By MEGAN GAMBINO
NEW HAVEN — The Addison County Fair and Field Days has been a tradition since 1948. But, for as much as the exhibition showcases the current agricultural life of the county, it also pays tribute to the days gone by.
Throughout the five days of festivities, which began Tuesday and continue through Saturday, a group of tinkerers leads demonstrations of functioning antique farm equipment.
A large crowd gathered at one of Tuesday’s shows. Many veteran fair-goers said they are always sure to include the Antique Equipment Building on their circuit through horse shows, sheep shearing demos, dairy confirmation classes and, of course, the midway.
“I come here ever year to watch,” said Bristol’s Todd Lossman, who brought his son, Wyatt, to the Tuesday demonstration. “It’s awesome.”
The demonstrations — held daily at 11 a.m., and 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. — begins with a straw threshing presentation in front of the Antique Equipment Building, which is between the Forest Tent and the Dusty Chuck 4-H food stand. A crowd typically amasses near the old Pioneer Threshing Company thresher, and one demonstration leads into another. Spectators then witness a working horse-powered drag saw and an 1876 Trevor Shingle Saw Mill.
“They’re marvelous old workhorses that did an awful lot of work for us in days gone by,” said onlooker Bob Chutter of Charlotte. “It’s just a wonderful array of how things were done.”
Much of the equipment in the demonstration used to be showcased at Lincoln’s Hill Country Holidays, but now it is only waxed and shined for its yearly inclusion in the Addison County Fair and Field Days.
When asked what it takes to maintain the antique equipment, demonstrator Larry Clark of Bristol laughed and said, “A lot of work.
“It’s when you first get them, when you find them in a junk pile and start to fiddle with them, that’s when it is hard,” Clark continued. “After that, it’s relatively easy to maintain.”
Alan Clark, a demonstrator from Bristol standing by, admitted that he spent upwards of 400 hours on the restoration of his Hart-Parr tractor, which is on display this week.
The late Bill Palmer, a former resident of Salisbury, began the exhibition with friend Paul Whittemore in 1986. First run out of a tent, the demonstration was later upgraded to a freestanding building in 1993. The building itself houses mostly antique hand tools, while larger equipment can be found behind the barn-like structure.
According to Bill Roleau, Field Days’ director of antiques, most of the equipment dates from between 1880 and 1920, though the majority is from the early 20th century. Some of the tractors on exhibit are privately owned, but much of the equipment has been donated to the Addison County Fair and Field Day by residents of Addison County and upstate New York.
“Everybody started donating little stuff once we got the barn,” Roleau said.
The demonstration also bridges quite the generation gap. Children should be on the lookout for the innovative “bubble blower.”
Demonstrators used a red-hot branding iron to burn a Field Days insignia in freshly cut wooden shingles, which were given out as keepsakes of sunny day at the fair and of a bygone era.
“They’re commemorative!” one demonstrator said, chuckling, as he hawked the branded shingles.