A personal view of Knowlton, Quebec, the Eastern Townships most beautiful village.

Brome Fair Feedback: Not All Grade "A"
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Are our children passing through the Gates of Haedes when they entr th midway?The Brome Fair is an event that for over 150 years has brought farmers, crafts-people, artisans, families and friends together to experience fellowship and celebrate the goodness of the bounty of Mother Nature. But this last Brome Fair has once again shown that the long-weekend gathering is also about participating in the "Three D's" : Drinkin', Druggin' & Dumb-Assedness!

Since the Fair directors have seen fit to sell beer on the grounds as well as adding gambling to the event it seems only natural to expect seedy elements to take over. Even this years musical acts David Usher and the Canadian Idol Contestant was a veering departure from good ole country fare like Wayne Ronstadt or Tommy Hunter which is music that has a real barnyard sensibilty!

One concerned parent sent a letter to DestinationKnowlton.com expressing her first-hand views of her visit to the 2008 fair. It is reprinted here:

The Darker Side of the Brome Fair

Dear DestinationKnowlton.com Editor:
As a concerned parent of three children I just want to vent my frustration about the darker side of the Brome Fair. Like everyone else, I love visiting the Fair, we adore the hype around fair time, and visit often while the fair is being set up and taken down. The sheer volume of hard work by countless volunteers is not unnoticed, and I always marvel at how smoothly & safely all events and attractions are run. And this year the organizers seemed to out-do themselves, the event was certainly spectacular.

The problem I have is two-fold, and both are about the drug culture that I have come to associate with the fair, the first concerning the "Carnies", the second the youth. Monday night my husband and I were re-counting all the stories we could recall of Carnie (the young people who assemble and run the rides) mayhem, and this year the list seemed to go on and on, even though we only visited the fair two times.

Carnies! Be afraid be very afraid?There was spending over 10 minutes on the swing ride with my daughter while our ride attendant shared a cigarette or two with his neighbor ride attendant. I was close to vomiting. Then there was the "Carnie" who passed out Monday afternoon during the Cyclone ride, and only other Carnies could awaken him, these riders were on that ride for 22 minutes, timed by the lady standing behind my husband. Someone complained to the Management, but little was done.

This same ride my husband noticed how the gears were stripped and a tool had to be jammed in the mechanism to stop the ride. Then there was the small roller coaster that was late being assembled, deemed "safe" by staff and then abruptly stopped 3 times that I alone noticed, while children were on it, presumably for repairs. The first time my husband saw it stopped, he noticed one of the Carnies was almost decapitated when trying to cross in front of the ride to do the necessary repairs.

The back of the Carnie T-Shirt this year read "Safety First". Joke!

My husband witnessed one Carnie on the floor of the bumper cars, trying to interfere with the riders and tapping people on the shoulder, between rides on the cars trying to touch the ceiling. Last year I recalled when one Carnie came out with a plate of brownies and others left their rides to indulge in this, likely hash-brownie treat. My feeling this year that pot use was being replaced with harder stuff like ecstasy or perhaps acid.

The parents in the line ups are the best witnesses to what is going on, and it wasn't uncommon this year to hear the chat about how stoned so and so was. Having said this, unless you are looking for it, all of what I'm writing about is very subtle, which may be why it goes largely unnoticed. What's troubling, in our safety cautious culture, is how even though some of us see this going on, we continue to let our kids ride the rides! Guilty as charged! My feeling is that we still hold to the safety notion, and much like kids ourselves, we still really enjoy a fun ride!

The even creepier part was what my husband witnessed mid-afternoon on Monday. Seems like Hell-Angel types showed up to collect some sort of loot, which lead us to suspect that perhaps the ride culture is really a cover-up to a much bigger drug culture, when money and drugs are freely consumed, traded, sold, exchanged openly, in front of cheery families.

Maybe she's just keeping her Red Bull cold?The other equally troubling scenario was what I called the youth pot room at the downtown Brome park beside the mail depot. Just hang out there if your 12-19 and get some pot, meet some friends and be cool under the watchful eye of no one. When youth are hooked on pot, their brains are less resistant to lethargy, deep loss of motivation, over-sleep, and lack of commitment to things of previous interest.

Pot in moderation, like alcohol probably has some place in our society, but when youth get hooked, the outcomes are far from harmless. Maybe they are getting their stash from the Carnies, who are buying from the Hells and so on? Maybe we need to ask where are the police and do we really know about the company that runs the midway rides? Let's hope it isn't only concerned parents who are onto this.

My intention is not to harm the reputation of this excellent country fair, only to highlight its darker side so we can continue to make it safer, year after year.

Sincerely,
-A concerned parent.

Thank-you for taking the time to express your feelings. I'm sure other parents and visitors have also seen a darker side of the fair. Let's hope that the dirctors take notice of such issues and try and steer the fair to a true family-friendly place and not let the negative forces turn the Brome Fair in to something far removd from the good old days! Can't we get someone like Charles Ingalls involved?

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