August 17: Last day at Vt. State Fair

Stephanie Wissel, Castleton

Recorded August 17, 2019

We are exhibiting our 4-H members and their equine partners, and their exhibiting in everything from fitting to showmanship, to equitation, to pleasure and other 4-H activities. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had a lot of visitors, and we’re enjoying our new facility.

Kalonna Kantorski, Rutland

Recorded August 17, 2019

For us, it’s going quite well. We’re very pleased, but the weather has a lot to do with it, and there’s a little more activity down at this end, so it’s been very good for us. We’re happy. With the demolition derby, we know it always brings a bit crowd, so that’s very pleasing to us. Everything we do, we time around — especially on Saturday — around the demolition derby, so I would expect a big crowd tonight because it’s Saturday night, and this is a motor sport city or town, or county, however, and I would expect a big crowd tonight. Anything to do with a motor sport, they love.

August 18, 2019

Jay Meyer, Putney

Email Jay Meyer at or call 802 275-7029.

(The firetruck) wasn’t pink when I got it. My 81-year-old father and I drove to Washington Courthouse, Ohio, and bought this truck and drove it home. We paid $2,000 for the truck and $2,300 to fix the radiator. It runs very well for an old girl. PinkHeals was founded by a retired firefighter out of Glendale, Arizona. He got frustrated with the fact that firefighters are always being asked for donations for this, that and the other thing, and he was at a fire one day, and a woman came out to watch the firefighters do their thing, and she (told them) she couldn’t get a wig. And that just really upset him that someone in his community, where he’s giving all these donations away, and she couldn’t get a wig. She was going through chemo. He was at home lying on his couch and he dreamed up these pink firetrucks, driving around the country supporting the women in our communities. … I do home visits. If you’ve got someone in your community who’s going through something, and they’re having a rough time of things, people can reach out to me via Facebook, and I’m more than happy to arrange a home visit, where we go right up to their front door, lights and sirens some of the times, and I tell the people, hey, I’m Jay from Putney. I came up here to tell you I love you. … I don’t get paid to do this, not one thin dime. I get paid by the hugs that people give me.

Jeryn Mawson, Holyoke, Massachusetts

Recorded August 17, 2019

It’s gone pretty well. It was slow the first few days, but it’s definitely picked up the past couple of days. It went well. I liked it. For our first year here, it’s been good. I mean, the people here are nice, the ones that have the buildings that stay around, and they open every year, they’re really sweet, and we’ve traded with a few people and met some nice folks that do the fair every year. The security’s very nice, and the police officers that were here were nice to us. This is our first year here. We usually do music festivals. We sell coffee. We go to New York and Rhode Island.

Randy ‘Pappy’ Rhen, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Recorded August 17, 2019

I met a lot of good people, I had a good time. I enjoy traveling around, meeting new people, doing a lot of cool stuff, checking out the towns. I’ve been doing this for 33 years now. We have a bunkhouse back here, we got a room, TV, a shower unit, yeah, so we’ve got it made, central air conditioning. 

RH: Thirty-three years you’ve been a carney. You mind that word, “carney?”

RR: No, no, no, I don’t mind. Actually, I use the word “showman.” A carney to me is a guy that’s dirty, that don’t respect nothing. A showman has more respect. I go to a bar in these towns, I’ll sit down, have a few drinks and have a good time. A carney, he’ll go in and trash the place.

Krissy Stroud, W. Springfield, Illinois

Recorded August 17, 2019

Krissy Stroud, West Springfield, Illinois

I came out four spots ago, the end of July.

RH: And you’re going to go on from here?

KS: Yup.

RH: Where are you going from here?

KS: New York.

RH: Whereabouts in New York?

KS: I forgot! I forgot the name of the spot!

RH: But you’re going to be there tomorrow.

KS: Yeah. We jump out tonight. 

RH: How do you like this life?

KS: I do. I’ve done it before. But I had a couple of kids to raise, so I stayed home 21 years. This is my first adventure since.

RH: What do you do when you’re not here?

KS: I’m with my boyfriend!

RH: What are your expectations, like, tonight, you’re going to take down this booth.

KS: We’re going to tear this down, and we’re going to get out. We’re going. We’re going to get off this mountain.

Dennis Ward, Granite Falls, Washington

Recorded August 18, 2019

RH: You’ve been traveling around the country, and you just happened upon this fair.

DW: Yes, I saw it on the internet that it was here the 13th through the 17th, and we thought we could make it, and we did. We finally came in Friday night, the 16th, and we got a campsite here for a couple of nights. Saturday we got to see the whole fair, and we thought it was a great fair. We’ve been to bigger fairs and we’ve been to smaller fairs, and this is a great fair. We liked the dairy cows, the cattle, and the horses were nice.

RH: Well, they’re right over there.

DW: We’re right next to them. We watched them, we watched the girls in the 4-H get all dressed up and do their riding. The dog arena was right there in front of us. They were doing herding shows yesterday, and that’s something I’d never seen before. Like I say, we have fairs in Washington, a few of them are smaller, and we’ve got one or two bigger ones. We’ve enjoyed it. We love fairs. 

RH: Where do you head from here?

DW: We’re going over to the coast of Maine. Wife wants to see Acadia, we want to see Acadia, so we’re going to go over to the coast of Maine, and then we’ll be coming back across, I suppose, to New Hampshire and Vermont to New York, and she wants to see Niagara Falls, so we’ll go to Niagara Falls, then we’re headed down to Ohio to see the niece and her husband. We’ll probably head home from there.

William Street, Rutland

Recorded August 18, 2019

RH: William, how’s your summer going?

WS: Excellent.

RH: What’ve you been up to?

WS: Doing a lot of flea markets, and doing a lot of camping and hiking.

RH: Where you been the last couple of months?

WS: On the Appalachian Trail.

RH: How is it up there this summer? Is it crowded?

WS: Not at all because now you’ve got highways going through there, development, so it’s not like when we were younger. 

RH: Is there any place that you haven’t been that you want to go to before the snow falls?

WS: I’d like to go to Ireland.

RH: You think you’re going to get there?

WS: You can always get where you want to go if you put your mind to it.

RH: You ever been there before?

WS: No. That’s why I want to go.

RH: You’re Irish? Your people, your parents, your grandparents come from there?

WS: My grandparents do.

RH: Whereabouts?

WS: They come from County Cork, Ireland.

RH: That’s where you want to go?

WS: If it’s in the country, yes. 

RH: Tell me again what they could do out at the fair to make it better?

WS: Well, they could bring back the (BMX) bike racing, have go-cart racing and bring back the sulky racing. It helps the elderly people with heating and stuff. And like I said, so vendors will come in, they could lower the rent they got to pay. They should have taken the old drive-in property, made it into an amusement park. They could’ve had that going all summer long. But they didn’t. And the buildings are all empty.

Camera and production by RH Alcott

Street Talk: 58th Art in the Park

Click here for audio.
August 10, 2013

Allan Sackey, Pittsford, Massachusetts

I’m not originally from Massachusetts, I’m from West Africa, Ghana. I learned this weaving baskets at age of 7 years, and my grandfather taught me. My grandfather is 125 years old now. He’s still alive in West Africa, Ghana. He taught me how to weave this basket. I use fiber grass. It’s natural fiber grass, and the dye that we use are vegetable fiber dyes. So we use the straw — we twist them to make it double. Some people don’t like weaving double basket because they think it wastes material, but I need the quality of my product. So I always weave double weaving just to make it strong for my customers.

Barbara Mitchell, Guilderland, New York

I wanted to do a mindless hobby. I was teaching and had five kids at home, and I needed something to just relax and be mindless and I found out it’s anything but mindless — but you have to concentrate so hard on it. It’s very relaxing. It was about 30 years ago I started doing it, and then I started taking a couple of classes, too, and I had to sell it in order to make room to make more, so I started doing craft fairs. You’re not going to make a million dollars doing it, but it’s a lot of fun. You’re lucky if you break even, but it’s a lot of fun, yeah.

Sharon Herrmann, Arlington

I’m a silversmith, only silver, and I’ve been doing this for 36 years. What I work with is wire and plate, everything is crafted from that by soldering and hammering and cutting. It’s all basic, everyday wear jewelry. The story of how I started — I had a job, and a silversmith in Manchester called me up and said, “Want a job?” And I said, “I have one,” but I gave notice and started working for her and apprenticed for three years. She said, “Go out on your own, and I did, and here I am, 35 years later. Apprenticing, that’s my education, actually hands on. It’s a full-time business, and I love creating.

Caitlin Gates, Hubbardton

It’s watercolor and I did like a zentangle background — it’s really just Sharpie, but it started out as kind of a project I was doing for a children’s book. It’s sort of at a standstill for the moment, but it’s these really fun illustrations. It’s all about collective nouns, so the parliament of owls, the walk of snails, tribe of goats, colony of bats, that kind of stuff. 

RH: Pride of lions, a murder of crows.

CG: Yes! An unkindness of ravens!

RH: “Un-kind-ness!” 

CG: Yes.

RH: That’s harsh on the raven!

CG: I know! They kind of got demoted from the crows, I feel like.

RH: Well, “murder” is not so great either.

Jameelia Abdullah, Amherst, Mass.

We do handmade jewelry, and we pretty much make jewelry out of anything we can find. We do wire-wrapping, beading, weaving. We use lightweight nickel-free products so that we can make really ornate pieces that are good for sensitive skin, and everybody can wear. It wearable art. We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, and it just came out of need after economic change. My mom actually started, and I came on after my master’s program. I just look young. 

RH: So it’s a family tradition. You learned from your mother.

JA: Yeah.

RH: How’s it going for you?

JA: Great. It’s very busy.

RH: Tell me a little about technique. Do you make drawings first? How do you do it?

JA: No, we don’t do drawings. We pretty much have the sketch in mind, and then we lay it out. With our necklaces we lay it out before we do it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And we just see what happens.

Peter Huntoon, Poultney

Nature will do remarkable things if I just have the sense to get out of the way. I do invite the universe to conspire with me, and by that I mean encourage accidents, so I have a variety of tools that manipulate paint in certain ways and many ways out of my control. So when I make a mark it’s at best hopeful and at worst  damaging, but I try my best to judge what I put down, make the most of it and most importantly, leave alone the marks that could always be slightly better, but the more you monkey with it, the more the integrity of the paint already on there is compromised. If you look at it in its early stages right now, you can see all the individual marks there. They have integrity, they have personality, they have identity, you know, this one’s green, this one’s orange, this one’s opaque, this one’s transparent. So the more I can leave that integrity intact, i.e., don’t take my brush and smush ’em all together, that just destroys the inherent beauty of this thing. So as the painting progresses, it’s more a job of leaving things alone and gently, gradually building up the surface until it’s a whole painting and things are in their appropriate, organized position, and it works as a whole, and that’s called unity, the most important element of painting in my opinion.

Camera and production by RH Alcott

2019 Vermont State Fair

Tina Spaulding, Royalton

August 14, 2019
Click here for audio.

Taking care of cows at the fair starts long before the fair. You have to try to find the heifers that you feel have the best confirmation, body-wise. You start feeding them a little bit differently before the fair starts to make sure that they’re well-grown. You start washing them and clipping them before the fair starts to keep their hair nice and shiny and white. You train them to lead before the fair starts, and you just start playing with them, usually a couple of months before the fair. And when you get to the fair, you’re feeding them all the time, they take a bath every morning, so we’re usually up here about 5 o’clock in the morning. We’re outside in the wash racks about 6. At 5 we get up, we come in, we feed the cows. We make sure they have plenty of water, we clean out their beds. We get everybody milked. Then we go out to the wash rack, and everybody gets a bath, scrubbed nose to hoof, and during the day we make sure every need for them is met. Their tails are brushed, their bodies brushed. They’re fed constantly. We stand behind them, when they poop we pick it up immediately, wipe their butts off, wipe the noses, just like any other baby. And then on show day, they get a little extra attention, a little more spiffiness, a little more spic and span, a little more shine to them before they go into the ring. Most of them are like big dogs. They follow you around, they want to be patted. They like people. They’ll moo when people walk by to try to get them to come over and scratch their heads.

‘Wild Bill’ Bartlett, Proctor

August 13, 2019

“They call me ‘Wild Bill.’ I’m the head of security for the fairgrounds. I’ve been working here approximately 15 years — pretty much making sure everybody behaves and nothing happens here, dealing with people. Not too often, but there are situations that can arise here that we nip in the bud before it gets out of hand.”

Mia Hendricks, Rutland

August 13, 2019

“I’m the grounds superintendent, so I’m trying to get everything that needs to be done for the grounds up and running and make sure everybody has what they need. My phone constantly rings, and I’m getting pulled in different directions by different people. It’ll be five years this year. I’m hoping and praying that (this year’s fair) is going to be a bigger outcome and more people start coming back”

Camera and interviews by RH Alcott

Penelope Weiss

Click here for audio:

August 11, 2019

Penelope Weiss, of Shrewsbury, writes poems. She says, “Originally, about 50 years ago, I wrote some poems, but then I didn’t write for another 45 years or so. I’ve been writing these for the last five years probably. I need to speak. I need to communicate. I need to create images, ideas and communicate with people, and that’s one way to do it.”

In the Name of Divination (The Mouse Judge)

The mouse judge sits on his bench.

He looks at the crowd. He adjusts his crinkly white wig and scratches his head.

A young man is in the dock, chained like a slave.

It’s the end of summer. Moths fly through the moist air.

The mouse judge listens to their mutterings.

The moths talk about divination, how it’s a holy thing.

The judge smiles. In the name of divination, he once was ridiculed,

shut up in a cage, bent to the holy will of others.

“All rise,” shouts the bailiff, but the judge is already seated.

The judge remembers the cage where the worshipers had put him.

Even now their prayers chill his bones.

He remembers how he said things he never meant to say,

bowed to unworthy people, danced in the dust.

When they sang their sacred songs, he escaped.

He looks at the prisoner. The prisoner flinches. The trial begins.

— Penelope Weiss

Camera and interview by RH Alcott