I’m not sure anyone relishes the end of summer, but one of the best parts about the season change has to be the fairs and festivals that usher in autumn. One of New England’s oldest, most established fall celebration is the Topsfield Fair, which began in 1818. Since its inception, the fair has become a reliable fall staple. There have been just six years when the fair failed to take place: for three years during the Civil War, and again during World War II. The original purpose of the fair was “to promote and improve the agricultural interests of farmers and others in Essex County.” Over the past two centuries, the fair has managed to maintain its agricultural roots while incorporating modern entertainment acts.  Where else can you catch a popular rap concert as dozens of fowl battle it out in the Great American Duck Race across the field?

Courtesy of the Topsfield Fair

Some of the more traditional agricultural events include milking demonstrations, pig racing, and the Rawhide Rodeo, where you can see professional cowboys and cowgirls doing what they do best. Alternatively, there are a variety of contemporary events and displays, such as the BMX Maximum Velocity Show, which will feature riders and skaters performing death-defying stunts, the Bengal Tiger Encounter, an exhibit meant to educate people about the animals’ loss of habitat, and a demolition derby. There are also, of course, the staple carnival rides that all New Englanders have come to know and love (while simultaneously praying there are no loose bolts or screws.)

The fair, which takes place less than 30 miles outside of Boston, is ideal for family members of all ages. Teens can rock out to Sean Kingston and Mike Posner while their younger siblings “ooh” and “ahh” over the baby calf exhibit and hold newborn chicks. Grandma can show off her cooking skills in the Mrs. Essex County Pageant,  as the family’s resident gardener attempts to claim the title in the Giant Pumpkin Contest – last year’s was a whopping 1,675 pounds! It’s the perfect opportunity for city-dwellers to get a taste of the country life during New England’s prettiest season.

Best of all, the fair has remained affordable despite the volatile economy. Regular ticket prices range from just $10 to $12, while kids under eight are admitted free. And on Military Day on October 4th, ticket prices are waived for active military members and their families.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly escape from the city, be sure to stop by the Topsfield fair. It will be all day, every day through October 10th, and the event schedule always varies.  For more information, visit www.topsfieldfair.org.