PITTSTON — Five-year-old Lily Belanger had a special reason for entering the kiddie tractor pull Saturday at the Pittston Fair.

“I want to win a tractor for my brother … he really wants one,” Lily said. “I have strong legs and will be able to pedal (faster than him).”

Nicholas, her 3-year-old brother, also entered the contest, in which kids pedaled a tractor hitched to a steel drag as far as they could. The ones who went the farthest won a brand new children’s-size farm tractor.

Peter Weeks, fair association vice president, said the prizes were donated.

“They’re having fun,” Weeks said. “Half the time they’re turning around looking to see if the flag goes up and they lose their concentration.”

Lily’s mom, Hilary, said the event is a wonderful way to expose youngsters to agriculture.

“My family has lived in Pittston for six generations, we’re all farming families,” Hilary Belanger said. “I think it’s wonderful, and incredibly charitable, the way this fair supports agriculture. It’s what this fair was built on and it will continue with the younger generation.”

On the other end of the fairgrounds, judges sat down in the new exhibition hall to taste three single-crust and two double-crust strawberry pies.

Jean Ambrose, who ran the competition, said last year there were 16 entries. She said the number of entries might have been down this year because of the heat.

“It’s been hot,” Ambrose said. “I’m just happy three different people went to the trouble of making the pies.”

Ambrose told the five judges they had to judge the pies on four characteristics: Appearance, taste, texture and the recipe.

Steve McGee, fair association president and one of the judges, sampled them all.

“The quality is very good,” McGee said. “This is serious business in this area. I’ve been doing it for eight years. It’s a wonderful job.”

First place winners received a cash price of $50. Second place got $35 and third place $25.

Mary Lawrence of Pittston won first prize in the double-crust category.

“I love winning,” Lawrence said. “I do this every year, it’s a dying art. There were only five (entries) this year. Maybe it was the heat. I had the fan going the whole time I was baking.”

Mabeline Small was the first place winner in the single-crust category.

Small, of Whitefield, said this was the first time she entered a pie contest. “I’m just thrilled to win,” Small said. “I was up early before it got too hot. It was hard work, but it was worth it.”

Jodi Weeks of Pittston stopped by after she finished judging the Strawberry Blossom pageant for young girls.

She said the number of girls competing was at its lowest this year. She blames it on the heat. Only nine entered the contest, which is for girls aged 4 to 7.

“One year we had 20 in both the Strawberry Blossom and Strawberry Queen contests. That was a horrible year,” Weeks joked. “A lot of them come back who participated before and it’s fun to see how they developed and their personalities change, especially the younger ones.”

The heat had fairgoers searching out shade and horse owners dousing their animals with a cool stream of water from hoses. Temperatures hovered around 90 degrees Saturday. That didn’t stop Mike and Linda Reeve of Fayette from enjoying themselves. Their first stop? The french fries booth.

“We had to get our french fries,” Mike Reeve said. “This is the fourth year we’ve come. We like the fair. It’s small and quiet, more traditional.

“This is the way fairs were when I was a little kid. More agricultural, family-oriented.”

McGee said all the people involved in the 60-year-old fair, which ends today, are volunteers. Volunteers even built the new exhibition hall.

“Nobody gets paid for anything they do for the fair,” McGee said. “And they’ve been asked to do things they wouldn’t do even if they got paid.”

Today’s events includes the Strawberry Blossom and Queen coronation, a baby contest, a bicycle giveaway and a talent show. The fair’s schedule is at www.pittstonfair.com.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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