WINDSOR — The huge horses strained at the harnesses, pulling a load of concrete blocks across the packed dirt floor of the large pulling ring, earning applause for their efforts from a packed grandstand on the final day of the nine-day Windsor Fair.

The horses and their herculean efforts are a big draw for Priscilla Bolduc of Augusta, Avalon Vigue of Whitefield and Vigue’s son and daughter-in-law Tom and Linda.

On Monday, Bolduc and Avalon Vigue sat one tier apart in the covered stands of the Vanner Arena, resting comfortably in the seats with backs they brought from home and jotting in small notebooks the teams and the distances covered.

“I enjoy this,” Bolduc said. “They just do a great job. They work with their horses constantly. This is what I look forward to every year.” She inherited her love of horse pulling from her mother, the late Rita Beaudoin. Now many of Bolduc’s family, including her grandchildren, join her to watch the contests.

Avalon Vigue, 87, said her first trip to Windsor Fair came the year she was born. “My father had to come to the Windsor Fair regardless,” she said. “My mother had to come or stay home alone.”

Vigue inherited her love of horse-pulls from her dad. “When I got married, my husband enjoyed it too, so we continued on,” she said. “It’s like a family event.” She has notebooks with results that go back many years.

On Monday she was rooting for a friend, Bob Pierce, who grew up with her sons and who was driving the team from McGee Farm in West Gardiner.

Vigue was not too disappointed the Windsor Fair was ending. As usual, she and Bolduc and others will take their seats, their snacks, and their notebooks to the Litchfield Fair, which runs Friday through Sunday and has its own pulling contests, albeit for different distances.

The horses tugged a skid loaded with heavy concrete blocks, stopping to rest for a few seconds between pulls and turning around when they reached the 125-foot mark. The winner would be the team that could pull the longest distance in five minutes.

Bolduc and Vigue speculated that Charles Chickering of Walpole, N.H., might take home the coveted $2,000 top prize with a pull of 326 feet 9 inches with his first team. That was the distance his two horses covered in five minutes.

The prizes were larger this year, said Tom Foster, president of the Windsor Fair. The final day of horse pulling was washed out in 2013 when the fair was closed because of heavy rain, so the prize money rolled over and was added to this year.

A top premium of $2,000 awaited the winner of the draft horse sweepstakes pull and the 12-foot pull on Monday, popular events for the admiring crowd. For the sweepstakes, the weight of the horse doesn’t matter, and most teams topped the scales at well over 3,600 pounds.

The horses towered over Dr. Rachael Fiske, a veterinarian doing blood tests on all the pulling competitors. “My primary job is testing for any sort of medication that should be in their system,” she said.

A second veterinarian, Dr. Michelle Maloney, was testing horses on the race track.

Greg Baker of Pittston was the superintendent of the draft horse pulling contest. His wife, Sue Baker, announced over the loudspeaker each of the teams, the drivers and then the distance pulled.

Sue Baker said her husband has been doing it for 30 years for various fairs. She’s worked with the pulling contests for some 20 years.

As the horses pulled inside the shaded arena, a parade of gleaming antique automobiles rolled slowly along a narrow paved path outside. Among them were a 1965 and a 1966 Ford Mustang convertibles, tops down in honor of the sunshine, and a 1922 Buick, the oldest car in the parade.

Foster and Windsor Fair Secretary Lincoln Orff said Saturday’s attendance was the largest ever. “You need people coming through the gate to pay the premiums,” Orff said.

Foster estimated some 20,000 people came through the gates on Saturday, setting the stage for a record-breaking total for the entire fair, which saw a number of days of good weather. The final attendance had yet to be counted. Thursday proved to be one of the biggest senior citizen days for the fair. People 60 and over were admitted at a discounted rate.

On Saturday, 4,100 people filled the grandstand for the first night of the “Monster Truck Show.”

Foster said the harness racing, too, was holding its own in attendance, ending with 14 races Monday.

Shannon Bard of Oakland, one of the hundreds of fair staff and volunteers, was still proud of her second place finish in Saturday’s “Women’s Skillet Throwing.” Bard threw 44 feet 7 inches.

Lori Hawk of China proved to be the grand champion skillet tosser this year with a heave of more than 70 feet. “She knocked my socks off,” Bard recalled on Monday.

As the fair wound down, people began to reserve the same campsites for next year’s fair, not wanting to miss a single day of activities. The Windsor Fair will run Aug. 30-Sept. 7, 2015.

The executive committee begins planning for that shortly. “We’ll see what worked well this year and start work on next year,” Foster said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.