WINDSOR — The annual Windsor Fair ended Monday just like it started nine days ago, with families, fun and funnel cakes.

It was a glorious Labor Day with a bit of fall in the air, and by 10 a.m., hundreds of fairgoers gathered around the ring for the final barrel racing event of the fair.

John Merchant, of Dixmont, took his familiar place along the rail near the scorer’s area in order to do what he’s done for the last four years.

“I take photos not just of my daughter, Shelby, but of all the racers,” said Merchant, who looked the part with a cowboy hat, sleeveless black shirt, jeans and boots. “I share them on Facebook and let everybody enjoy them and pass them around.”

The agricultural area of the fairgrounds, including the racing ring, the horse pulling area, petting zoo and livestock display, is the bread-and-butter of the fair, President Tom Foster said from a golf cart near the fair’s main office.

“We’re an agricultural fair, and this has worked since 1888, so there’s no need to fix it,” Foster said. “(Attendance numbers) at most of the fairs have been down, so we feel pretty good about where we’re at.”

Foster said he didn’t have actual attendance figures yet, but he said he has a pretty good idea that the numbers were “about even with last year, and last year was one of the best years we’ve ever had.”

The fair typically attracts more than 100,000 people over its nine-day run. On Monday, big crowds watched the nine different classes of barrel racing, horse pulling and a 15-race harness racing card.

“We’ve earned a pretty good reputation. We have a lot to see and do for the whole family, and there’s a lot of animals and racing,” Foster said. “There’s something going on all the time, and don’t forget, the fair food is a big draw too.”

Fair food was one of the main reasons the Thompson family drove up this weekend from their home near New York City in Connecticut. The family of five have cousins in the area, so that was the real reason for the trip, mother Stephanie said, but they couldn’t deny their two daughters and one son a chance to experience the fair before heading home to start the school year tomorrow.

“We’ve heard a lot about the fair over the years from our cousins, and when we were thinking of a place to visit for one last weekend away before school started, my husband suggested Maine,” Stephanie Thompson said. “Today was the third day we’ve been here, and our kids just love seeing all the animals and eating all the fried food. It’s different than what we typically do home in Connecticut.”

The barrel race that kicked off the final day of the fair got off to a slow start after a nearly 50-minute delay. There were close to 90 entries over the nine different classes and organizers expected to give out at least $2,500 in prize money.

Elexis Reigns, 15, of Cherryfield, was one of the racers with multiple horses, four to be exact. Dressed in hot pink tassels she got online, Reigns rode Black Beauty during the quarter race, in which the rider must place a quarter in a bucket resting on top of a barrel before turning back toward the end line.

Reigns, who has won numerous championships and the belt buckles that come with the title in Tennessee, New York and Maine, finished her first run in 11.176 seconds, which was a fine time overall, but not fast enough to earn a prize. She raced her other three horses, Penny Brook, Krimps Polly and Tasunka, throughout the day.

“A lot of people come up to me and ask if my tassels get in the way,” Reigns said. “But they don’t.” They certainly made her easy to spot from the bleachers, however.

Foster said the fair expects to turn a profit, as usual, and plans on putting a good portion of the money back into the fair. The fair has had some unexpected costs due, in part, to the extremely dry conditions.

“We’ve had to haul in truckloads of water,” Foster said. “We had to dig up the septic system, and things like that add to our costs.”

He said they’ve put down so much water to help counter all the dust, but because of the sunny days, the water doesn’t last. But he didn’t complain about the weather, which he called “unbelievable” and “perfect fair weather.”

The organization spent $45,000 installing hand rails on the bleachers in the grandstand, and Foster said the group has long-term capital improvement plans.

“We want to have a roof over the show ring so we can have more shows during the offseason,” he said. “We’d also like to build a center for the small animals so we don’t have to rent a tent every year.”

Foster cautioned, however, that the projects are very expensive. But if people keep buying funnel cakes and fried dough in abundance, those projects may happen sooner than later.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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