Attempts to revitalize the once-thriving Greenfield Hill Grange No. 133 took a giant leap forward Saturday with the organization's most successful annual Agricultural Fair in recent memory.
Since no admission fee was charged, organizers had no firm number on attendees, but people continued to arrive in a steady stream throughout the four-hour event, which featured agricultural displays and competitions, pony rides and children's games. For the first time, the fair venue was extended beyond the front yard and the interior of the historic grange hall, which dates back to 1897; and into the sizeable Hillside Road backyard.
The sunny, late-summer weather cooperated, allowing musical performers to move from the second-floor auditorium, as in years past, to an outdoor stage under a canopy. Amie Hall of Fairfield, a Square Foot Garden-certified teacher, had children planting vegetables. There were also pony rides and children's games of skill and chance.
"It's just a beautiful day and a cute little family fair," said D.D. de Calice of Fairfield, who brought her children Carolina, 4, and Luca, 3.
Marie and Anthony Auriemma of Fairfield said their children, William, 3, and Nina, 2, loved the chickens. Most of the young visitors did.
Emma Gleysteen, 15, of Fairfield, heightened their experience by bringing curious youngsters into a fenced area and allowing them to pet and hold the chickens she raises in her nearby backyard.
"They're adorable," said Ella Toth-Melko, 9, of Fairfield, as she cradled one of the hens in her arms.
Kathleen Jackson of Fairfield said her children not only had fun, but they also learned quite a bit. "It was educational for them and the chickens out front were great. They got to hold a chicken. I think it's great for them to experience this, to be exposed to efficient gardening, knowing where they're food comes from. We live in the city part of Fairfield," Jackson said.
What her children Della, 8, and Charlie, 6, gained from the event were "lessons for a lifetime," she said.
That was music to the ears of Beth Bradley, one of the musical performers at the Agricultural Fair Saturday and secretary of the Greenfield Hill Grange. Bradley, a former vice president of the group, is one of 15 active members working to reshape the role of the local grange.
To make it more relevant, Bradley sees the grange as a place to promote and support sustainable living initiatives and green practices.
"This grange is coming back," Bradley said.
Steve Golias, chairman of this year's Greenfield Hill Grange Fair, was encouraged by the number of people who attended the fair and the number who joined the organization Saturday. "We're getting new members," he said.
"We want this to grow. We don't want to lose it. If membership dwindles we can't afford the bills. And we want to paint it. The last time it was painted was 22 years ago," Golias said.
Those interested in joining the Greenfield Hill Grange are invited to attend the meetings, which are held the third Monday of every month.
Visit the Greenfield Hill grange page on the National Grange website for more info at www.grange.org/greenfieldhill133. Annual membership is $25, and people are invited to become active or supporting members.