Celebrating 40 fairs at the Adams Agricultural Fair
At the Adams Agricultural Fair, bright blue ribbons are handed out for the best baked goods; farm kids triumphantly accept trophies for their superior animals and spectators cheer on their favorite oxen teams.
While the three-day event may seem to be a remnant of a bygone era, its organizers believe the fair's "small-town feeling" is part of the attraction that kept it going for the last 39 years.
"It's a nice, small fair that you can get into for $5. It has the feel of a bigger fair, but at the same time you're not overwhelmed," said Karen Kruszyna, who heads the annual Aggie Fair Prince and Princess contest. "It's a nice, affordable family day out."
Fair President Patricia Wojcik believes the fair, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next weekend, still offers something for everyone -- whether it's the demolition derby or entering canned vegetables in the annual hall exhibit competition.
"We have those who exhibit in our agricultural and hall exhibitions, but there are those who come for the entertainment," she said. "The animals always bring in the kids and their families. It's very family oriented.
"I think families like to participate [in the annual competitions] because it gives the kids something to do during the summer. A simple ribbon means so much to them."
Jill Balawender Reynolds, owner of Cheshire Glassworks, spent her childhood summers at the fair with her siblings, showing off the family farm's cows.
"I loved going to the fair. We'd get up early and bring our cows. It was very exciting," she said. "We went to a few fairs every summer, but the Aggie Fair was my favorite. I got to see all of my friends."
Reynolds still recalls winning a first place ribbon with her cow, Pepsi, at the fair in 1988.
"I definitely remember that day. She was a good cow, but when I went to show her off she just laid down in the ring," she said. "Cows tend to do that, but she laid down on her side, with her legs sticking straight out. I was horrified. When you bring your animal into the ring, you want them to be on their best behavior."
One highlight, Reynolds said, was watching the annual cow-milking contest between the Adams and Cheshire select boards.
"It was great," she said. "There was also a pie-eating contest. They should bring those contests back."
While those contests have faded into the past, one contest that draws competitors every year is the Aggie Fair Prince and Princess contest, which began in 1986 when the fair moved from the Polanka Picnic Grounds on Mill Street to its permanent home at Bowe Field.
To participate, a child must be between the age of 5 and 7, complete a coloring form that is sent in prior to the fair and answer a series of questions on stage during a morning competition held during the fair.
The winners receive a cash prize, hand out ribbons and trophies on Sunday and appear in the annual Fall Foliage Parade.
"I think a lot of parents [have their children] do it to give them a little boost of self confidence," said Kruszyna, who took over as head of the contest in 2002. "The kids are just so cute. It can be really tough. We look for kids with outgoing personalities."
She said one year, a little boy from one of the participating farms entered the contest. He didn't win and was disappointed.
"But by the end of the fair it didn't matter. He was showing off the trophy he won for his sheep," Kruszyna said. "We have some great families that come to the fair."
Begun as a one-day event in 1975, the Aggie Fair was originally part of the town's week-long SumFest celebration, which is now known as Susan B. Anthony Days. In 1976, dairy and beef cow judging was added along with a flea market, an art show, children's arts performances and displays of farm tools and antique bottles. By 1978, the fair had expanded to three days of events including a horse show.
In 1986, the fair began leasing the 14-acre Bowe Field on Old Columbia Street from the town. Over time, attractions such as a mini-carnival, horse and oxen pulls, a demolition derby and truck and tractor pulls have been added to the schedule. A series of state grants has also allowed for permanent buildings and barns to be built -- the latest being a permanent pavilion for performances.
"The buildings have been a great asset," Wojcik said. "We get a lot of rain, so they've made it safer for our exhibitors and performers over the years."
However, she credits the fair's longevity to its faithful group of volunteers -- many of whom have been with the organization since its inception. A majority of the newer volunteers, she said, are the children and grandchildren of the original organizers -- many of whom began participating as children.
"We have a lot of people like Joe Novak, Chuck Felix and Betty Randall, who have been with us since the beginning or almost the beginning. They just want to see it keep going," Wojcik said. "We have volunteers and participants from all over -- not just Adams and Cheshire. One of our longtime volunteers, Hervy Ostiguy, who at one time was the head of our draft oxen pull, used to come from North Brookfield. He was a big supporter."
Ostiguy, who died in April at the age of 95, will be remembered along with two other longtime volunteers, Joan Lagowski and Henry Bounds, during this weekend's events.
If you go:
What: 40th Adams Agricultural Fair
When: Battle of the Bands competition takes place Thursday at 6 p.m.. Fair runs Friday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 3
Where: Bowe Field, off Route 8, Adams
Admission: Adults are $5 on Friday and Saturday, $6 on Sunday, children under 10 are $1; three-day adult pass is $10. Parking is free.
More information: Online at adams-agricultural-fair.org/ or on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Adams-Agricultural-Fair/7548266371
Thursday, July 31
6 p.m. Battle of the Bands
Friday, Aug. 1
5:45 p.m. "Up in the Air Discdogger" Show
6 p.m. Cruise in 2014 Street Rods, Classic and Custom Vehicles, Jeeps
6 p.m. One Sharp Marriage (Knife Throwers)
7 p.m. "Bits and Pieces" Dance and Easy Listening Music
7 p.m. Children's Pedal Tractor Contest sponsored by Maple Grove Equipment
Saturday, Aug. 2
10 a.m. Jeep Obstacle Course
11 a.m. Crowning of Aggie Fair Prince & Princess
11 a.m. Horse Pull
Noon Truck pull (gas engines)
12:30 p.m. Sheep Dog Demonstration
1 p.m. Birds of Birds of Prey program by Tom Riccardi
2:30 p.m. One Sharp Marriage (Knife Thrower)
4 p.m. "Hill Billy" Lawn Tractor Pull (Entries Welcome)
4-7 p.m. "Phil n the Void" with Special Guest - Phil Grovers Rock & Roll Revue
7 p.m. Berkshire County Line Dancers
7 p.m. Truck Pull (Diesel Engines)
8 p.m. Tommy T & Black Velvet
Sunday, Aug. 3
11 a.m. Ox pull
Noon One Sharp Marriage (Knife Thrower)
1 p.m. Sheep Dog Demonstration
1:30 "Kickin in the Sticks"
2 p.m. Demolition Derby, rain or shine
5 p.m. Awards ceremony
Ongoing throughout the weekend: Belanger Brothers Amusements; Austrian Haflingers - Sommer Hill Farm; WOW (Watershed on Wheels Visitor Center), a display of antique engines and tractors by Dennis Thomas and demonstrations by: "Hill Billy" wood crafter Jerry Goodermote; wool spinning by Lauren Levesque and the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association.
A look back at previous Aggie Fair Prince and Princess contest winners, from 1986 to 2013.
2013 Spencer Boucher, 6, of North Adams, and Noelle Dravis, 7, of Williamstown
2012 John Stack, 5, of North Adams, and Megan Dubreuil, 7, of Cheshire
2011 Owen Dubreuil, 6, of Cheshire, and Cecilia Marszalek, 6, of Adams,
2010 Isaac Huberdeau, 5, of Adams, and Olivya Reese Nunn, 7, of North Adams.
2009 Zachary Lillie, 5, of Adams, and Alicia Loughman, 7, of Adams
2008 Justin Meczywor, 7, of Adams, and Vincienza Alicandri, age 7, of North Adams
2007 Jake Meczywor, 7, of Adams, and Jacqueline Lemaire, 7, of North Adams
2006 Ethan Raschdorf, 6, of Adams, and Kaitlyn Dobbert, 6, of North Adams
2005 Nathan St. Pierre, of Adams, and Isabella Santenfemio of Pepperell
2004 Christian Trotter, 6, and Mackenzie Rougeau of North Adams
2003 Brandon Hilton, 6, of Adams, and Olivia Zaleski, 5, of Adams
2002 Mitchell Dalton, 5, of New Hampshire, and Jasmine Figueroa, 7, of Cheshire
2001 Dylan Hilchey , 7, of Cheshire, and Hannah Heath , 6, of Cheshire
2000 Christopher Stefanik, 6, of Adams, and Samantha LeBeau, 7, of Adams
1999 Chelsea Lefebvre, 5, of Adams (no prince this year)
1998 Joseph Heath, 6, of Cheshire, and Victoria Lynn Hunt, 6, of Cheshire
1997 Shaun Jennings, 6, of Adams, and Bethany Frye, 6, of Adams
1996 Peter Critelli, 6, of Adams, and Celia Waltermire, 5, of Adams
1995 Steven Felix, 5, of North Adams, and Alycia Rochello, 5, of Adams
1993 Bruce Wood and Ana Rosa Carollo, of North Adams
1992 Pranam Lipinski, 6 of Adams, and Jamie Wood, 7, of Adams
1991 Katie Wilk, of Adams, (no prince this year)
1990 Sarah Ziemba, of Adams, (unknown if there was prince this year)
1989 Andrew Johnson, of Cheshire, and Kate Lecuyer, of Adams
1988 Leon King, of North Adams, and Natalia Kuhner, of Adams
1987 Katie Babeu of Adams, (no prince)
1986 Sara Briggs, 6, of Adams (no prince)
* No record of the names of the prince and princess for this year. Individuals who have information on those years can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
** In some years, a prince was not named due to a lack of contestants.
Sources: Aggie Fair Prince & Princess contest records; Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript archives
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.