The Guilford Fair: A Few Of My Favorite Things

Seeing friends and neighbors, meeting new friends, cotton candy, the high wire act, the flying trapeze, sausage and peppers, cotton candy, the tractor pull, the Elvis impersonator, and eating cotton candy while watching the Elvis impersonator.


I went to cover the Guilford Fair this weekend, and then I went back later because I love fairs. 

Here are a few of my favorite things.

Running into Charlotte Lewis into the parking lot, who was helping direct traffic and park cars. You might know Charlotte. She works at the Barberry Hill farmstand on the Boston Post Road in Madison. There were others who work at the farm as well, including Kingsley Goddard, the owner of his farm. Kingsley is a volunteer at the Guilford Fair along with his wife Kelly, one of many volunteers who have kept this tradition going

Real wealth measured in land spread, family size, and harvest bounty

How appropriate that the Goddards, who run one of the region's best known and well loved farms, were helping out. Here is some history on the Guilford Fair:

Guilford Fair had its founding on the eve of the American Civil War. In a world of agriculture, most of the town’s 3,000 inhabitants practiced subsistence farming. Happily, and at times, wearily, they lived off the land in the manner of their forebears. Their very existence put them in servitude with the land, following the seasonal functions of a farmer. Real wealth was often measured in terms of land spread, family size, and harvest bounty – not bank accounts.

For more on that history, you can check out the Guilford Fair website or see PDF provided with this article.

A quilted apron and a sister from afar

At the ticket booth, I ran into Marlene Abt, from Guilford. She is another long time volunteer, who has been a member of the Guilford Fair Association for 50 years.

At the North Guilford Congregational Church, I found a quilted apron that I just had to have, and I met Jean Green from Guilford, Gail Carlson from Branford, and Nancy Riker from Washington, DC. Washington, DC? Yes, she is Jean's sister, and an honorary member of the North Guilford Congregational Church, which she attends when she is in town. So, volunteering at the festival sounded like a fun way to log some sister time to her.

Then I saw one of my favorite neighbors, Marina Pappas, with her son, the adorable and charming William Pappas. After William offered me his little blue dog to inspect, they headed over to see they Flying Wallendas in action on the flying trapeze and high wire.

One minute, just another kid ... the next, a princess

I was there to watch the same. After talking with members of the Wallenda and Cortes family Thursday, I was looking forward to seeing the show. The day before, Ysabella Wallenda Cortes, who just turned 11 this month, had seemed just like any other home-schooled kid, hanging out with her family, helping to watch the little kids, helping out around the picnic table.

On Friday afternoon and evening (yes, I went to both shows), she looked and performed like the glamorous and talented circus princess she is. Even when the spotlight was not on her, she was part of the playful scenarios presented as family members flew through the air, yes, with the greatest of ease, and walked, rode, and sat on (in a chair) the high wire. Without a net. And when she wasn't on the bar or on the high wire, Ysabella could be seen herding small children and otherwise helping out, just like she was the day before.

Ysabella may have been the princess, but patriarch Tino Wallenda, her grandfather, is still the undisputed star of the show. He just this past week celebrated his birthday, in Guilford, where the family is having a family reunion. This is a man who has walked the high wire over lions, tigers and man eating sharks. He has walked between buildings, over rivers and a waterfall. He has walked 179 feet in the air over Denver and he has walked a wire 3,300 feet long. And with his wife Olinka, he has raised a beautiful, talented family that gathered for his 63rd birthday last week, an accomplishment that dwarfs all of the others.

You're getting old? I don't want to hear about it ...

If you ever give your age as a reason for why you can't do something, I have just one word for you ... Tino.

I won't describe his act. I'll only say go see it.

Also there watching the high flyers, wire walkers, the equestrian acrobats and some of the most talented mutts ever (and all rescues!) was Claudia Lombard. She was there all the way from more than 1,600 miles away in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, with her two children, Ridley and Chaney Smith.

And a few more families at the fair

Claudia was staying with her parents, Gil and Gladys Lombard, who live in a house that overlooks the fairgrounds, the house where Claudia grew up. Sure, she was here to see her family, but she was also looking forward to a good, old-fashioned New England agricultural fair.

"I wouldn't miss it," she said.

I agree with Claudia. And fortunately I only had to travel one town over. After buying some cotton candy, I headed back to Madison to cover another assignment, then went back later that evening with a friend, where I watched the Wallendas again, got some more cotton candy, and ran into John Daniels who lives in North Madison and runs Grow Home Organics and Incredigrill, with his wife Michele, with the help of their five children. His daughter Isabel was there Friday night, helping out.

What were your favorites?

He was working on the Incredigrill, which is truly amazing, serving up free treats to passersby. I'd recommend that as another stop. Stop for the treats, you'll want to buy a grill.

I ended the night with another cotten candy, watching an Elvis impersonator. Don't laugh! It was good and it was fun! What's better than good fun?!

Did you go? What were your favorites?

Are you going to the Durham Fair next weekend? What are some of your favorites there?

Here is the schedule for the Guilford Fair for the rest of the weekend. For additonal details, including times that the Wallendas will be performing, see the PDF of fair events with this article:

Saturday, September 22, 2012
9:00 am to 11:00 pm 

10:00 am                 Guilford Citizens’ Parade
11:30 am                  Antique Tractor Pull
1:00 pm                    3,000; 3,000 Horse Drawing
2:00 pm                    Spelling Bee
7:00 pm                   Free For All- Horse Drawing

Sunday, September 23, 2012
9:00 am to 7:00 pm

10:00 am                Middlesex Tractor Pullers & Garden Tractor Pull
NOON                    Draft Oxen
6:00 pm                 Tents Close
7:00 pm                 Tents Re-open for exhibitor pick-up


What are the days and hours of the fair?

Saturday, September 22     until 11 p.m.

Sunday, September 23       9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Where is parking?

Fairgrounds parking at Lovers Lane at Stonehouse Lane  $5.00

Free shuttle bus from I-95 Exit 57, 1571 Boston Post Road (follow signs)

Friday:  4:30 p.m – 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

What is the entrance fee?

Adults: $10.00

Senior Citizens: $8.00

Children 6-11:  $5.00

Children 5 and under: FREE

3-day discount pass: $25.00

Parking on site: $5.00

What are the wristbands and when will they be available?

For $22 fair goers can purchase a wristband Saturday and Sunday, from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., for unlimited access to rides.

Pem McNerney September 22, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Thanks James!! Love the picture!
Ruth Rose September 23, 2012 at 02:32 PM
The Guilford Fair is a huge tradition with our family. Growing up in Guilford, the Parade/Fair was always a big deal; in fact, we used to have the Friday of the fair off from school. The parade was held on Friday, and we would all march (I was in the band) onto the fairgrounds and spend the day there. We entered vegetables, flowers and other displays and then, with my own children, they painted pumpkins and entered all kinds of creations. Yesterday, I was delighted to attend the parade and fair with our two-year-old grandson, as we created even new memories! We went on to cheer on our two sons and future daughter-in-law in the Antique Tractor Pull, a real favorite in our farming family! What an incredible weekend, full of great weather and new memories, from the Guilford Fair!!!
Ruth Rose September 23, 2012 at 02:47 PM
And, yes, Pem, the very best is running into old friends at the Guilford Fair!!! This year was even more special because my (older) brother marched in the parade with his former GHS class in honor of their 50th high school reunion; what fun!!!


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