PITTSTON — “Come here! Go! Oh, ho,” Marty Farrington yelled on Friday morning, as he coaxed two oxen, Spike and Brock, up and down a dirt course at the Pittston Fairgrounds.

The two oxen weighed a combined 2,400 pounds and were yoked to a sled loaded with 2,800 pounds of weight. With their owner, they were competing against a number of other oxen and drivers, who came to the country fair from Maine and beyond.

For three minutes, Farrington, a 41-year-old cattle farmer from Jay, used his voice and a flimsy livestock whip to move the animals along a track. Occasionally the animals stopped, catching their breath and drooling with exhaustion, before continuing to pull.

Farrington, like all the other oxen drivers who were participating in the Friday morning pull, had trained his animals well.

Every day, he walks each of his 10 oxen at least a mile. Once a week, he has them pull heavy skidder tires.

“It’s a hobby,” he said — but one at which he is pretty good.


The annual Pittston Fair started more than 60 years ago. This year, it also includes a horse pull, a horse show, exhibits, a grilling contest, fireworks, a pig scramble and a mutton busting competition, in which kids ride sheep as they would a bull in a rodeo.

In the oxen pull ring, Spike and Brock pulled their sled the farthest distance of the cattle in the 2,400-pound class, earning Farrington a few prizes: a small lunch cooler, a ribbon and about $75 in cash.

The pull would continue throughout the day with larger oxen pulling heavier loads for longer stretches of time, culminating in a “sweepstakes” class open to oxen of any weight, said Pete Weeks, vice president of the Pittston Fair Association. Some of the animals weigh around 2,800 pounds — double the mass of those who pulled in the first event of the day.

There would also be a “short pull,” in which oxen teams try to haul increasingly heavy loads across a five-foot space, starting at 5,000 pounds, then repeating with more weights until they can’t make it five feet.

This weekend’s fair is the first since longtime volunteer and groundskeeper Lewis “Duddy” Brown was struck by a car and killed while crossing the street near his home in November. Brown, 83, served on the Pittston Fair Association board of directors and was a past president. He had been involved with the fair since its inception in the 1950s, and his most recent involvement was keeping the fairgrounds grass neatly mowed.

This year’s fair started Thursday and will continue until Sunday. Admission for the rest of the weekend is $6 for anyone over 15, and children 14 and under are admitted free with an adult. Gates open each morning at 8 a.m. The Pittston Fairgrounds are at 995 East Pittston Road.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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