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Everyone has their fair favorite

For some, it’s today’s parade that kicks off the Franklin County Fair

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The Franklin County Fairgrounds is awash in <br/>colorful rides and attractions for the Franklin County Fair, which opens today.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    The Franklin County Fairgrounds is awash in
    colorful rides and attractions for the Franklin County Fair, which opens today.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Angel Rivera, Alyssa Sutton and Lenore Styler, working for the Franklin County Solid Waste District, set up recycling containers around the Franklin County Fair grounds on Wednesday getting ready for the fair.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Angel Rivera, Alyssa Sutton and Lenore Styler, working for the Franklin County Solid Waste District, set up recycling containers around the Franklin County Fair grounds on Wednesday getting ready for the fair.

  • Recorder file photo<br/>Brayden Steele gets some help feeding the goats in the baby barnyard from his mom, Kelli.

    Recorder file photo
    Brayden Steele gets some help feeding the goats in the baby barnyard from his mom, Kelli.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The Franklin County Fairgrounds is awash in <br/>colorful rides and attractions for the Franklin County Fair, which opens today.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Angel Rivera, Alyssa Sutton and Lenore Styler, working for the Franklin County Solid Waste District, set up recycling containers around the Franklin County Fair grounds on Wednesday getting ready for the fair.
  • Recorder file photo<br/>Brayden Steele gets some help feeding the goats in the baby barnyard from his mom, Kelli.

GREENFIELD — There are 165 reasons to head to the Franklin County Fair, according to organizers.

That’s one reason for every year since the fair started in 1848.

With so many reasons to attend, what’s number one?

If you’re compiling a chronological list of reasons to go to the fair, you’d start with Robinson’s Racing Pigs. They’re the first thing on Thursday’s schedule, with the first heat set for 3:30 p.m., half an hour after the gates open.

For some, though, the fair doesn’t really start until the annual kickoff parade arrives at the gates. At 5 p.m., the parade will set out from Greenfield Middle School, at Sanderson and Federal streets. The route will take the parade right through downtown Greenfield on its way to the fair.

Agriculture would be first if you were putting the reasons into alphabetical order. Saturday morning, area youth will compete in rabbit, sheep and dairy cattle shows. Sunday it’s the adults’ turn to show their sheep and dairy cattle.

There’s also the popular baby-animal barn, and the home-grown produce in and around the Roundhouse. Last year’s prize pumpkin weighed a whopping 1,042 pounds, a Franklin County Fair record.

Also in the Roundhouse, exhibitors will display their handiworks, including fine art and photography, hand-sewn quilts, homemade fruit wines, baked goods and more.

While the exhibits in the Roundhouse are strictly for display, other artisans and craftspeople are bringing their wares for sale.

About 89 vendors are setting up at the fairgrounds, and they’re there for business.

Charles Shaw of Northfield set up Wednesday afternoon to sell something he hasn’t come across at a fair before.

“I’ve never seen someone with branding irons at a fair,” said Shaw.

Shaw will be selling branded wood blocks and boxes at the fair, made with homemade irons, one for each letter of the alphabet. He will perform live demonstrations, too, giving people a chance to order custom pieces.

Though it’s been years since Shaw worked a midway, fairs and carnivals are in his blood. His grandfather owned a 32-horse merry-go-round, which he trucked out for events. Shaw himself spent his teenage years running midway games at Belmont Park in San Diego, Calif.

“Coming to the fair is like a trip down memory lane,” said Shaw.

“When I was a kid, I’d go to the fair for the rides,” he said. “My favorite was the flying boats. It was something you or I could have made, an oversized swing set made of little wooden boxes and two-inch ropes that you’d pull, so you could get parallel to the ground. There was always a line for it.”

Today’s midway has a slew of rides, none of which looked homemade.

New this year, Reithoffer Shows of Florida, is providing the midway’s games and rides. Thrill-rides like The Zipper aren’t the only excitement at the fair, though.

There’s also the raw energy of Saturday’s draft horse draws and Sunday’s ox pulls.

Sunday night, the sounds of crashing cars and twisting metal take over, as drivers vie to make it through Stoney Robert’s Demolition Derby with their engines still running.

There are more relaxed forms of entertainment at the fair, too, featuring a plethora of performers.

From racing pigs to old-time lumberjack shows, circus acts to ventriloquists, and martial arts to music, there will be back-to-back performances throughout the four-day fair.

Saturday and Sunday, students and teachers from the New England Center for Circus Arts will show off their skills during four daily demonstrations.

Local musicians will take the stage Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Country musicians from the area will compete Friday in the local portion of the Texaco Country Showdown. Saturday, the showdown returns to the stage for the New England region finals. Acts from the Northeast will compete for a spot in the January national finals in Nashville, Tenn., where they could win a $100,000 prize and the title “best new act in country music.”

Some folks go to the fair because it gives them a reason to indulge.

“It’s all about the food,” said Paul Conway, concessions manager for the fairgrounds.

“Some people come back every year, looking forward to that once-a-year fried dough,” said Conway. “And there are the other things you can’t get at McDonald’s or make at home, like cotton candy and candy apples.”

Conway said his duties are mostly done by Thursday afternoon, so he gets lots of time to enjoy the fair. The first thing he does, though, is get a sausage grinder. The second? Fried dough, and sometimes he’ll cap off the night with a ride on the Ferris wheel.

For those on the fence about going to the fair, a $5 discount Thursday admission could be the reason they need.

Find your own reason at the fair itself, or pick one from the full schedule at www.fcas.com/2013FairSchedule.pdf.

Gates open at 3 p.m. today, at 11 a.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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