by Laura Rodley
One of the biggest hits the evening of Saturday Aug. 24 at the 145th Cummington Fair held in Cummington, MA was the jam-packed, bleacher-filled demolition derby, with gears grinding, bumpers falling off, and exhaust spuming. Over on the other side of the fairgrounds, a quieter hit was happening, getting a chance to hold baby chicks outside the Rabbit and Poultry Barn, which is a hands-on exhibit started last year.
“Some people say it’s the best thing of the fair. The kids like it, going through the life cycle of the chicken,” said Glenn Jameson, poultry superintendent for the last three years. It begins with the parent pair of bantams, then an incubator with 15 eggs hatching. Parents and children alike can hold newborn chicks that hatched out at the fair.
Ella Stevens of Florence, age 11, holds a cream-colored chick close to her cheek. “It’s fun. It makes me want one,” she said as her family looked on.
In the cow barn, competitors were setting up for Sunday’s show. Margaret (Meg) Lilly, age 25, was preparing her Ayrshire, Abigail, and Abigail’s calf Ariel that was born in March. In the extended arm of modern dairying, she shows them under Lil-Hi Farm in Ashfield, MA, formerly owned by her grandfather, the late Kenneth Lilly, and currently owned by her father, Alan Lilly.
“My grandfather used to milk about 100 cows. Now just a few are at the farm, a few heifers,” said Lilly. “They’re pets. Just like dogs, they have their own personalities. Abigail is an All-American, as is her calf, reserved Jr. All-American. She has shown at Big E and is going into retirement soon,” she said.
Abigail has bred four calves. “Three boys and one girl, so we sold the boys,” she said.
By the end of Sunday, Abigail won grand-champion of her Ayrshire breed, and Ariel won her class. Was Lilly surprised? “She usually does [win], but you never know.” Retirement will be put off a little bit longer. She’ll show her at Greenfield’s Agricultural Fair and continue showing her in local fairs.
Lilly also shows her brother’s cows. “They got first as well,” she said. His Holstein, named Fairy, won Junior Champion.
by Laura Rodley