Nick Stone directs his oxen to drag a cement block during the Oxen Pull at the Bondville Fair.
Nick Stone directs his oxen to drag a cement block during the Oxen Pull at the Bondville Fair. (Manchester Journal file)

BONDVILLE -- It's fair time again. From Friday to Sunday, Aug. 22 to 24, the 217th Bondville Fair, the oldest continuously held fair in the state, will come to town.

Originally held as a harvest fair, it was once held later in the season, said Lori Polhemus, treasurer of the Winhall Industrial Society, the non-profit that now keeps the fair going.

"It was a time for farmers and locals to come and bring their produce and what-not to celebrate fall and to celebrate the harvest before settling into winter," she said.

Polhemus has been helping plan and put on the event for 25 years. Originally, her husband got involved with volunteering, and she stepped in as treasurer when the fair needed one. She said the fair is completely volunteer-run with the help of donations and a core group that puts it all together.

"For me, [the fair] is a great place for families to be able to come and enjoy themselves in a lot of different ways, given all the different activities and events we hold," she said. "But more than that is the tradition and the community that comes together when this all happens. We rely on community volunteers, as well as local businesses, to help support financially and volunteer-wise every aspect of the fair."

The fair has a diverse schedule, with music events -- some of the musical acts include the Bondville Boys, The Dusty Pilgrims, The Roadies and Sirsy -- the 18th annual ox pull and tractor pulls.


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There are animals to see in the Friendly Farm Animals barn, a quilt show, and crafts and other goods for sale.

In the Floral Hall, Polhemus said, are contributions from all ages -- jams, jellies and pies to knitting, fruits and vegetables. She said it is great fun to see all the different products and who wins the top prize.

"A lot of the older folks come for the horse pull on Sunday and the ox pull on Friday night," she said. "They're probably some of the original folks, who came as young children to the fair."

Estelle Schwartz has been in charge of organizing and keeping the crafters happy for about 15 years, she said. Schwartz, like Polhemus, is a member of the Winhall Industrial Society. She started out as a crafter at the fair in the early ‘90s and later became its organizer.

"I just love the idea of[the fair]," she said. "I grew up in Middletown, N.Y., and every year when I was a girl, we went to the fair. It was a county fair as opposed to local, so it was a little different. But it's a lot of fun and it gets me out."

Schwartz said volunteering at the fair keeps her busy. She said that's what keeps her healthy as she reaches "more senior years."

The crafts that got her started with the fair are a range of hand-made clothes. She knits sweaters that turn into vests for children, as well as making 1940s-style aprons and other kitchen goods. She said it's the crafter community that keeps her involved.

"As far as crafting, the crafters are the nicest people in the whole world," she said. "They help each other out and don't let you fall on your face."

Over the years, the fair has changed. Polhemus said it draws a different crowd than 25 or 30 years ago.

"It was known to be a little rowdy crowd," she said. "I just want to be sure and invite folks to see what is has become today. It is a safe, fun, family environment, with all kinds of different foods, vendors and a craft fair."

To help put on the fair, the Vermont Department of Agriculture has some grant funding available, she said, and two years ago, the Winhall Industrial Society received a federal grant.

"We're going to do some fairly large-scale ground improvements," she said. "We have lighting and electrical [improvements being made]."

Along with the fair, the Winhall Industrial Society supports other non-profits in the area through monetary donations.

"We have a scholarship fund that we offer seniors graduating from high school, going into college," she said. "We also give thousands of dollars to local organizations. In the past, we've given money to Grace Cottage Hospital, Londonderry Volunteer Rescue Squad, Winhall Fire Department, Second Change Animal Shelter and others."

Polhemus said she loves the sense of community around the fair and the atmosphere of providing that. Seeing the kids checking out the animal barn is one of her favorite parts of the weekend.

"We also get a lot of second homeowners who come with their children and grandchildren," she said. "It's really kind of neat to see some of these kids experience the animal barn and the floral hall. They don't generally get exposed to that kind of thing."

If you go ...

What: Bondville Fair

When: Friday, Aug. 22 to Sunday Aug. 24

When: Friday, Aug. 22 to Sunday Aug. 24

Admission: $10, including the price of rides.

Information: full schedule at bondvillefair.org.