Mares: Back To Tunbridge

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(HOST) Commentator Bill mares reflects on volunteering at the Tunbridge
fair, two weeks after Irene’s flood roared through towns across Vermont –
including Tunbridge.

(MARES) For a number of years I have
volunteered to sell honey and talk bees at the Vermont Beekeepers
Association booth at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. Country fairs like this
evolved to offer end-of-summer sensory overload, with music, food,
rides, competition, and merchandise. But sorting out my thoughts about
this year’s Fair was like trying to untangle debris along a
flood-ravaged river.

It began as I drove the mere five miles
from Bethel to South Royalton. After its rampage the White River was
back within its banks, its color a sullen gray. The river had chewed new
channels. Fields were scoured, scraped  and covered with silt. Rows of
corn showed the high water marks. Two bridges looked as if they had been

Tunbridge, however, lay in a valley of relative
tranquility. The cattle barns had been cleaned of silt. The bridges were
secure and the fields were dry. Scores of polite Norwich University
cadets in green and blue sweatshirts directed the parking.

On my
way in I chatted with Euclid Farnham, a long-time president of the
fair. He said that he  knew that attendance would be down, but they
never thought of cancelling. Nor had they cancelled ten years ago in the
week after the 9/11 attacks. Instead, I remembered, they had proclaimed
10 minutes of silence which was only broken by the occasional lowing of
a cow.

I ambled along the midway, moving through ranks of
kiosks with the usual heart-stopping foods, including sausages, burgers,
onions, and French fries, past robotic carnival workers at pitch and
toss and shooting galleries and through a forest of rides for children.
Politicians hawked their promises and dreams; the National Guard sold
patriotic adventure; others sold tractors, insurance, T-shirts and
Inside the Dodge-Gilman building, we beekeepers shared
space with Cabot cheese, the Christmas tree growers association, The
Grange, and rack upon rack of prized vegetables, fruits and pumpkins as
big as all-terrain vehicles.
Our six-hour shift went non-stop.
The world came to us, the thin and the round, the young and the old, the
fleet and the lame. We had three irresistible attractions: One was
great local Vermont honey to taste and to buy. We sold plastic honey
sticks by the thousands. Secondly, we could answer anxious questions
that despite poor weather this year, Vermont bees were in relatively
good health. But the biggest draw was our observation hive with 3,000
bees crawling around beneath glass, safe from human harm. Everyone from
toddlers to totterers with canes could play the beekeeper’s version of
"Where’s Waldo?" as they searched for the queen bee.
We were a
little short on help when one volunteer bowed out with a broken foot,
another with a broken leg, and Del Cloud the town manager of
flood-stricken Bethel, asked for a rain check. In the end, however, we
had enough volunteers. And what’s more, we were named the best booth in
the entire Fair, a prize which gets us in free next year!

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