The Grange Fair showcases country spirit

By Morgan Banville and Seth Thomas | Sep 13, 2015
Photo by: Seth Thomas A (mostly) edible arrangement on display at the Dartmouth Grange Rural Community Fair.

The Dartmouth Grange Rural Community Fair harkened back to a simpler time. Games for kids weren’t attached to screens, prizes were awarded for perfect produce and homemade cookies could be purchased for pocket change.

“The fair has been around since 1890,” said Sam Manley, president of The Dartmouth Grange. “We try to keep it family friendly and affordable.”

The Dartmouth Grange, founded in 1888, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, fraternal organization that advocates for rural America.

The first night came alive with activity late in the evening. After a pie eating contest and outdoor games, the night was punctuated by a performance from New Bedford-based magician Skip Daniels.

Daniels, a magician of 30 years, has spent the last year retooling his act around a new persona, an orphaned prince from upstate New York.

The Prince of Mystery, as bitingly sardonic as he is whimsical, bedazzled the audience with feats of magic (and, presumably, mystery) all while swaggering across the stage to ‘80s standards. He was a big hit.

“My father used to deliver groceries to this woman whose husband was a magician,” said Daniels.

When the magician passed, his wife gave Daniels a trunk of magic tricks that belonged to her husband.

“Ever since then, I was hooked,” he said.

On top of being a magician, he also has a full-time job in sales and two daughters. He said the only time he has to develop his character is at 4 a.m. in his basement.

“The Prince of Mystery is an orphan, and he used to get locked up in the attic,” Daniels said of his character. “In the attic, he found a magic book, so he taught himself magic. Then he escaped from the attic because he was able to pick locks.”

From there, the Prince of Mystery traveled the land to perform magic. Daniels' performance, which heavily features music and uses song lyrics in place of magic words, was inspired by his youth.

“I grew up in the ‘80s, and I still love ‘80s music. It was a natural thing for me to incorporate the music and the lyrics,” he said.

The second day of the fair featured a variety of competitions for green thumbs.

The fair has a variety of different categories where locals are able to showcase their arrangements. From the best general collection of vegetables, to home crafts and flowers, each category is judged and a ribbon and cash prize is awarded for every division.

“Experience helps,” said Steward Elizabeth Newton, who has been attending the event for around eight years.

“This fair gives people a chance to show off their agriculture, horticulture, crafts and other things,” said Newton.

Each Steward has a different job, but for the most part, they are there to place ribbons on the winning pieces and assist the people looking to enter their specimens into the fair to be judged.

Wendy Holmes, who joined the Grange six months ago with her son Mitchell, said that in order to become a member, you had to be voted in.

“It’s a mixture of people,” said Holmes. “There are resources in the community that aren't being used. It’s a great connection.”

Holmes, who is a Secretary at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, thought that it would be a nice idea to connect the university to the community. Herself, as well as several other faculty, attended the event in the hopes of creating a more connected community.

“This really is an awesome community event,” said Lauren Miller-Donnelly. “It’s good, honest fun for the kids, and each kid gets to go home with a prize.”

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