Guilford Fair forever young at 75


On Labor Day, September 7, 1942, far from the horror of World War II, local farm families set aside time to catch up, during a pause in the season between haying and cutting corn. "It was also a chance to celebrate soldiers coming home from the Service," Harry Evans says. Harry was five at the time of Guilford's first Old Home Day. His family hosted the annual gathering on their secluded back pasture until 1953.

"Most every farm had a team of horses, and the farmers drove them on the dirt roads across town to get there." He points out the slope where neighbors watched each horse drawing granite posts loaded on a stone boat. They fenced off an area of Broad Brook where borrowed ducks splashed about, delighting the children. There were spontaneous games and exhibitions, but no blue ribbons. There were picnic favorites, soft drinks to purchase, and "adult beverages of choice." Old Home Days ended with a dance at the Grange after evening milking.

Old Home Day evolved into an upbeat two-day festivity honoring the riches of rural life and the community spirit of Guilford. On Sept. 1 and 2, neighbors and strangers will mingle at the Fairground on Weatherhead Hollow Road for the 75th Guilford Country Fair. The milestone will be marked with some "lowkey hoop-la," according to Trustee Belinda Lashway. Possibly a scavenger hunt around the Fairgrounds with clues and little prizes. Maybe a raffle where every 75 minutes someone wins a tee shirt, a pint glass or coffee mug bearing the Fair logo, four splendid draft horses with their driver.

Belinda joined the Trustees in 2011, already a Fair veteran. "On Sunday

morning as kids we'd be at the crack of dawn to get our entries ready. One year I made a sundress. Another year, a last-minute cheesecake. Our winnings were Fair money."

Scroll through the events on the website, and imagine strolling around the Fairgrounds. Or hailing a ride in a golf cart shuttle from the parking lot. Past the ticket booth, live music welcomes you. To the left, equestrians display their skills. Years ago, Margaret Borkowski founded the horse show following a tragic death in the family, to give her daughter, a passionate rider, a chance to compete among friends.

Up on the rise, visit barns full of beautiful livestock, hens to oxen. Ron Squires, the late state legislator, once described how, as a young 4-Her, he brushed his heifer's coat with Crisco so it shined in the show.

At Fitch Hall, inspect the best of this year's harvest, flowers, vegetables, baled hay, and fancywork. Quilts hang on sturdy dowels above sweaters, mittens, afghans, weavings, and sewing projects. Across from these are hobbies and handicrafts, collections, photography, even duct tape art. Peer through the windows to decipher who won blue ribbons. Years ago, Emery Evans laughingly explained that my entries, while attractive, were "hippie vegetables." Judges favored beauty and uniformity; when they ask for five pea pods, they want quintuplets.

Above Fitch Hall, climb to the game booths and carnival rides for the kids. Buy cotton candy, squintingly sweet, and wash it down with fresh, tart lemonade.

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The Guilford Free Library, the Historical Society, Conservation Commission, and Guilford Cares set up shady booths in front of Fitch Hall. Browse among their exhibits, chat, rehydrate, buy raffle tickets. The Guilford Volunteer Fire Department offers a yeoman's chicken barbecue. The Guilford Community Church sells sizzling burgers and hot dogs. Broad Brook Grange members call Bingo for novices and devotees in a breezy shelter, a quarter a card. What's your pleasure, the sawing contest, classic cars, sheep shearing, or Circus Arts acrobats on a portable trapeze?

As you read this, there's still time to search the garden and closet for your offerings. Children's entries are particularly welcome.

Join the volunteers who mount the Fair. Earn a free ticket! Contact Belinda Lashway:

- Set up tents on a work day to be announced

- Register entries at Fitch Hall on Saturday

- Sell tickets and tee shirts

- Rake the horse and ox pull arena

- Staff the Farmer for a Day display or the ice cream contest

- Remove trash at the end of each day

Editor's note: This article is courtesy of The Guilford Gazette.


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