Fall's fairest day

Since its founding in 1818, the Topsfield Fair has thrived through the ups and downs of American history, making it America's oldest continuously operating county fair. Only during the two world wars did operations cease - because the government requested that fairs not take place.

About half a million people attended the fair over 10 days this year, with many visitors welcoming the upbeat family event as a respite from news of terrorism and missile strikes.

The Stars and Stripes adorned everything from fairgoers' T-shirts and jackets to dishes of ice cream and the Ferris wheel.

The fair was filled with the usual cornucopia of sights, sounds, and smells - of goats being milked, clip-clopping Clydesdales strutting jauntily, amusement rides spinning like tops, and blue-ribbon pies and produce competing for fairground strollers alongside cotton candy and caramel apples.

And what about the annual Giant Pumpkin Contest? The winning gourd set a new world record, weighing in at 1,260 pounds.

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