By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — Animals and the children showing them will hold the spotlight at the 74th annual Belknap County 4-H Fair, which will be held this weekend at the former Royal Smith Farm on Mile Hill Road, which was once a dairy farm with 240 head of milking cows.
The fair continues to focus on the things that it does well by maintaining its agricultural roots, says Earl Leighton Jr. of Sanbornton, who is hoping that some new attractions this year will bring even more people to the fair, which begins Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and will run through Sunday at 5 p.m.
New this year is a car show on Saturday and a tractor show featuring old-time “doodlebugs” on Sunday. There will also be demonstrations of old time engines, a blacksmith, and yarn spinning and monster trucks will be on display both days.
Leighton has two of his doodlebugs, improvised homemade farm tractors which became popular during World War II when production tractors were in short supply, at the fair and they will compete in Sunday's show.
He also has brought along a number of old-time gasoline engines from the early 20th century, which became popular on farms in the time before widespread electrification and were used, among other things, for pumping water, grinding feed, sawing wood and power for the family washing machine.
Leighton takes over from Fran Wendelboe, fair chairman, who took over leadership of the fair six years ago after a period of declining attendance amidst an effort to turn it into a three-day affair, which included carnival rides.
"We've always been a small fair focused on kids and agriculture, and that's what we continue to be. We had pony rides and lots of entertainment, but the focus has always be on a things like the steer-pulling competitions, goat and sheep and dog shows, as well other animals raised by the children,'' says Wendelboe.
The Belknap County 4H Fair has been providing fairgoers with animal exhibits like ox pulls, draft horse demonstrations, and 4-H youth animal displays. The historic Colonial Barn is full of the craft and educational projects done by area youth with the 4-H program.
Both Saturday and Sunday feature traditional free kids' games like bubble gum-blowing , pie-eating contests, jello-eating and water balloon-throwing.
Visitors can browse the exhibits, crafts and entertainment, check out the pulls and all those delicious traditional fair foods like Italian sausage subs, fries, onion rings, ice cream and fried dough.
The fair got its start in 1943 as a dairy fitting and showmanship competition at Lombardy Farm on Parade Road in Laconia during World War II. Interest in the fair, sparked by Lillian Walker, owner of the farm, grew rapidly and it was later moved to Opechee Park in Laconia, where it was billed as the 4-H Food for Victory Fair.
At the first fair, War Bonds were sold to buy bombs for the war effort and the drive was so successful that the following year the goal of raising bonds to buy an Army training aircraft was established.
The War Bond fund drive went statewide and by the time the fair was held in 1944 enough money had been raised to buy nine training aircraft.
Following the war, the fair moved to the Belknap County Recreation Area, returning to Opechee Park in 1950, where it was held until it moved to the former Royal Smith Farm on Mile Hill Road in 1977.
There is free admission for children under 10 and active military and veterans with ID. General admission is $7.
Ella Poire and Hannah Baker of Belmont show their Hampshire sheep at last year's Belknap County 4-H Fair. (Roger Amsden/file photo)
Mason Farmer of Alexandria showed his 5-month-old Brown Swiss team at last year's Belknap County 4-H Fair. (Roger Amsden/file photo)
Giant rabbits are popular attractions at the Belknap County 4-H Fair. (Roger Amsden/file photo)
Emily Emmalee of Barnstead, shows Ultra, a mini-horse, in the horse show ring at the Belknap County 4-H Fair last year.. (Roger Amsden/ file photo)
- Written by Roger Amsden
- Category: Local News
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