SKOWHEGAN — A lot of fairgoers sought shade in the 85-degree heat Sunday at the Skowhegan State Fair, including Mohan, a 500-pound white Bengal tiger.

Mohan, a 12-year-old male, lounged in the shade of the trailers for Vicenta’s White Tigers, one of the shows on the midway this year at the nation’s longest continuous operating agricultural fair. When the big cat sensed it was show time Sunday, however, he sprang into action with three other tigers for one of three daily performances.

“They have to be in the shade because they have pink pigment skin, so if they stay out in the sun too long they get sunburn,” said Vicenta Pages who runs Vicenta’s Feline Review of white Bengal tigers. “That’s why we have our 10 sets of fans going; we have to give them baths throughout the day to keep them cool.”

Vicenta, 29, a third generation animal trainer, opened the show Sunday in a black and silver spangled pant suit, her brown hair in a pony tail past her waist. She introduced the tigers — three females and Mohan — noting that these cats were born in captivity and can live into their 20s. Each of them eats 10 pounds of chicken leg quarters and beef brisket a day, rounded out with eggs and milk.

She said there are no longer any white Bengal tigers left in the wild of their homeland in India, having been hunted and poached to extinction. These cats were born in Texas, she said.

Vicenta, with a long stick with a piece of beef at the end and a thin whip, walked the four tigers — one of them a rare gold tiger — through their act. Circus tricks include rolling over, jumping over extended bars and platforms, even jumping over one another. One of them walks forward on her hind legs, another walks backwards on her hind legs. They growl and roar open-mouthed sitting up on their haunches like big little kitties.

“It was pretty amazing watching the tigers do the tricks,” said Maggie Mayberry, of Monmouth, whose 20-month-old daughter, Marianna, sat on her father’s shoulders for the show. “She has a kitty at home, so I think she may recognize the kitty factor.”

Vicenta Pages said she travels nine or 10 months of the year with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. She said she broke off her act from the family’s animal training and circus acts about 10 years ago to join Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Since then, she has branched out on her own, she said. Her husband, David Donnert, works with the show, too, she said. She said Donnert also comes from a long line of Hungarian performers and animal trainers.

“He’s actually the eyes behind my head,” she said. “He kind of watches things when I have my back turned. If I’m working with one in the front, he’s watching everybody else in the back. It is dangerous work, because as many people think that because you work with them daily and feed them and take care of them, they won’t turn on you, but they will. They’re unpredictable. They have that wildness in them that you can never take away.”

Pages said she has never been hurt by one of her tigers.

The Skowhegan Fair continues Monday — Senior Citizen Day, when it will be $4 at the gate for anyone 62 or older. Gates open at 7 a.m. The alpaca exhibit opens at noon. The 4-H dairy cattle show is set for 12:30 p.m. with the farmers’ steer and oxen pull at 1 p.m.

Harness racing begins at 1 p.m., the same time the midway opens. The popular demolition derby starts at 7 p.m.

For more information go to www.skowheganstatefair.com.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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