LITCHFIELD — A gentle fire burned in a cookstove tucked inside the agricultural museum door at the Litchfield Museum Saturday. Three pots simmered on top, each cooking up a batch of beans, most of which would be handed out to children at the fairgrounds. It’s a traditional Muriel Bonin started after helping set up the museum seven years ago.

Bonin died just a few days before last year’s fair, but the love she had for the museum and turning out treats on the stove live on.

“We’re trying to carry on her tradition,” said Bonin’s daughter, Rayna Leibowitz, who oversees the museum’s operation.

The museum is one of dozens attractions at this year’s Litchfield Fair, which opened Friday and runs through this evening. Fair President Charlie Smith said attendance Friday was solid despite the mildly oppressive heat and the parking lot was starting to fill up by noon on Saturday despite muggy conditions and clouds. Smith hoped that today, which promised spectacular weather and popular attractions like the antique car parade and Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull, will draw large crowds.

“We’re hoping for an average year in light of the weather and the economy,” Smith said.

The fair, like other fairs around the state, is placing more an emphasis this year on agricultural education. Smith grew up on a farm and so was familiar with the state’s agricultural heritage. Most children these days, however, are not so fortunate, he said.

“A lot of the kids today don’t get that end of it in school,” Smith said.

Today’s events, as usual, include lots of pulling, beginning with single horse log twitching at 10 a.m. Flowers displayed at the fair will be auctioned this afternoon.

Rockwell/Miller Amusements is providing the midway this year. Wrist Band Ride Day kicks off at noon today and lasts through 5 p.m. A $25 wrist band allows unlimited rides.

At 3 p.m., there will be a science program on the main stage. The program was a late entry, but Smith said fair volunteers who saw a performance at the Topsham fair assured him it will be a hit.

“I’ve never seen it, but I was strongly encouraged to make it happen,” he said.

Mutton Bustin, which has children riding sheep like bucking broncos, begins at 2 p.m. The event was added last year.

“That went pretty well,” Smith said. “It’s just exciting to watch.”

Smith, who has been president for the past four years, said he got just a couple hours sleep Friday night. He expects only a few hours more over the course of the weekend. The smile on his face suggests the sacrifice is well worth it.

“It’s a very busy week, no doubt about it,” he said. “It takes a lot of work to make a fair happen.”

Leibowitz, too, was scurrying around helping out with last minute preparations for the museum. This year’s newest offering is a collection of farm tractors and implements displayed under shed awning built off the main museum building.

“It’s so new they were putting batten on the boards Thursday evening and we opened Friday morning,” Leibowitz said.

The work is ongoing, she said. A nearby building, used up until this year as a weigh station for the oxen and other animals, is in the process of being converted into a black smith shop. Leibowitz said the equipment was donated and should be ready to put to use by next year’s fair. She has not yet nailed down a blacksmith to work it.

“My information is you build it and they will come,” she said. “We’ve just been waiting for a building to put it in.”

Leibowitz and Bonin converted the building, known as Old MacDonald’s Barn, into the museum seven years ago when the barn moved to a bigger building across the driveway. Leibowitz is anxious to carrying on her mother’s passion for the fair and, especially, the museum.

“There’s been so much positive feedback,” she said. “It’s really been a tremendous addition to the fair.”

Regardless of how many new offerings the fair has, it maintains that tradition that has kept families coming back for generations, Smith said.

“It’s a small, three-day fair, but I think a lot of people come every year to meet their friends,” he said.


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