For reasons that can all be traced back to the current economy or lack thereof, I did not go to MFF this year. I did keep a bit busy anyway.
Friday night Fairmont had a parade that supposedly kicks off the Christmas shopping season, as if that hadn't really started a few hours after Halloween if even that late. In years past, the city kept the decorative lights off until the night of the parade. This year the light were on a few days early. Not sure if that was lack of caring about the setup or a ploy to say "start spending already."
I met up with Gerry Busse and his team of Belgian horses (Connie and Lynne were pulling that night) in the Harsco Track Technology (formerly Fairmont Tamper, formerly Fairmont Railway Motors) parking lot rather than the usual lot. He was about set up by the time I got there so I really don't do much of anything there other than supply his always-forgotten throat drops. The trolley had a couple changes. The brake is now a nice lever with a catch, the sound system has a wireless mic., there are lights that indicate the remote-operated steps are down, and the front string of Christmas lights is LED. There are also "ground effects" LEDs under the trolley, casting a reddish glow that reminded me of the looks of some college kids cars in the early 1990s.
The weather was decent, for the time of year in Minnesota, for once. No single digits and strong winds, but high twenties and an almost calm night. Gerry had position 20 in the parade and we found it without any real trouble for the setup. The girls on whatever float was ahead of us all stayed at the rear of the float to watch the team.
If I had gone to MFF, I'd have missed Gerry and the team completely this year. He won't be giving rides in Fairmont the first Friday of December this year. Instead whoever makes that decision had him stay after the parade and go until about 9 PM giving rides. I suspect it's again a matter of economy. It's going to seem quite strange that Friday without him around.
Gerry has a bit of a shtick worked up when things are ready to go. Instead of just going, he introduces the team (sometimes letting people see the names on the front posts... which are for Connie and Buttercup, so they aren't always right), says a bit about them ("They weigh about 2,000 pounds each, and when the trolley is fully loaded with adults, they're pulling about 14,000 pounds.") He then asks how to get the horses to get going and people suggest things.. one of which almost works ("Well, they thought about it.") and since I was up front I could see the gimmick. Before he rings the bell (rather than saying, "Team!" which also works) he quietly releases the brake - no wonder the team only "thought about it" earlier.
The shorter route he was using last year was continued. It lets people wait inside a building rather than out on the street. It also means Gerry has time for two Christmas carols and another short shtick, "How do you suppose we make the horses go faster?" A few suggestions are tried and then Gerry explain, "Horses are like kids... if you really want them to do something for you, you just give them a little kiss..."
I wound up leaving when the last ride was over but didn't stick around for anything else. JMaynard had been putting off supper long enough and we both we hungry. I had expected to be home much earlier, but that was before I knew about the after parade rides going so long. In other years Gerry would give a couple rides if folks were interested and then pack up.
I spent most of the time either up front on the trolley with Gerry, or standing in front of the team when stopped giving them some attention and generally just showing that they were approachable despite their intimidating size.
Saturday morning was a bit of baking, as was Saturday night/Sunday morning. Jay made a double batch of Chex-only Chex mix (no Cheerios, no peanuts, no pretzels, just Chex or Chex-oid cereal) and made it a bit spicy with some Tabasco sauce in the mix. I made chocolate chocolate mint chip cookies, Special Dark chocolate chip cookies, and tried a microwave nut brittle recipe that worked out well with cashews.
Sunday was travel to Merrill for an early Thanksgiving (my schedule permitted it then, as Thursday wouldn't be good for me to get to Merrill) and that afternoon we had the Thanksgiving dinner and various things for dessert. The apple and pumpkin pies that had been made for dessert only got touched rather later.
Monday was mostly travel back home, with a stop at Weaver's Country Store in Fall Creek, WI to get a few things that aren't so easily found at decent price and quality elsewhere.
Between the parade, the baking, Thanksgiving and visiting, travel, and juggling my sleep schedule around, I was pretty much too busy to be much concerned about MFF. I miss it, but not very badly. Considering the concentration of people, the issues of cold, flu, and flu, maybe it was best to skip it this year. Maybe next year. Maybe not.