When I was in high school (ok, and in college…and graduated from college…), I was obsessed with Gilmore Girls, the TV show about a fast-talking mom and daughter who lived in a tiny Connecticut hamlet. Small-town frustrations, neighbors who know your business before you do, ridiculous festivals that happen at any possible time…it was an absurd town with outrageous characters, and I loved watching every minute of it.
(The fast-paced dialogue and huge amount of pop culture references certainly didn’t turn me off, either.)
But the purpose of this post isn’t to gush about a WB show that’s been off the air for 5 years or talk about how much I miss Amy Sherman-Palladino and her witty dialogue or lament the fact that I accidentally forgot to pack my DVDs of all the seasons of Gilmore Girls (along with every Rogers and Hammerstein musical that makes life magical) when I moved from Boston. The purpose of this post is to tell you how we LIVE IN THE MIDWESTERN VERSION OF STARS HOLLOW.
Just add jam, cornfields, and lots of churches.
This past weekend was the City of Ripon’s annual Cookie Daze, one of four (four!) festivals that take place over the summer in this town of 7,700 people. It’s basically a giant advertisement for Rippin’ Good Cookies –a cookie factory on the edge of town that sells across the Midwest*–which becomes a celebration of all things cookie. It started 17 years ago when a Rippin’ Good employee managed to make the World’s Largest Cookie and got himself–and the company–into the Guinness Book of World Records. While Ripon no longer has any sort of connection to the world’s largest cookie (now held by Immaculate Baking Company of North Carolina), this town is not going to give up their celebration anytime soon.
Although the festival is primarily aimed at kids (as are SO MANY THINGS in town–ranting soon on a blog near you!), David and I decided to check it out for a little bit since the “Festival” Park in town is three doors down from our house. As Abba played in the background and the coordinator’s husband DJ’d and emcee’d the event (yes, it’s that kind of town with those sort of festivals), we wove through the swarms of children decorating their own cookies, drinking free “wholesome milk,” tossing flour back and forth, and dunking Rippin’ Good employees in what I presume must be the World’s Smallest Dunk Tank.
Side note: Parents, it doesn’t give your daughter/son a better sense of self-worth if s/he can dunk the employee while standing 2 1/2 feet away from the button itself. When they’re 10.
Even with all the excitement already happening, the best part of this emphatically-small town festival (besides the bake-off, which we sadly missed this year) is the Cookie Drop. They gather up all the kids, put them in a huge roped-off area, and drop a 30-gallon garbage can full of individually-wrapped cookies from the top of “the Ripon Fire Department’s tallest ladder truck.” (all of these quotations, by the way, can be found at the Cookie Daze link above.) Kids run, happily shout, grabbing cookies in the air and on the ground like the world’s largest cookie-filled Piñata just exploded.
It’s exceptional. It’s ridiculous. And I can’t wait to see what’s up for SeptemberFest a month from now.
*While Rippin’ Good Cookies sells across the Midwest, it still don’t actually have its own webpage. I’m convinced this is because the company is in a small town. (Used in a sentence: “Of course Rippin’ Good Cookies doesn’t have a website–you can’t even get network channels or static-free NPR in this town.”)