Grange Fair celebrates rural Dartmouth
In spite of Hurricane Dorian bringing gloomy weather to Dartmouth, families and neighbors came out on Friday evening to celebrate the start of the annual Grange fair at the hall on Fisher Road in Russells Mills village.
Rural charm was on display everywhere with exhibits of fruit and vegetables, flowers, canned and baked goods, quilts and handicrafts, as well as a large penny sale raffling off donated items including works of art, potted rosemary and hydrangea, and a socket wrench set.
The Grange is a national fraternal organization for farmers that now accepts members from backyard farmers to those just interested in growing.
The Dartmouth Grange was established in 1888, and the first-ever Grange fair took place in October 1897 at the Town Hall.
At this year’s event, guests were greeted under a large tent at the entrance by an old-fashioned rural country store stall with pickles, popcorn, penny candy, and baked goods for sale.
The smell of popcorn and the sound of gentle rain suffused the tent that held carnival games for participants to try their hand at darts, bean bag tossing or the high striker game.
Those who played won tickets to exchange for prizes from a table run by volunteers from the Westport Fire Explorers post 774, a teen training program of the Westport Fire Department.
Also featured at the fair on Friday were a scavenger hunt, a pie-eating contest, and a magic show from local magician Skip Daniels.
Grange members were preparing for the influx of visitors by arranging produce and flowers and, in the case of Carol Wood, setting up the Country Store, which she was managing.
“Last year we got a wheel of cave-aged cheddar from the Grafton Vermont cheese company,” Wood said. “And that was so popular this year we got two kinds of cheese. We got another wheel of the cave-aged cheddar, and we got a Shepsog.” Shepsog is a cheese made from cow and sheep’s milk and named after the Algonquin word for sheep.
Wood said that she was excited for the fair in spite of the weather. “Who knows what’s going to happen with the weather,” she said.
“It’s a fun time,” said Grange member Ned Newton, who said that he lives just three houses down from the hall.
His wife is the president of the Grange. “She keeps me involved,” he said with a smile.
Russells Mills resident Lindelle O’Keefe was buying tickets for the penny sale with her granddaughter Caitlin and great-grandson Tucker O’Keefe, who is only six months old.
“I’ve been coming to the fair since I was a little girl,” Lindelle said.
“I always won on this when I was a little kid,” she said of the penny sale, before adding with a laugh, “I don’t win anymore.”
Lindelle noted that she was a member of the Grange for years.
“It was a big deal to become a member. You had to be fourteen to join, way back when,” she said. “Four girls in the village all joined in the same time.”
“It’s just always been fun,” she said. “They have an auction on the last night, and they auction off all of the produce. And they always have great food, which is lovely.”
The Trepanier family were chatting with neighbors in the tent outside. Five-year-old Henry entered a sunflower — the tallest one so far — that he grew with his grandfather.
“We live about five minutes away,” said mom Martaina. “It’s fun. I’m glad it’s here.”
She added that Henry loves the fair. “He loves to garden and play games,” she said.
“I want to grow corn at our house,” declared Henry in affirmation, while eating fistfuls of popcorn.
There’s still more to come.
Demonstrations on Saturday will include beekeeping, rug braiding, cider pressing and wool spinning, with other activities like tomato and apple tasting, another scavenger hunt and pie eating contest, awarding of prizes, and the drawing for the penny sale.
The headline event, a comedy/music show by inventor, musician and one-man orchestra Len Solomon, will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The fair opens at noon on Saturday. For more information, call (508) 636-1900 or email email@example.com.