As Adams Agricultural Fair shows, horsing around is part, parcel of farm life
The sloppy conditions at Saturday's Adams Agricultural Fair demonstrated a fact that most attendees are acutely aware of: Farm life can be a dirty business.
"Rain, shine, subzero, they've got to eat twice a day," Cheshire shepherd Wendy Warner said. "Still got to do your chores."
For the past 44 years, farmers have packed up their best livestock and brought them to the Adams "aggie fair," where they compete for prizes. In addition to those competitions, the two-day event features fair food, live music and, this year, the Double M Rodeo.
Donna Stanlewicz sat on metal bleachers with her 11-year-old son, Jesse LaRose, waiting for the rodeo to begin.
She is no newbie to rodeos, which she described as "man against beast," but this was the first time her son has attended one with her.
"I want to see them men kick those cows," Jesse said, before his mother explained that's not what spurs are for.
Just as the horseback cowboys and cowgirls made their way to the beginning of the event, and the emcee asked the crowd to bow their head in prayer, the skies began to clear for a sunny afternoon.
In one of the first events, several bareback riders looked like rag dolls as they were thrown from bucking horses and into the mud only a few seconds after entering the pen. The crowd cheered for Jason Wilson, 13, who managed to last eight seconds on the animal, a qualifying time. He was the youngest competitor in his event.
"It's the scariest eight seconds of your life when it's your child," Wilson's mother, Nicole, said afterward. "It's very hard on your body."
Jason, of Pownal, Vt., said his goal is to eventually become a world champion bareback rider and that he'd also like to one day own his own horse.
"My dad started when he was 16," he said about rodeos. "I was born and raised with it."
Rylee Byrne, a 14-year-old youth barrel racer, also had a successful afternoon, earning her fastest score yet, at 13.7 seconds.
"This is my friend, Clue," she said, referring to the 11-year-old horse she was riding. "We are sitting first place."
Bringing the rodeo to the fair was no easy task for organizers, but the turnout Saturday was worth it, said director Elizabeth Randall.
"With all the rain, it's been wonderful, a good crowd." she said. "It's obvious people wanted to see this."
Agricultural gatherings like this one are how fairs began, with farmers bringing their livestock out to compete with their neighbors, according to Randall.
Today, most people who keep livestock in Berkshire County know each other well, Warner said, while watching 21-year-old Alex Springstube show her Shetland sheep.
"She has been showing since she was 6," said Springstube's mother, Michelle.
The Springstube farm in West Stockbridge has been in the family for six generations. They have 85 sheep, most of which have their own names, Michelle Springstube said.
The whole family loves their sheep, which are used primarily for their fleece. Some of them are so friendly, they become like pets.
But for economic and space reasons, some have to be killed and eaten, Michelle Springstube said.
"I've come back crying. You do form an attachment with them," she said. "You don't tell the children which sheep you're eating."
Springstube's husband, John, spends 15 hours a day caring for the animals, and the family gets excited about the agricultural fair each year.
"When we first started coming here, those trees were saplings," Michelle Springstube said, pointing to two that towered over a nearby chain-link fence. "We used to set our tent up up right between them."
The fair will continue Sunday with one of the most popular events, a demolition derby.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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