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September 7, 2012

This year's Topsfield Fair all about the food

TOPSFIELD — And you thought it was all about giant pumpkins, midway rides and Hot Chelle Rae.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons that people flock to the Topsfield Fair, braving the Route 1 traffic, the lines and the crowds, is for the savory smoked turkey legs, funnel cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar and sweet, billowy cotton candy.

This fall, the Essex Agricultural Society’s Topsfield Fair, which bills itself as “America’s oldest,” is finally embracing the truth, with the catchphrase: “It’s all about the food!”

“Because who doesn’t love the food at the fair?” said Topsfield Fair spokesman David Thomson during a press conference yesterday highlighting upcoming attractions for the fair, which runs from Friday, Sept. 28, through Columbus Day, Oct. 8.

New to this year’s lineup of calorie-infused belt-busters are “pigs in mud,” chocolate-covered bacon on a stick sprinkled with jimmies; and fried bubble gum, which is marshmallow encased in funnel cake dough and sprinkled with bubble gum powder. (The fair also has plenty of healthy options, too.)

If you want to work off some pounds and give yourself an excuse to indulge at the fair later on, you can join in the fair’s first-ever 5K road race to benefit the Essex Agricultural Society’s college scholarship fund. The race is being run Sept. 23, a week before the fair opens, with the cost to register $25. Go to www.Topsfieldfair.org to register.

“Last year, we gave out $25,000 in scholarships ($1,000 apiece), so this is the chance to raise it even higher,” said General Manager James O’Brien. Essex Agricultural Society President Bruce Potter of Danvers said the race dovetails with the fair’s emphasis on education. High school students from across Essex County are eligible to apply.

The fair also runs educational programs, such as its Read and Win program at 43 libraries in Essex County and Southern New Hamphsire. Libraries encourage students to read a certain number of books to win fair and ride tickets, O’Brien said. About 4,300 kids took part in the program last year.

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