MONMOUTH — While signing up for the new “Backseat Driver” contest at the Monmouth Fair, Jennifer Morrison and her two daughters, 10-year-old Chianna and seven-year-old Meka, had a decision to make.

Who was going to be the “horse,” the one who would be blindfolded and pull a small three-wheeled cart around the show ring, and who would be the “driver,” the one who would sit in the cart, non-blindfolded, yelling instructions to the horse to guide them around the course of traffic cones.

With neither daughter wanting to do the pulling, Jennifer Morrison gamely volunteered to slip on the blindfold and be the “horse” for both the girls, as each took a turn at the Sunday afternoon competition.

“I’ll be the horse for both of you. You guys will drive me,” Morrison, of Wayne, said to her girls. “I’m going to be trusting you. Don’t put me into the fence.”

Asked if they thought their mom would be able to do two, back-to-back runs around the course, pulling the weight of the cart and its human cargo through the soft soil of the show ring up to the traffic cones so the girls could pick up a tennis ball off the top of each, and then back across the finish line, Chianna answered with confidence.

“She raised three kids. I’m pretty sure she’s tough,” she said.


Chianna went first, directing her blindfolded mom onto the course, the pair knocking over the first ball, which brings a 30-second time penalty, but successfully retrieving the rest as Chianna yelled “left” “right” or “stop” to guide her mom.

The younger Meka used a similar strategy, though perhaps forgetting about the blindfold. Instead of saying to turn left or right, a couple times she tried pointing and urging her mom to “turn that way” which didn’t prove to be effective. Nearing the finish line, they veered off to the left just before they crossed with Meka instructing to “keep on turning” until they had done a full circle before crossing the finish.

All three, however, finished their turns smiling.

Meka Morrison, 7, reacts to being a little off course while being towed by her mother, Jennifer Morrison, during the Back Seat Driver Contest at the Monmouth Fair on Sunday.

Meka Morrison, 7, reacts to being a little off course while being towed by her mother, Jennifer Morrison, during the Back Seat Driver Contest at the Monmouth Fair on Sunday.

As did Elizabeth Simmons, 15, and Tayler Sevey, 14, with Tayler driving as Elizabeth, blindfolded, pulled her in the cart. But they didn’t use “right” and “left” for directions. Instead, Tayler used “gee” and “haw,” terms used in the horse pulling events in the pulling arena nearby to direct horses to pull weights to the left or right.

Both girls said they’ve spent some time pulling with horses, too, so they were already familiar with those terms.

First prize in the new Backseat Driver contest was $20.


Also new this year Saturday night at the Monmouth Fair was a “Redneck Truck Pull,” which organizers said drew a good crowd of spectators and about 25 trucks, which could be modified, but had to remain street-legal to enter.

“That had a good crowd. That’s an event we’ll look to build on, make some improvements next year and hopefully do every year,” Phil Butterfield, president of the fair association, said of the truck pull. Drivers in different classes competed to see how far their trucks could pull a trailer, which got progressively harder and harder to pull the farther it went on a new gravel lane built for truck pulls on the lower section of the fairgrounds.

Butterfield said Sunday afternoon, the last day of the fair, attendance had been up each of the three previous days of the fair compared to prior years. He said attendance had been dropping off every year since 2010, so it was good to see it back up each day of the fair so far this year.

Pat Smith, a member of the association’s board of directors, said attendance was especially good considering how hot the weather was, because on hot days, some people head to the coast, not to fairgrounds. Smith, who, on mid-afternoon Sunday, ran a raffle in which multiple children won new bikes donated for the fair’s bike giveaway, said between 30 and 40 volunteers work together to put on the annual fair.

The fair, dubbed “a little fair with a lotta pull,” is organized by the Cochnewagan Agricultural Association and is in its 106th year. It began Thursday and wrapped up Sunday.

Kavanaugh Amusements provided the midway rides.


Other events over the fair’s run included pig scrambles, mutton busting, a he man/she woman contest, a wide array of livestock pulling contests, 4-H animal shows, live music and other entertainment, child pedal tractor pulling competition, a 5-kilometer running race and judged exhibition hall contests.

Dan Burns used chainsaws to turn logs into works of art with owls and other carvings lined up for people to see. He worked in Sunday afternoon’s hot sun on a bear, carefully using a small but still-heavy chainsaw to carve the details of the animal’s mouth as a half-dozen onlookers watched.

“That’s a workout on the arms,” he said while taking a brief break from carving.

Food choices from vendors included fried dough, cotton candy, Philippine food, sausages, shaved ice, burgers, fried clams, French fries, pulled pork barbecue, wood-fire-cooked pizza and shortcake.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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