Farmers and residents prepared all year long for the 146th Annual Cummington Fair, grooming their animals and growing their vegetables and flowers for a chance to bask in the limelight. Last year, 34,000 people attended the fair in Cummington, MA, viewing the best of the best and partaking of usually forbidden fair food delights — such as French fries and fried dough — while watching magicians, riding on the Ferris Wheel or observing the oxen and horse pull.
This year 30,000 attendees were expected, according to Worthington resident Karen Rida, who has served as fair secretary for seven years. “We had a little bit of dust control last night. It was hectic,” she said, referring to rain that fell on opening night, Thursday, Aug. 21. The fair ran through Sunday, Aug. 24.
“The best thing is it’s small and you get to meet old friends you haven’t seen since last year. It’s the end of summer, next thing is school. It’s the last hurrah for kids, a lot of fun things for them to do. It’s a tradition,” said Rida.
The fair offered a Youth Giant Pumpkin Contest, Youth Dairy Contest, Youth Oxen Showmanship, Judging of 4-H Youth Livestock, FFA Ponies, carousel rides and a myriad of games. For adults, there was Women’s Powder Puff, Western Mass Lumberjack Championship, Trained Steer Classes, Ox Judging, square dancing and The Spirit of Johnny Cash live on stage.
When Rida is asked if there is anyone to watch for competing in 4-H, any rising stars, she has a ready answer. “Every kid who comes through 4-H is a star,” she replied.
Twelve-year-old Aubre Carpenter of Harlow Hill Farm in Cummington, MA won four blue ribbons for her four Hereford beef cattle. A four-year 4-H member of Hampshire Cattle Club in Westhampton MA, she’s the only person showing cows in her family.
Carpenter considers Herefords unique. “There’s just not a lot of us really,” she said, competing against two people in her class, who were her friends.
At the 2014 Junior National Hereford Expo in Harrisburg, PA held July 5-12 2014, she competed against 15 people in a class, from all across the country, even as far away as Alaska. She won two sixth places participating in showmanship. She’s going to the Nationals again in Nebraska next year.
Fair preparation entailed making a display of pictures taken at the Nationals and drawing a diagram showing prime Hereford beef cuts and other facts to help people learn about the breed. Carpenter had to, “Bring them to the wash rack, wash them, put them in the chute and blow-dry them and then they’re all ready,” she said.
Georgianna Springstube of West Stockbridge, MA is a 4-H alumni. Now 20 years old, she became a 4-H’er at age six. She “helps participate in shows, helps judge shows, and chaperones and mentors upcoming 4-H’ers,” she said. On Sunday, she showed Shetland sheep, the smallest breed of sheep. She mentored her sister, age 17, who earned Best Flock on Saturday, and showed Cotswolds on Sunday. Their older sister Amy, 23, also used to show sheep.
Georgianna also shows Rex breed rabbits. “I love their personalities, I love how they feel. They’re very hardy, excellent moms. She won first place with her 13-year-old Rex doe, named Licorice, born at her home. “It’s not unusual (for them) to live a long time. She had a spring litter. She’s a great mom,” said Springstube. Her longevity maybe attributed to living outdoors, with a coop to get in and out of the cold if she desires.
But it also maybe because, “She has a best friend who is a chicken,” who lives just on the other side of her coop. “She made a little hole in the coop to be with the chicken. At first I thought it was she wanted to eat the chicken food but she just wants to get in there and hang out.” The chicken, Marigold, is a seven-year-old Silkie cross. She won Best of Breed, although she is a cross-bred chicken. She doesn’t frequently lay eggs anymore, just one every other month. The two are separated during the show at Cummington Fair.
“It’s weird for them not to get together. Her babies try to follow her into the hole with Marigold.” When Springstube held Licorice up next to Marigold in her cage, Marigold immediately started pushing food and bedding over to her, like she would at home.