Editor’s note: The 61st annual Addison County Fair and Field Days last week was, as ever, a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, smells and sensations. With so many events, demonstrations, fried treats and heated competitions to take in, our reporters picked just a few favorites for our readers to savor.
NEW HAVEN — Patrick Fifield wasn’t making much progress across the fairgrounds.
The Middlebury teen was driving his pair of Lineback steers from the Oxen Barn to the Dairy Barn, on the other side of the fair. The two massive steers, just three and a half years old, were yoked together, dutifully plodding along beside their master, who tapped their legs with a thin rod every now and then to direct the pair.
But admirers kept getting in the way to marvel at the Linebacks, so the cross-fairground journey was slow going.
“Come on, Ron,” Fifield said. “Back up, Ron. Back up, Harry. Get up, boys.”
That’s Ron and Harry, as in Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, the gallivanting duo of best friends from the popular series of books by British author J.K. Rowling. Yes, Fifield admitted, he had named the two steers after the fictional wizards. He smiled sheepishly.
Fifield got his start with cattle showing dairy cows with 4-H, but switched to steers two or three years ago. His brother started a set, he explained, and Fifield followed soon after. Dairy cows just didn’t hold the same allure.
Steers are male cows that have been castrated. Once they’re at least four years old, they’re called oxen. Were they bulls, Fifield explained to one curious onlooker, they’d just be too much of a handful.
But Ron and Harry were frisky enough, and eager to be on their way. It was late in the day, and they were hungry, Fifield explained.
As the small crowd gathered around the two steers, Ron or Harry — it’s hard to tell them apart — reached his head over the shoulder of one admirer. Out came his large, pink tongue, and he began licking at the man’s neck.
Another snorted and snuffled, nosing a bystander with his large snout.
“He’s really curious,” Fifield said.
— Kathryn Flagg
The sheep propped against her leg seemed to fall into a kind of stupor as Willis shaved its stomach. Her electric shears, she explained, were unusual: they were for left-handed people.
As the matted gray wool fell away to reveal the white underneath, the children in the front row whispered in shock: the sheep wasn’t actually gray, it was just dirty!
Willis, who has been shearing sheep since she was 12, held the sheep stable until she turned it onto its side, at which point it began to kick, its legs flailing in midair.
“You have to make it think that it can’t move,” she said.
When she pulled the sheep to its feet, it had become significantly skinnier and looked a little unsteady on its legs. As another woman walked it away it let out a plaintive bleat. The black sheep that was next in line let out a series of even louder “baas.”
After she had finished the second sheep, several of the children in the audience crowded up to pet the newly-shorn sheep, giggling as they ran their hands through the short black stubble that remained. When the sheep began to bleat, they took a couple of steps backward.
“She’s very talkative. She’s just saying hello,” said Willis.
— Andrea Suozzo
“What can I do for you, honey?” he asked as he pushed a pile of onions across the greased cooktop. An older man with “Mike” tattooed across his upper arm looked on, taking the occasional order.
Vincent needed to practice talking to the press, said Mike. Vincent said he had been working at the booth for four years, and that his uncle owns the business, which is based out of Bellows Falls.
“But we’ve been coming here for 19 years,” added Mike, hovering in the background.
Vincent cooks sausage for five months every summer, driving from one fair to another all over Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. In the off-season, he takes on part-time jobs.
The jobs are nothing compared to his summers, though. Vincent spends 12 hours at a stretch standing in the booth, making sausages. But he says he wouldn’t trade his summer job for anything.
“I like the carny life,” said Vincent. “I like camping, meeting cool people — new people.”
— Andrea Suozzo
But this year, the warm up act was just as exciting as the revving motors of the demo derby daredevils. Bristol native Adam Cousino and Dorset native Shawn Connors kicked their motorcycles into gear, double-checked their helmets, and then sped off toward a steep ramp on the edge of the tractor pad. Seemingly fearless, they one after the other sped up, raced toward the ramp and then catapulted themselves — and their motorcycles — into the air.
They’ve taken the show on the road: Cousino and Connors, under the name C-n-C Freestyle, have already traveled around the country demonstrating their aerial motorcycle stunts. This week’s performances brought the pair back to their home turf.
Each launched off the ramp and somersaulted into their catalog of tricks. Connors flew into the “stripper,” contorting his six-foot-something frame to thrust his legs and upper body between the handlebars of his bike, extending out in a graceful arc over the front wheel. In another round, he released the handlebars and hopped up onto the bike seat, reaching for the sky. In the “helicopter,” Cousino kicked his feet backwards, twisting high above the bike while still grasping the handlebars.
Then, in one particularly breath-taking moment of bravado, Connors released his bike altogether mid-flight, hovering unattached above the motorcycle — the “superman” pose.
It lasted just a few split seconds, the motorcycle and rider appearing suspended mid-air in slow motion, and then he snatched back his bike and dove back to earth, to the delight of the crowd.
— Kathryn Flagg