Peek inside midway, animal show ring and grandstand of 2017 Hopkinton Fair

Special to the Union Leader
August 30. 2017 4:04PM

Recycled Percussion calls itself a junk-rock band, since it pounds out rhythms on everything from ladders to the kitchen sink. It next plays the Hopkington Fair in Contoocook this weekend. 

The Axe Women Loggers of Maine have carved out a niche at the Hopkinton Fair.

After about three minutes riding the new Super Cyclone roller coaster, Hopkinton fair-goers might need a breather.

“I guess a body can only stand so many jolts for so long, and then it’s a good time to rest, and hold on to your lunch,” said Gene Dean, chief executive officer of Fiesta Shows, which will bring 35 rides to the 102-year-old state fair.

Dean said the Super Cyclone is making its New Hampshire debut at the fair, which runs from Friday through Labor Day on Monday.

“It’s for the whole family; everyone enjoys it. It’s a nice thrill ride,” Dean said.

Another new ride comes equipped with its own set of teeth.

“Outside of roller coasters and the bumper cars, most other rides travel in circles,” he said. “The (fanged) Viper has two arms, with cars that hang from those arms and then swivel on their own.”

Along with the popular Flying Bobs or Tilt-A-Whirl rides, there are smoother, more nostalgic options.

“Some people (went on a) Ferris wheel 40 years ago and they want to do it one more time, or their first date was on a merry-go-round,” Dean said.

He didn’t hesitate when asked about his own favorite ride?

“Well, I’m 75 years old. I go on the merry-go-round with my grandchildren. And I might go down the slide if I’m a derring-do that day,” he said.

Traffic jam

For those who prefer thrills on four wheels instead of rails, then the Demolition Derby is the ticket. Eileen and Jim Mann run Woodbooger Demolition Derby, which will put on several races at the fair, including a new feature, a truck demolition derby, on the first night. Full-size trucks, 4 by 4s such as Dodge Durangos and Ford Broncos, will go head to head on a slippery track and maybe lose a door, or two, or maybe even three.

“It’s a lot of fun. Hopkinton’s a very muddy track, and people love to go there and sit in the front rows,” Eileen Mann said. “You know you’re gonna get covered with mud. They’re gonna see a lot of action. Lots of mud flying.”

The winner gets $7,500, a trophy handmade by Jim Mann, and a jacket — but not just any jacket.

“It said ‘Hopkinton State Fair champion’ on it. That’s the coveted thing, the jacket. To be able to have the jacket is the cool thing,” said Eileen Mann.

The jacket is embroidered with the winner’s name, the year and car number, vital stats that signal a driver has conquered the crushing demolition derby.

The derby, a grandstand event, is Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $12, and tickets at the fair will be $16.

Country Life

Traditionalist fair-goers will be glad to know there are still plenty of agricultural events that showcase New Hampshire’s rich history.

Michelle Bersaw-Robblee is the Merrimack County 4-H horticulture field specialist with the UNH Cooperative Extension and a program coordinator for 4-H activities at the fair. She works with kids ages 8-18 on projects based on woodworking, arts and crafts and gardening.

“Projects can take on the form of pretty much anything. The sky’s the limit,” she said, adding the children get constructive feedback along the way.

Another place 4-H students can display their hard work is in the show ring. Two competitors are siblings Hayden Gardner, 14, and Lauren Gardner, 12, both members of the Rolling Bones 4-H Dog Club, Millville 4-H Club, Merrimack County 4-H Swine Club and Nanny Berry Lane 4-H Goat Club.

Showing animals is in the Gardner genes.

“I was born into 4-H,” Hayden Gardner said. “My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother are all 4-H alumni.”

He will be showing swine, dairy and market goats in the show ring and 4-H projects in the exhibit building.

“For all my animals, it is a 365-day project,” the teenager said. “I have the responsibility of getting up in the morning to feed and water them as well as handle them, making sure they are healthy. Weeks before the fair, I have to start shaving my goats. (Then) the week before and days before, I have to bathe them and clean the rest of their body — ears, hooves, etc.”

Having shown for a handful of years at the fair, Lauren Gardner said she’s learning lessons that will help her later in life.

“I get to learn skills that I can use when I get older, like time management and solving problems and learning about the health and diseases of animal,” she said. “I like doing community service to help people.”

She will be exhibiting crafts and competing in the show ring.

“I love animals, and we live on a farm, so it makes sense for me to show the goats and pigs,” she said. “I have a Beagle at home that I have trained and I love teaching him new skills.

“I have been practicing with my pigs to get them used to me, so they will walk nicely in the showing,” she added. “And I have been studying my knowledge on goats and pigs, so when the judge asks me questions in the show ring I will hopefully know the answers.”

Pulling, sawing and chopping

Competitions at Durgin Arena will include horse, cattle and pony pulls and 4-H working steer. The animals will give their all to pull heavy piles of cinder blocks for farmers’ bragging rights.

The New Hampshire-based Recycled Percussion, a junk-rock band that has played Vegas residencies, will descend upon the grandstand at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4, to raise some noise with buckets, power drills and whatever else they can get their hands on. Tickets are $19.

More competition will be found on the infield, with loggers, shooters and even man’s best friend proving their mettle.

Axe Women Loggers of Maine will return to chop, saw, and log roll at the fair. And the New Hampshire Cowboy Mounted Shooters will race against time, and try to deftly maintain accuracy, popping balloons with .45-caliber single action revolvers (with blanks, of course.)

Dock Dogs finds canine participants leaping over a cool pool in distance, retrieving and height contests.


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