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What Aspects of a Normal New England Summer Will You Miss the Most?

And in the absence of normality, what do we have to look forward to this season?


Welcome to “One Last Question,” a series where research editor Matthew Reed Baker tackles your most Bostonian conundrums. Have a question? Email him at [email protected].


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Question:

Given that so many iconic events are canceled this season, I know it’s going to be far from a normal summer. What aspects of New England life will you miss the most—and what should we all still be looking forward to—as the weather heats up? –S.G., Tyngsborough

Answer:

As I was preparing to answer your question, S.G., I received the expected but nonetheless disappointing news that our favorite county fair in Midcoast Maine was called off this year. It’s one of our family’s beloved summer pastimes: a week’s worth of carnival rides, livestock shows, demolition derbies, and baking competitions. Hey, my daughter even won the blueberry-muffin contest last summer, and now she can’t defend her title! So perhaps because it’s top of mind, that’s what I’ll miss most: the smaller-scale fairs and festivals that have always served as a hub for locals to meet and feel connected to their land and their community.

But while we have every right to feel down about all of the cancellations, we can—and should—learn again to embrace the simplicity that is the beating heart of New England culture, not to mention the sturdy self-reliance that’s been celebrated by authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Annie Proulx over the centuries. Literature, of course, is one of our great local traditions, and also a great way to spend a steamy afternoon lazing in the backyard: My kids have already shown interest in reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick this summer, while I plan to catch up on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s histories and immerse myself in Stephen L. Carter’s labyrinthine thrillers. When not reading, I hope to hang out with the radio tuned to the Red Sox and a chilled can of Notch Session Pils in my hand—still my favorite way to enjoy baseball, even if it’s a truncated season.

Unlike the Olde Towne Team, our local fruits and vegetables did report to spring training, ready to entertain for a full summer season. While we may not be able to go to a county fair, we can do curbside pickup of whatever is growing, picked just that morning at nearby farms. I know that after months of Peapod deliveries, I can’t wait to get a taste of the local harvest—especially the juicy strawberries and tart blueberries from the stand down the road. Ahh, I can taste them right now! These simple but sublime joys are a welcome reminder that even in these strange, strange times, New England still gives us an abundance of normal to savor.