🥟The Spencer Fair🎠

By Rosalie Tirella

EXPLOITATION! Animal cruelty!

I didn’t go to the Spencer Fair this year, even though I live in Spencer and it’s a pretty big ta-do around here. It’s way more than 100 years old – practically historic! But it’s not exactly bucolic like the Woodstock Fair in Connecticut – which I’ve attended and so enjoyed: picture-postcard perfect, more than pretty ensconced in all that velvety green New England countryside. The old beau and I saw Peter Noone of the Herman’s Hermits 10 years ago at the Woodstock Fair. Noone’s a ’60s pop singer and was quite the hit at the fair – to the old beau’s delight. The old beau, from Lynn and tougher than anyone in Spencer could ever be, was, much to my horror, a Peter Noone groupie! Absolutely in love with Noone and his ridiculous songs, like “Mrs. Jones You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.” All sung in this fake cockney accent. When we were together we saw Peter Noone in concert at least five times! I was dragged to these spectacular spectacles! If I resisted, he’d say, suit yourself, and go alone. We practically stalked Noone in venues all over Southern New England, including the Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, with the added bonus of free entry. My guy almost got into a fight with someone angling for front seat status! A few months before that night we had seen a seated in chair, thinnish, Greg Alman, a little after his liver transplant, his long blond hair still fine and gold and beautiful, tied back in a long thin pony tail. I was gobsmacked! GREG ALMAN! I screamed! He’s a legend! The old beau was nonchalant. In his mind, Peter Noone was the legend!

But I digress. The Spencer Fair is the opposite of the Woodstock Fair. It has about two trees, and a very dusty midway and dirt that hovers over the midway thick and silty. You can see the silt when the sun shines through it. Like the town of Spencer, and our downtown, the Spencer Fair is rough and working class. Think tattoo kiosks and big tanned guys in leather vests sporting their tattoos. Nonetheless, in all its dusty, fried dough glory it sails on year after year drawing big crowds.

I still think its carousel is romantic. I still think choosing the right pretty carousel horse to ride is exciting – running thru that circle of a ride, sizing up all the steeds as fast as you can and choosing yours amid the hustle and bustle – trying to find your soulmate before the ride’s operator starts up the ride and the old timey music begins. That beautiful old timey carousel music. Was there ever anything so lovely as a carousel? The circular “race” …the carousel’s operator, scrawny, a cig hanging from his thin lips. You look up and see all those folded mirrors unfolding in time to the music, and you’re swept up in the merry-go-round dream in the Spencer night.

I stopped going to the Spencer Fair a decade ago because, the older I get, the more sensitive I am about the way the animals are treated. The poor exotic animals in shock as they’re handled by kids. Freaked out piglets forced to wear little saddles and race around a little race track. The farm animals “shown” at the fair have to do their thing – like pulling two tons of crap if you’re a draught horse – no matter what. Even in humid 90-degree weather with the sun beating down on their big wet haunches – the sweat breaking my heart. One year a huge brown beauty collapsed. I was with the old beau. I was appalled when the guys in charge of the pull gathered around the big majestic beast lying in the dirt, forcing it up again,along it continue the pull. I shot up and ran thru the fair looking for the veterinarian on call. I found the person and practically in tears told them what I had just witnessed. The person went over to the area and declared the horse “just fine.”

I was apoplectic! I was in tears! Crying to my boyfriend, I said, “The horse collapsed! The horse collapsed! And they didn’t pull him out of the contest!”

To my surprise, the old beau turned around and scowled at me and began yelling at …me! ROSE, WHY CAN’T WE JUST ENJOY THINGS? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS GET INVOLVED AND MAKE TROUBLE?!

He was so mad at me, they he got up and left the fair, me running behind him to catch up.

What he was telling me at the Spencer Fair, this lover of German Shepherd dogs, the owner of 10 of them, two the German line … this rescuer of turtles and hawks, this man who voted Green Party in some presidential elections, what he was really saying was: Rose, I don’t love you anymore.

And I got the message and was heartbroken.

Man’s roughness with the animals of the fair. Treating them like means to ends. Tools. Cheap entertainment. Beasts to be exploited. Creatures to be slaughtered and eaten. I was right about the horse who had collapsed at the Spencer Fair. The old beau was right about the demise of us as a couple.

The fair …I covered the Spencer Fair as a reporter for the New Leader decades ago as a cub reporter. I was young and stupid, so I’m sure my feature story reflected that.

One year I saw an old classmate from Burncoat Senior High School at the fair. My sister and I drove in to Spencer from Worcester, and she fell in love with those trendy at the time Vietnamese miny pigs – which actually grew up to be HUGE hogs. But that was the trend back then. I remember how Sally really wanted a piglet and standing over its little hay strewn pen made little piggy squeaks and squeals to a black and white Vietnamese potbellied piglet no bigger – at the time – than a Boston terrier. My old Burncoat High classmate was with her little kids. She told me she was a nurse or something like that at a local hospital. She was very nice to me, saying it was cool that I put out InCity Times and that I was speaking my mind, telling it like it is! She was impressed – and kinda proud of me. This surprised me. Even though she was in all honors classes like me, she and I were never close, and I always thought she thought I was too nerdy to chum around with. I was cute – but kinda nerdy! Here it was 20 years later and she spotted me and was very nice.

On my Facebook page today I saw a video a FB friend of mine had posted of her and her husband at the Spencer Fair. Specifically, her ride on the carousel. She’s 80 and had captured all the magic of that merry-go-round, and all of a sudden I wanted to run to the Spencer fairgrounds, like a kid in love.