch Käse Haus in Middlebury.
Where's the soy? Cheese made from the milk of soy-fed dairy.

Deep-fried ice cream.
Reminiscent of a  popular dessert at a Mexican restaurant, this crisp/melty treat is topped with chocolate, caramel and whipped cream.
Where's the soy? Ice cream made from milk from soy-fed dairy cows with a soymeal coating fried in soybean oil.

The winner will be announced on July 15, but all of the items will be available during the fair.

Thanks to the Indianapolis Star's Jolene Ketzenberger for the descriptions of the items. Click here to see Michelle Pemberton's video recap of the tasting.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

 Poultry Barn, Indiana State Fair, 2010

We raised chickens for a few years, but I don't remember much about them, other than they were no fun to feed and the memories of butchering them. The idiom, "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off," has real-life meaning for me.

I do remember my duck. Around Easter each year the Danner's Store in Lebanon would sell baby chicks and ducks that had been dyed pastel colors. They were housed in the back of the store next to the shelf full of Little House on the Prairie and Nancy Drew books. I have a memory that the chicks were in a playpen and made quite a racket.                                                                                                                                      

Miraculously, one year Mom said yes, when we did our annual begging for one of the little fluff balls of poultry. My siblings chose chicks and I picked a duck.
We took them home and started comparing our purchases - the chicks were cute as can be and were amenable to being held. My duck was a little more obstinate, but I defended it staunchly. 

Weeks passed and the astonishingly, the pets thrived and fit right into the world of the chickens we already had. My duck was pretty independent and looked awkward as his new feathers grew in around the dyed ones. He could have been a poster duck in the ugly duckling category.

Adding fresh water to the container for the chickens to drink was part of the nightly chore of feeding them. One evening I got the bright idea to 'teach' the duck to swim in the water pan. He took to it, well, like a duck to water. Imagine my shock when I went to care for the chickens in the morning and found the baby chicks had followed the duck into the container and drowned. It was a sad sight, their little pastel bodies floating in the water. 

I'll admit that I felt a little superior to my siblings in the fact that my duck was smart enough to survive. Of course, it never occurred to me how the story would end. Let's just say that the duck left home one evening with a bottle of Dad's homemade wine in the car of one of Dad's friends. 

As kids we loved to visit the Poultry Barn at the State Fair. I'm not sure if I'm remembering the details correctly, but there was a little conveyor belt that the baby ducks rode on to land in a trough of water - I loved it! 

Somehow on our annual visits to the State Fair my parents managed to keep us from the Midway, but on the way out of the Fairgrounds we were allowed to dart in to the games area and pick a plastic duck floating in a plastic pond. The duck had a number on the bottom that corresponded to a prize. I remember always being disappointed in the prize,  wishing I could keep the plastic duck instead. I still head to the duck pond booth each year, hoping for the big prize.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

Tractor Parade, Indiana State Fair, 2010

The farm I grew up on was fairly small and our equipment fleet could be counted on one hand, but they were all green. We were a John Deere family, through and through. 

The farm that my parents bought in 1967, and Dad still lives on, came with a John Deere B Series tractor and that was the one that I drove most often. I was a pretty scrawny kid and had to use one of my legs and a foot to jam the tractor into gear - the gear box was on the floor, in front of the seat, while the other foot was on the clutch. It's amazing that it all worked and I didn't tumble off.

My tractor chores involved moving wagons full of corn to the bin and empty ones back to wait for the combine to fill up, repeat as needed, and mowing the corn stalks after harvest. Moving wagons felt stressful to me - you had to have everything lined up perfectly and timing was everything and generally their was a grizzled neighbor or a little brother watching. On the other hand I adored the solitude of mowing stalks. I could look back and see my progress and felt like I was doing something substantial - cleaning the cow barn didn't bring the same sense of satisfaction.

Best of all I loved that Dad mounted a radio on the tractor. I didn't have a record player and we didn't listen to much music at home. I could turn the radio up and sing at the top of my little lungs. I still know all of the words to the 'Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog' song, my favorite to belt out.

Parade, Indiana State Fair 2010

I always try to be at the State Fair in time for the daily parade. The parade features lots of fun stuff, but I'm all about the tractors. I've been lucky enough to hitch a ride in the parade the last few years. You are given the instructions to wave and smile - ha! Try and stop me! Riding in that parade is one of my favorite experiences of the year.