For a century, people have been bringing their canned goods, cakes, or bales of hay for judging and driving their horses and oxen at the Heath Fair in Heath, MA. Just about everyone in Heath took part in preparing for the fair’s centennial held Aug. 18 to 20 which was attended by roughly 9,000 people.
Four generations of the Clark family, originating from Heath, MA, have been pulling oxen or driving horses. Billy Clark’s team, Rex and Rowdy, won the 8,500-pound horse draw. They were driven by Luke Inman. That was 500 pounds more than what was pulled last year.
Clark started pulling oxen in his 20s and started pulling with horses 20 years ago. He taught Inman all he knows.
Inman has been driving horses since he was 16 and he worked with Clark at his farm. Now age 32, he drives Clark’s teams for him and has driven this particular team for 12 years. So far, they won in Heath, and came in second twice and third once at other horse pulls.
Gracie Thompson, fourth generation of the Clark family, had her own team of oxen pull in Sunday’s ox pull. Her mother, Samantha Thompson, grew up with oxen on her father’s farm and worked with her ox teams from the time she was nine to 13. She consistently won in showmanship with her teams. What Sam likes best about working behind the scenes at Heath Fair is “spending time with family.”
Heath resident Art Schwenger started out announcing the Heath Parade 40 years ago. Since then, his announcing morphed into the title of master of ceremonies. Schwenger noted that organizers had brought back some fair events that had been discontinued and added a few of their own. There was an ox parade and a goat parade. There was a Firefighters Muster, where firemen competed by starting out without gear and equipment and then ending geared up and handling hoses.
Heath resident Buck DenOuden organized an antique tractor parade.
“This is all volunteer. Nobody’s getting paid to do any of this stuff. We have a population of 700 and it takes about…that many people to put it on,” said Schwenger. That includes handling parking and selling tickets.
As usual there was lots of music. The Sweetback Sisters performed under the music tent and Doug Wilkins Fall Town String Band taught folks how to square dance on Friday night.
On Saturday, 135 goats were entered in Heath’s 7th annual American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) goat show. Rachel Trowbridge of Magical Meadow Farm from Lebanon, CT showed her Alpine goats. Trowbridge milks her goats to make soap that she sells at farmers markets and through her Facebook page. She is also part of the Great Goats 4-H club, which is held in Lebanon, CT. She enjoys working with her goats. “They have a lot of personality and they’re really fun to be with,” she said.
Christine Grant showed goats from her Beorningswick Dairy Goats Farm in Melrose, CT. She raises champion blue ribbon Saanens and Nubians. She ships kids four to six weeks of age to customers out of Bradley International Airport. But the preferred pickup method is that customers pick them up at the farm. She was assisted by Ryan Blatchley of Cedar Swamp Farm in Storrs, CT who raises ADGA champion Toggenburgs.
Heath resident Sheila Litchfield is Heath’s ADGA goat show chairman and has been instrumental in getting kids in the Hawlemont Regional Elementary School in Charlemont, MA involved in agriculture.
“They handed out ribbons and led some of the goats for people who brought multiple goats. It’s nice to have youngsters involved in the show. Hopefully they’ll be interested enough to get goats of their own,” said Heath resident Marty Newman, goat show secretary. Getting involved and staying involved in agriculture and celebrating it is the Heath Fair organizers’ goal as well as having a lot of fun.