CUMMINGTON>> It is billed as "one of the best little fairs in the country" and the 148th annual Cummington Fair shows no signs of failing that promise during its Aug. 25 to Aug. 28 run.
The fair has evolved over its almost century and a half of contests, exhibits, livestock shows and food offerings but many of the traditions and values important to the past generations of fair visitors and participants remain in place.
The horse-pulling contests were set to begin Sunday at noon. On Saturday, oxen teams were featured in a parade, a teamsters challenge, and oxen pulling contests.
Ali Jenkins is 11 years old and a fifth-grade student at West Hampton Elementary School. Ali stood with her oxen team in the parade.
"My dad grew up on a farm with oxen," she said. "He has a big team and he wanted me and my brother to have a young team that we could raise."
Ali's father Thomas Jenkins entered the Ox Teamsters Challenge. The challenge means hooking a team to a log and then navigating an obstacle course with the log in tow.
Farm life suits Ali just fine, she said.
"I really like it," she said. "I like the open spaces, the smells; I love it."
Another young up-and-coming farmer, Harrison Roberts, 9, of Chesterfield, talked about farm life and his favorite show bull, a Hereford named Danger.
"It's the best way to live," Harrison said. "Farming has been in our family for generations. We have the Herefords and they are meat cows. Their meat is really good."
Fair attractions go well beyond the livestock. A midway filled with rides and games draws families, with scores of folks trying their hand at ring toss, water gun, dart tossing and other games. A tall Ferris wheel circled round and round and other thrill rides caused shrieks. Tamer kiddie rides elicited smiles and generated countless photo opportunities for parents and grandparents.
Nathan and Angela Hubbard and their 3-year-old daughter Cora of Greenfield toured the grounds with Cora riding in a wagon with a full bag of cotton candy.
"My grandfather used to bring me to this fair," Angela Hubbard said. "It's a little bit of tradition."
Williamstown resident Tara Garcia and Adams resident Kelly Dugan are lifelong friends who visit the fair every year, they said.
"We used to come with the kids," Dugan said. "Now we come with grandkids."
"My dad was nuts about coming here," Garcia said. "If you come to this fair once, you'll always come again."
Each day the fair operates offers something special. On Thursday evening a truck pull was a featured event and Friday featured a Cruise Night. Square dancing, a demolition derby and a very popular roast beef dinner were part of the vast Saturday lineup. In addition to horse pulling, Sunday's events include a western Massachusetts lumberjack championship, a truck and tractor pull and a turkey dinner.
Entertainers rounded out the offerings with Zoe Darrow and the Fiddleheads taking the stage Friday evening, singing duo Presley and Taylor performing two shows on Saturday. Sunday's entertainment includes Pete and Chris performing at the pavilion at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m..
North Adams residents Eric Buddington and Elena Traister met friends George and Alice Wislocki at the fair, as has been their tradition for several years. One reason for the annual gathering is the roast beef dinner, Buddington said.
"It's a nice old-fashioned experience," said Alice Wislocki.
Buddington and Traister's son, Solomon, 5, also has a favorite fair attraction, Buddington said.
"He really likes the tractors," he said.
And when asked why, Solomon thought about it for a moment and then declared "They are fun to sit on."
The Cummington Fair will close its exhibition hall at 7 p.m. Sunday evening. The final horse pulling contest gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening.