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Father of Field Days Lucien Paquette to celebrate his 100th birthday

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Posted on August 8, 2016 |
By Emma Cotton



LucienPaquette2083.jpg
LUCIEN PAQUETTE, WHO founded Addison County Fair and Field Days in the 1940s, will celebrate his 100th birthday on the last day of the fair. His actual birthday is one day later. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

NEW HAVEN — Lucien Paquette sat back in a wooden chair at his kitchen table last week and laughed. He was telling a story about a phone conversation he’d recently had with a doctor who asked him for his birth date.

“Eight, fourteen, sixteen,” Paquette had responded.

The doctor was puzzled, and not amused.

“I had to specify, it was 1916,” Paquette said, chuckling about the confusion.

That’s right — Paquette, longtime Middlebury resident and father of Addison County Fair and Field Days, was born Aug. 14, 1916. This August, the day after Field Days ends, he’ll turn 100.

He doesn’t look or act his age — at the oldest, he seems a sprightly 85. Paquette’s mind and physique are still sharp. There aren’t many ways his nonagenarian side shows through — except, maybe, at last year’s hand-mowing competition.

Paquette’s championship of the hand-mowing competition dates back to his childhood, when he hand-mowed his family’s farm in Craftsbury. He started the event at Field Days and has taken the first-place prize home every year.

 Last year, he competed in the “80 years and above” class and won the best score, as usual — but upon careful inspection of all of the individual results, he realized that his youngest daughter, who competed in the ladies’ class, won with a score even higher than his own.

“I’m tickled at that,” he said. “I talk to people about it and I say ‘I’m pleased, because it means I’m a pretty good teacher.’”

This kind of agricultural education probably happened naturally with Paquette’s family — he has a long history of teaching the public about the importance of farming. In 1940, soon after he graduated (magna cum laude) from the University of Vermont, he was hired as the UVM Grand Isle County Extension Agent in Agriculture.

Though most counties had three extension agents, Paquette was the lone agent in Grand Isle, responsible for helping the county’s farmers increase crop yields while also building the local 4-H program.

“I got to know all the farmers in those five counties,” he said.

Six years later, UVM’s then-dean of agriculture asked Paquette to move to Addison County, and in 1948 the Addison County Fair and Field Days, then called Addison County Farm and Home, was born.

In the wake of World War II, Paquette created the agricultural event out of a desire to educate farmers about resources that were previously restricted due to rationing.

“There was so much rationing, on the farm, in the home, in businesses — there were certain things that were just not available,” he said.

While the event grew, Paquette encouraged business owners to either attend the fair or participate so that they could watch demonstrations and learn about the tools that had become plentiful in the post-war era.

With all of the networking, Paquette quickly became acquainted with the majority of business owners in Addison County. Some of those businesses, like Foster Motors, are still exhibitors at the fair.

Since the start of Field Days, Paquette has been involved with a slew of professional, community and personal engagements. He was the superintendent of the UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge. He was an income tax practitioner for 30 years. He started a radio program. He chartered Addison County’s Right to Life organization, with which he is still involved. He raised more than $16,000 for mental handicapped programs.

With his wife, who died in 2002, he organized, recruited for and led trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

He has also fathered 12 children.

“I had my hands full,” Paquette said.

From 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, Field Days will host a celebration for Lucien Paquette’s 100th birthday in the tent next to the cow arena.

Paquette’s family has invited those who can’t make the party at Field Days to come celebrate Lucien’s 100th on the actual day — Sunday, Aug. 14 — from 2-4 p.m. at an open house at 2538 South Bingham Street in Whiting.

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