Organizers projected that about 30,000 people would attend the 149th Cummington Fair held in Cummington, MA during the last week of August.
“As always, it’s a great little community fair where everybody meets old friends from the year before,” said Karen Rida, fair secretary for the past 12 years.
There were horse pulls, a rabbit show, honey displays, chicken hatchery, oxen pulls and many other events.
On Aug. 26, the proof was in the poundage as ox teams weighing 2,800 pounds geared up to pull 7,500 pounds on the stoneboat. The bleachers were packed as the oxen hefted stacks of 1,000 and 500-pound concrete blocks which were consecutively hoisted onto the stoneboat by a tractor.
Even though they were competing against each other, the teamsters worked cooperatively as each driver helped another teamster drive and hitch his team.
Jesse Dewkett of Hinsdale, MA won by pulling the 7,500 pounds over six feet with his team of six-year-old Chianinas, Hank and J.P. He has been showing oxen for 15 years and competing throughout the fair circuit this year with his team.
Ryan Hicks of Charlemont, MA came in second with his pair Bud and Joker. His team also pulled the 7,500 pounds over six feet before Hicks withdrew, as he decided his team had done enough. Dewkett won as he was ready to drive his team another round.
Hicks has not missed a Cummington Fair since he was born in 1981. He has been competing since he was 10.
Cody Belval of Ashfield, MA came in third with his team Burt and Buster, pulling 7,500 pounds a distance of 68 inches. Duane Hine of Shelburne Falls, MA came in fourth with his ox team Doug and Gus. He withdrew after they pulled 7,000 pounds.
In the Powder Puff class, the horses were driven by women with only one horse per pull. In the under 1,650 class, Faith Bisbee of Clay Hill Farm in Chesterfield, MA earned first place as her horse Ace crossed the requisite distance of six feet while pulling 5,000 pounds.
Mary Beth O’Shea of O’ Shea and Porter in Worthington, MA came in second, driving Victor and crossing six feet with 5,000 pounds after which she withdrew. Alexy Culver of Conway, MA had her horse Shaggy pull 4,000 pounds a distance of one foot and 10 inches before she withdrew, earning third place.
In the over 1,650-pound class, Faith Bisbee won as her horse Captain crossed six feet while pulling 5,000 pounds. Amanda Clark from Heath, MA drove her horse Ben, coming in second as he pulled 5,000 pounds a distance of two feet, 10 ½ inches. Alexi Culver’s horse Jeff pulled 4,000 pounds three feet and 10 inches before withdrawing, placing third. Mary Beth O’Shea drove her horse Chip and came in fourth as he pulled 4,000 pounds two feet, 10 ½ inches.
Judging of the hall exhibits occurred before the fair opened. Pine Hill Orchard won blue ribbons for their huge display of all produce and saleable items made at the farm’s farmstore owned by Matt Shearer. They also won for their smaller apple displays, neatly arranged in diamonds.
“I do the big display. Matt does the small displays,” said Brady McElaney, farm manager. “We work hard and we’re proud of what we do. It’s nice to be recognized.”
They grow apples, blueberries, peaches and other stone fruit on about 80 acres. “There are thousands and thousands of trees — old trees, smaller trees,” said McElaney. They produce 35,000 bushels of apples a season.
Most of the competing farmers stay busy providing a multitude of products on their farms. In fact, teamster Ryan Hicks opened his Hicks Family Farm Corn Maze on Sept. 2. Fifth generation farmers, Hicks and his wife Tammy first opened the maze in 2011 as one of the many ways to stay viable and keep up with current trends. “We generally have an idea ahead of time, but sometimes other paths happen,” said Tammy Hicks.
This year, the Hicks farm’s theme is a Scavenger hunt, searching for items related to spring, summer, fall and winter. Another section is devoted to Myths, Legends and Folklore. It also has a nine-hole mini golf course in the cornfield. Visitors, schools and party groups can visit farm animals in their petting zoo, so visiting the maze becomes a teaching tool. They also sell pumpkins and gourds of all sizes and sweet corn from the fields early in the season.
Having learned from all his years at the Cummington Fair that the public loves to be entertained and loves to learn, the corn maze was a good fit to help the Hicks family farm stay viable.