LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield Fair opened Friday with mild temperature, an occasionally cloudy sky and a steady flow of visitors, many of them delighted the event was happening at all.

Several weeks ago, after the fair’s organizers discovered that $120,000 had disappeared from their books, they went into crisis mode and had to raise money to cover this year’s startup costs. Last month, authorities charged the fair’s former treasurer, Ryan Beaudette, with stealing thousands of dollars.

“We always come to fairs like this,” said Helen Bronn, a retiree from Vassalboro who came Friday afternoon with her domestic partner, Tony Vashon, and had just purchased a vanilla ice cream cone. “We felt awful bad they got robbed. We’re buying different things.”

Bronn and Vashon particularly enjoy the Litchfield event, they said, because its volunteers and visitors seem to be more personable than those at other fairs.

“I think they’re friendlier,” Bronn said.

The fair opened Friday at the Litchfield Fairgrounds, on 44 Plains Road, and will continue through Sunday. Some of the events Friday included a steer pulling competition, an apple pie contest, a series of pig races for children, and a truck pull in the evening.

Several busloads of students came to the fair in the morning, but by early afternoon, things were quieter.

“There’s always a lull around this time,” said Charlie Smith, the president of the fair’s parent organization, the Litchfield Farmers’ Club. But Smith predicted it would get busier “after people get out of work,” particularly with the popularity of the truck pull.

Helen Bronn and Tony Vashon, retirees from Vassalboro, strolled around of the Litchfield Fair on Friday, the first day of the three-day event. They come to the fair every year and said they feel “awful” about the financial troubles facing the fair’s organizers. Staff photo by Charles Eichacker

Since the club’s officers discovered that $120,000 had vanished from their accounts, they have raised close to $40,000, which has helped cover a number of startup costs, such as paying contracted vendors and having money available at the gates.

Still, the club is hoping for a big turnout this year, so that it can use the proceeds to start replenishing bank accounts that Beaudette allegedly drained. The organization offers $500 scholarships to students each year and also maintains a reserve account for capital improvements.

Numerous people who came to the fair on Friday had those needs in mind. Rachel Remillard, a retiree from Litchfield, came to the fair with her father, Wilfred Lapointe, and said that she donated money to the Litchfield Farmers’ Club. She also supported the Litchfield Fire Department, which was selling hot dogs

“Everyone needs a hand,” said Remillard, who particularly appreciated the fact that parking was easy and the weather was nice on Friday.

Elsewhere on the fairgrounds, organizers were focused, as ever, on the mission of the Litchfield Farmers’ Club, which is to educate youth about agriculture and life sciences.

Jace Boron, 7, of Newburgh, raises his hand Friday at the Litchfield Fair, after a pig he’s been raising for the last month, Otis, ate the cheese in his hand. Boron was one of the nine children competing in a series of pig races happening all weekend at the fair. Staff photo by Charles Eichacker

Throughout the day, a group of nine children periodically gathered under a shaded pen for a competition. Each child had spent the last month training a young pig to chase after a piece of cheese that was in their hands. Every couple hours, they’d see how fast the swine could sprint across the pen to snack on the cheese in their masters’ hands.

One of the children, 9-year-old Brice Kiesow, of Richmond, was on a streak. By early Friday afternoon, he and his black-spotted pig had placed second in every heat. While Brice would have been happy taking first, he said that he was satisfied with the consistency.

“Pig races are awesome,” he declared. “The hardest part is training. Like, teaching them how to know our voice, so they come to us.”

It was Brice’s fourth year of participating in the races. Soon his family plans to sell the animal, which weighs around 100 pounds and which he has named, creatively, Kiesow Pig 4.0.

Next year, he said, he hopes to show a cow in the fair.

Besides the fair’s usual offerings, organizers also have made some additions to this year’s program, all happening on Saturday.

At 3 p.m., there will be a two-hour demonstration by a Maine wrestling group, called Limitless Wrestling. At 6:15 p.m., fairgoers will be able to control a larger version of the kid’s toy Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, in which robots are made to box each other. At 9 p.m., the fair will hold a fireworks show for the first time in several years.

Saturday also will include horse and woodsmen competitions in the morning and a magician performance early in the afternoon. On Sunday, there will be a goat show, a pig scramble, a demolition derby in the morning and an antique car parade at noon.

There also will be recurring events throughout the fair, including free bicycle drawings and an interactive agricultural learning center for children.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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