WINDSOR — The annual Windsor Fair kicked off in a big way Sunday, with massive draft horses strutting their stuff in the show ring and supersized pumpkins hitting the scales for a weigh-in on the 50-acres of fairgrounds.

Bill Mackowski, of Milford, owner of Second Wind Farm, weighed in with the largest traditional field pumpkin, at 87 pounds, the biggest in the jack-o’-lantern category meant for regular field pumpkins, not the giant hybrid pumpkins in the giant pumpkin category. He also had poultry on display elsewhere at the fair. His wife, Francine, also grew a large field pumpkin, though at 66 pounds it wasn’t quite as big as his fruit.

A former commercial farmer who used to grow on about 40 acres, but who now grows two or three acres of pumpkins, Mackowski said he loves fairs but said to make the most of a fair, you should participate in it, not just walk through. He said agriculture is in his blood and he loves working with either plants or animals to breed in the traits he’s looking for, whether it’s big pumpkins or pretty poultry.

“The fun of it is in the breeding and genetics and trying to figure it all out,” he said after unloading their pair of pumpkins. “It’s a lot of fun. If you want it to be a fair, you’ve got to participate, otherwise it’s just a carnival. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.”

No real giants showed up this year in the pumpkin contest, nothing close to the fair record-holder which tested the scales at 1,218 pounds.

Joseph Gaboury, of Readfield, who helped oversee the pumpkin contest, said Maine’s biggest giant pumpkins often remain in their gardens until Maine’s premier pumpkin party, the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta.

Garboury, a former giant pumpkin state record holder himself  with a 1,695 pound pumpkin until, a year later, his nephew broke that record, said Mackowski’s field pumpkin was the biggest he’s seen grown in Maine.

He said growing giant pumpkins takes lots of water, 80 to 100 gallons a day, which can be one of the more challenging aspect of growing such huge fruit.

Mackowski said this was his fourth try in the contest, and his biggest pumpkin yet. He said their farm is along a river, so he could irrigate his pumpkin plants with plenty of water.

Size was also on display Sunday, the first day of the Windsor Fair’s run which will extend through Labor Day, in the show ring, where massive Percheron and other draft horses were judged by Mark Christman, of Greene.

“These are terrific examples of the breed,” Christman said of four Percherons that had placed first in their respective categories, including a mother-daughter pair, Fin and Storm raised and handled by Jamie and Wanda Hutchinson, of J & W Hidden Lake Farm in Oxford.

Wanda Hutchinson said they have six Percherons total and brought four with them to Windsor to show. Their horses weight from 400 pounds, for a three-month old, up to 1,900 pounds for an adult.

Their young daughter Cecille helped out Sunday, and their other kids, Timothy and Taylor, also help around the farm.

She said the muscular but soft-haired horses are animals, so there is always a chance that if you’re not careful, you could get hurt around them, but despite their size they are gentle and friendly.

“They are truly gentle giants,” Wanda Hutchinson said of the huge black horses, with hooves the size of tea kettles.

She said they spend about four or five hours a night tending to and exercising the horses, sometimes by hitching them to a wagon and riding with them, sometimes riding alongside them in a golf cart while they jog. She said it is therapeutic to spend time with the horses after a long day at work.

Carnival rides on the midway were expected to start cranking in the afternoon, with harness horse racing starting then, too.

Tom Foster, longtime president of the fair, said a major project on the fairgrounds over the off-season was repairing the fair’s underground water system which sprung a hard-to-find leak in the system.

He said the annual fair comes together thanks to the work of many volunteers, many of whom are from the same families who help every year. Foster’s grandfathers from both sides of his family were trustees of the fair, as was his father, and his sons Dan and James, or “J.T.”, are also heavily involved in putting on the fair.

Sunday’s events were to wrap up with the first of two automotive demolition derbies, the second scheduled for Thursday night.

Other featured events include monster truck shows, truck and tractor pulls, a wide range of farm animal shows and pulling events, sheepdog demonstrations, pie contests, beano, pig scrambles and fireworks.

A wide range of entertainers are scheduled to perform, including comedian Juston McKinney, an Elvis impersonator, numerous musicians including Walter Weymouth, the Court Jesters, Sharon Hood and Dixon Road, the Mainely Country Band, the Hyssongs, and the Undercover Band.

Sunday afternoon, Fred Couverette and Tom Berube, of The Country Gentlemen, performed country classics to a small but appreciative crowd who tapped their toes to the beat as more and more fair-goers began to fill out the parking lots and fairgrounds.

Dining options were many, including Mexican, barbecue, fried seafood and chicken, burgers, sausages, jerky, ice cream and fried dough.

The fair’s offerings do not include beer or other alcoholic drinks, despite the vote by residents at the Annual Town Meeting this year to loosen restrictions on alcohol sales to allow such drinks to be served, off-premises, by licensed vendors.

Foster told residents, before the vote, the fair would like to allow a licensed vendor to come sell beer and wine at the fair, as takes place in most other Maine fairs with harness horse racing.  He said they plan to add that next year, because there wasn’t enough time to make all the arrangements to do so this year.

“We decided not to do it this year,” Foster said of adding a beer and wine vendor. “When we do it, we want to do it the right way.”


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