Take Some Detours Along the Way
to the Deerfield Fair
By Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
Simple Simon might have met a pie man going to the fair, but there are many more adventures than delightful confections at the upcoming Deerfield Fair from Sept. 27-30.
The 142nd Deerfield Fair is a celebration of agricultural life and bills itself as “America’s oldest agricultural family fair.” It serves up a trencherman’s helping of country crafts with horse-, oxen- and tractor-pulling contests, livestock shows and dog-agility competitions. In addition, there’s a large midway with games and rides, and performances by the Flying Wallendas high wire act and others.
It’s well worth the trip, and visitors can make a mini-vacation of it and take in other area attractions as well. We’re pleased to highlight a few.
First a few factoids to entertain your guests
Start the fun by regaling your kids and kin with fair facts. The annual event is on their former site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, where workers were housed during the Great Depression, mainly to do forestry work and help build Pawtuckaway State Park.
Deerfield was originally part of Nottingham. A petition to create a separate town in 1756 failed. Ten years later, with a second petition pending, two local hunters presented colonial Gov. Benning Wentworth with a deer. Permission was granted to incorporate Deerfield.
From 1834 to 1846, a series of loud reports called the Deerfield Explosions rocked the tiny town. Some said the blasts were as loud as cannon fire. There was much speculation about the source. Some blamed otherworldly forces, but they were most likely subterranean earthquakes.
Shopping isn’t the only way to work off fried dough and corndogs consumed at the fair. Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham and Raymond is a 5,000-acre park around the circular mountains that were once part of a ring dike of a volcano.
The fire lookout tower on the summit of 900-foot South Pawtuckaway Mountain has a great view of the surrounding landscape. There are several trails that will get you there. Your shortest option is the Tower Trail. It is about a half-mile long and departs from Tower Road, a bumpy dirt thoroughfare off Reservation Road at the back side of the park.
The Mountain Trail is a more strenuous 5-mile round trip that departs from the park road in Pawtuckaway. It connects to the Ridge Trail for the last half-mile or so to the tower and should take between two and three hours
Yet another option is the South Ridge Trail, about a 4-mile round trip, which departs from Round Pond Road, off Deerfield Road.
You don’t have to be a rock climber to enjoy the boulder field, a garden of colossal rocks, some the size of a houses, which looks like The Iron Giant’s bowling alley. It was formed 12,000 years ago when a glacier retreated and left behind the rocks called glacial erratics. It is a short hike off Round Pond Road, also off Reservation Road and is particularly fun for kids.
And if all that schlepping leaves you hot and sweaty, consider a dip in Pawtuckaway Lake. There’s a large, state beach, which is open to the public.
If you want a break from the sun at the fair, you might want to head to Strikers East Bowling Center at 4 Essex St., Raymond, for fun and exercise. The family-owned, 10-pin alley has 32 lanes and shares a glass wall with the Cork and Keg Grill where you can dig into a Tractor Pull Sandwich while watching your kids roll a strike.
Let them eat meatloaf cupcakes
Yes, yes, everyone loves a fried Oreo and a cone full of cotton candy, but you might want to leave the fairgrounds and sample local fare, too. Chef Bobby Marcotte has created a must-stop for carnivores at The Tuckaway Tavern and Butchery in Raymond.
In the beginning there was the butcher shop, which opened in 2012, a few months before the restaurant. It is a marketplace for all manner of meat, condiments and novelties.
Arby’s restaurant chain may claim “we have the meats;” The Tuckaway really does.
The deli counter in the butchery seems just a few downs short of a full football field. A smorgasbord of meat is displayed behind a glass counter. There are 20 varieties of house-made sausages – apple pork, cordon bleu chicken, maple blueberry, spinach and feta. There are buffalo chicken wings, marinated beef and chicken, steaks and hamburger.
There are also prepared dishes like buffalo chicken salad, macaroni and cheese, meat pies, salads and beef burritos. There are burgers of all description and meatloaf cupcakes made of ground beef and mashed potatoes. You’ll also find American chop suey, shepherd’s pie and stuffed peppers. A separate room holds more than 150 types of beer with an emphasis on local brews.
Tuckaway ships to all 50 states, and you may order in advance on their website. In short, the shop is nirvana for meat lovers.
In the tavern, Marcotte has put a creative twist on traditional fare. It is famous for its burgers and steak tips and Rooster Balls, indulgent fried appetizers the size of golf balls consisting of shredded chicken, cream cheese, vegetables and cilantro ranch dressing.
There are more than a dozen variations of the burger with several additions, including lobster salad and brisket. There is the “Pootine” (sic.), a twist on the French-Canadian combination of French fries and farmer’s cheese with the addition of steak tips. You may add a duck egg for an additional charge.
There is a live, closed-circuit television broadcast of the restaurant’s busy kitchen, a circular bar and an atmosphere of fun and family.
Expect a wait for a table.
Even more meat and entertainment
The Cork N Keg Grill on 4 Essex St., adjacent to the aforementioned Strikers East Bowling in Raymond, also offers house-smoked meats, chili and “smashed-to-order” burgers, not to mention live entertainment. And they take very seriously their sandwiches, including their slow-smoked pulled pork sandwich and the New Englander with house-smoked turkey breast, sliced apples, Vermont cheddar, bacon and honey mustard on wheat berry bread.
According to their website, “It’s all about the ingredients, and the love that goes into every part of it. Sandwiches have kind of become things we take for granted ... We start with great-quality bread, we roast and smoke all our own meats, we roast the garlic for our house-made garlic mayo. When each part of the sandwich is made with intention, the end product isn’t something you’re going to take for granted.”
The best pizza ever, cross my heart…
Liar’s Paradise is a pizza place, sub shop and convenience store with outdoor seating on Stage Road in Nottingham. It was previously a general store and got its name about 50 years ago when local teenagers stole a Liar’s Paradise sign from a local hunting camp and stuck it on the store as a Halloween prank.
Pitstop for potions
At 80 Stage Road in Nottingham, right down the street from Liar’s Paradise, is Mustard Seed Natural Living Center, a shop right out of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
Tall, black-eyed Susans and lush ferns frame the violet front door of this enchanted little shop, which has been in business for more than three decades. It offers natural and organic products designed to boost health and well-being in a natural and environmentally sound way.
Shelves are lined with apothecary bottles filled with intriguingly named teas like cranesbill root, damiana leaf and dandelion root or magical names like Silandrea’s Love Potion, to name a few.
Visitors are encouraged to stroll the ethereal grounds with its stone walls, vine-covered trellis, whimsical statuary and tiny fairy houses.
It’s never too early to start holiday shopping
A far cry from big-box stores and mega malls, Countryberries is a charming purveyor of the “whimsies and necessaries for your country home and garden” on Route 107 in Deerfield. There you can pick up anything from perennial plants and scented candles to primitive pine furniture, braided rugs and folk objects d’art.
The Deerfield Arts Tour will be held Oct. 20 and 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. This free self-guided tour of 10 Deerfield studios will feature 21 local artists and artisans. More information and a tour map are available at deerfieldartstour.beadbush.com.
Back to future
Want to check out a 21st-century general store? Visit the Ben Franklin Ace Hardware Store in Raymond. It’s like a down-home department store, which sells a little bit of everything – yarn, earrings and plants. There are men’s and women’s clothes, boots, crafts and classes on knitting and scrapbooking. There are candles, sporting goods, baseball gloves, tents, toys, crayons and notebooks and other back-to-school supplies.
They sell more than 65,000 items and probably have some goods you don’t even know you need – until you see them.