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Sandwich Fair celebrates 100th year



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Two-year-old Ellie Riva hangs on while riding the merry go round with her grandmother Mary Merrill. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
October 13, 2010
SANDWICH — The annual tradition of rides, food, animals, and family fun at the Sandwich Fair has now passed its 100th year.

Visitors from all over the area flocked to the fairgrounds over the weekend to show their animals, sell their food and crafts, enter for premiums, or just ride the rides and eat.

The fair's 100th anniversary year was an all around success, event planners said.

"It went really well. We had really good crowds all three days," said Fair Association president Earl Peaslee.

Peaslee said the weather played a major part, with the anniversary also contributing. Another contributing factor on Monday was three new events: Woodsman's Day, a small tractor and lawnmower event, and a skillet toss.

"We're just getting better every year," Peaslee said.

Peaslee said the numbers of tickets were up from last year with 37,000 paid admissions, around 17,000 on Sunday alone.

The fair started as an agricultural market and 100 years later the tradition is alive with the many animal competitions and displays.

Sandy Griswold of Baroque Acres in New Sharon, Maine, milked goats in the open to allow fairgoers to see the process. Each goat was put on a stand and given food as Griswold used a small milking machine to milk them.

"Most goats are really cooperative for milking," Griswold said, though some can be antsy, especially the younger ones.

Griswold said she has been coming to the Sandwich Fair for around 20 years.

"I really like this fair a lot," she said. "Still has a real emphasis on agriculture, which is really important.

Allison Box of Strafford received first place in the Single Steer competition with her 3-year-old Holstein Jack. She did 4H for four years and has been showing for 10.

She and Jack mostly got ready for the show by taking walks in the back yard and did not do a formal practice for this show.

"It's so small and relaxed," Box said. "They have a lot of classes for us to get into and I've been showing here for a long time."

Soon she will be going to school at Cornell University majoring in Animal Science and someday hopes to be a large-animal veterinarian.

Sisters Haylee and Taylor Guay of Greenfield, ages 13 and 11 respectively, took turns leading their horses Maggie and Bill in the ring for the draft horse competition.

Taylor Guay has been pulling horses for three years and now she has been getting more into equestrian competitions.

This was Haylee Guay's first year driving horses at a fair. She has done equestrian competitions in the past but traded the saddle for a scoot this year.

"I just like draft horses better, the bigger the better," Haylee Guay said.

Bev Carpenter of Holderness keeps alpacas with her husband Bruce as part of Owl Brook Alpacas. Before raising alpacas, Carpenter was an avid knitter and spinner.

"We first fell in love with alpacas at a sheep, wool, and alpaca farm," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said alpacas do not tear up the land by biting grass digging with their hooves and as much as other forms of livestock do.

"They're also know as the green livestock, they're so easy on the land," Carpenter said. "I think the key to it is you've got to utilize the alpaca you've got and utilize the flock." Alpaca are also reasonably well behaved. Carpenter said they are docile and don't bite. Occasionally some males will spit at each other over females.

Carpenter also sold an array of alpaca yarn and items knitted from alpaca wool, products made at a farm in Barrington. This is the third year Owl Brook Farm has gone to the Sandwich Fair.

"I love it, it's very well attended," Carpenter said. "People are really curious and want to know about this animal."

Giant vegetables also took center stage. First place for giant pumpkins was a 747-pound pumpkin entered by Samantha Puleo. First place in the Youth Division was an Atlantic giant pumpkin entered by Tack Thompson of Tuftonboro that weighed 350 pounds. Another place winner for largest pumpkin was entered by Amanda Van Sant of Holderness. The sides of the pumpkin displayed scratches accompanied by a sign saying "A bear (?) attacked my pumpkin last night. Did it know it was Sandwich Fair?"

Food is always one of the main attractions at the fair, with some vendors giving people the chance to try something new.

Each year Yankee Farmers Market of Warner has set up two stands to the fair selling burgers, hotdogs, sausages, cheese steaks, and other meaty treats. One stand sells buffalo products and the other sells venison, elk, and ostrich.

Keira Farmer, who owns Yankee Farmers Market with her husband Brian, said the farm raises buffalo and started selling buffalo products at the fair after opening retail. They then worked out partnerships with other local farms to sell venison, ostrich, elk, and other meats.

"We try to get everything local," Farmer said. "Most of our stuff is New England-based."

Farmer said when the stand first opened there were people reluctant to try their products. Now they have developed a following of people that will come to them every fair.

"This is a great way to get out and meet people and try something new," Farmer said.

Fairgoers could also try locally made treats at the Farmers Market near the Crafts Building. The Sandwich Creamery served several flavors of ice cream and cheeses made on their farm with milk from their own cows.

"We're from Sandwich. They're buying local when they buy from us," said co-owner Tom Merriman.

Merriman, who owns the dairy with his wife Lisa, said their stand saw much business during the weekend, the sunny weather playing a significant role.

The Booty Family Farm sold vegetables and also offered gardening demonstrations. Co-owner Diane Decker-Booty said the fair is a good opportunity for local producers to show their products. She said she would also like to see the farmer's market expand.

"I'd love to see it on both sides (of the road)," Decker-Booty said. "I'd wish we'd have more people out there but it's a good start."

Decker-Booty, who owns the farm with daughter Rachel Bartlett and son-in-law Stephen Bartlett, said many fair visitors will come to Sandwich only once a year just for the fair.

"I think people come to the fair and if you're a local vendor your name gets out there," Decker-Booty said. "It's a good venue for getting your name out there."

Attendees had their own favorite things at the fair.

This is the second year at the fair for the Kreps family of Nottingham. On Saturday afternoon they walked through the livestock area with young Olivia Kreps feeding grass to goats.

"We're all big animal fans. We have cows at home," said Emily Kreps.

"Sandwich is good, medium sized fair; it's got a lot of stuff," said their dad Mike Kreps.

Two-year-old Ellie Riva had her first experience on a merry-go-round with her grandmother Mary Merrill. Ellie and her mother Sarah Merrill came from Vermont to visit family in New Hampton.

Sarah Merrill said Ellie especially liked the animals.

"I think she liked the cows. She wanted to take one home," she said.

"The animals is what I really like. Of course we like the food we have one time a year," Mary Merrill said.

Katherine and Thomas Denton of Stratham came with their parents Jason and Claire Denton and grandparents Vince and Anne Merola of Wolfeboro. On Monday afternoon the two rode on fast spinning cars with their parents and grandparents watching.

Five-year-old Thomas said he enjoyed "That ride," pointing to the spinning ride. Seven year-old Katherine liked, "The piggies."

"I love the 4H (demonstrations)," Anne Merola said. "I get a thrill watching these young people take care of their animals. I think it builds a great future for our country."

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