Fun & fried dough, yes, but fair is still about agriculture

SANDWICH — With over 26,000 people showing up for the first two days of the Sandwich Fair and a bright and sunny Columbus Day on Monday, the annual Sandwich Fair was poised to approach the 40,000 attendance mark in its 103rd season.
''We had 15,000 people Sunday and lot of entrants in our annual Grand Parade. This year's fair theme was Celebrating 250 Years of Sandwich History and we had a lot of floats reflecting that theme and that made it kind of special,'' said fair office manager Rhea York.
She said 11,000 people turned out in less than ideal weather on Saturday and that there was a good turnout for Monday's oxen pull with 30 teams signed up to compete.
''I don't know yet how many we had on Monday, but it was from everything I saw and heard and very good day.''
A new event this year, a Children's Scavenger Hunt, proved popular according to York, who said that the skillet toss, which was introduced several years ago, continues to be one of the most popular events at the fair.
She said the three-day fair averages around 30,000 in attendance and has drawn as many as 45,000 and is the last on the annual calendar of the state's agricultural fairs.
There's always lots of food, ranging from fried dough and giant donuts to buffalo burgers and sausage grinders with peppers and onions at the fair, along with dozens of carnival rides and games.
But the heart of the fair is still agricultural, and a lot of attention is paid to young exhibitors who are showing their farm animals and having them judged.
Alex Bachelder, 12, of Pittsfield is in her third year of taking part in fitting and showmanship competitions and walked her Holstein ''Rattle'' around the show ring under the watchful eye of show ring judge Katie Putnam of Charlestown,.
''I spend a lot of time working with the cattle at Spooky View Farm to get ready for the shows,'' says Bachelder, who has already taken part in he fairs at Stratham, Hopkinton and Deerfield this year.
She's a member of the Merrimack County 4-H Cub and says that her cousins are also experienced in the fair's show ring.''We always have a good time at the fairs,'' she says.
Carissa LaBonte of Loudon is only eight but she was having a good time explaining to people who made their way through the cattle show area what made the shaggy Scottish Highlander cattle she was with so special.
''They're one of the oldest breeds in the world and can survive in cold weather,'' she told people who asked about the Highlanders.

Eight-year-old Carissa LaBonte of the Highland Farm in Loudon sits with with some of the farm's Scottish Highlander cattle at the 103rd annual Sandwich Fair. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)