LITCHFIELD — Rachel Stevenson tied her stepdaughter’s hair into a ponytail and buckled a horseback riding helmet onto Charlotte Sirois’ head. The 6-year-old from Brunswick also wore kneepads and a chest and shoulder guard.

Charlotte was ready for some mutton bustin’.

The events at the Litchfield Fair was a crowd-pleaser Sunday. Audience members of all ages looked on as a handler shoved a sheep out of a holding pen into the pulling arena. 

The sheep dug its pointed hooves into the sand and braced against the lead rope. It twisted its head and bucked, resisting separation from the safety of its herd.

This was the sheep Charlotte would ride. 

“We have never had to call for an ambulance,” said Dick Brown, the Litchfield Farmers’ Club’s 1st vice president and announcer of the event. “Just skinned knees and tears.”

Girls chase piglets Sunday during the scramble on the last day of the Litchfield Fair. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Charlotte was not the first rider. Many rode before her, including all of the boys. She had already seen one sheep step on its rider, numerous falls and several children decline to ride as they approached their mounts. 

“Charlotte is independent and good at holding her own,” Stevenson said.

Despite her fears, Charlotte swung her leg over the sheep as two people held the animal still. Charlotte wrapped her legs around the sheep’s underside and her arms around its neck, tucking her head against its withers. 

The handlers then released the sheep.

It flattened its body and pushed off into a long stride, racing to its herd at the other end of the arena. 

Charlotte bounced on its bony, freshly sheared back.

She clung to its neck, but her body slipped off its back, and, like every mutton buster before her, she fell to the dirt. 

Charlotte jumped off the ground, and ran to Stevenson’s outstretched arms. 

The event started at the Litchfield Fair and is in its 10th year. It is held at other fairs in the state, including Topsham and Farmington, and the children who ride must weigh 50 pounds or less.

Charlotte was awarded a T-shirt that read, “I survived the Mutton Bustin’ at the Litchfield Fair.”

She did not want to let go of Stevenson, but as her tears dried, Charlotte adamantly shook her head to show she would not be riding a sheep again — for now.

“It is scary,” said Charlotte’s cousin Kelsy Stevenson, who is 11 and had ridden in three mutton bustin’ events when she was younger. 

“(Mutton bustin’) gets easier the more you do it,” Kelsy said.

Ken Fair greets his people during the antique auto parade on the last day of the Litchfield Fair on Sunday. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Families from around the state looked forward to attending the Litchfield Fair, which is in its 161st year. 

Jesse and Casey Seavey said they have been coming to the fair for “a lifetime.” In fact, handling draft horses during the farm pulls was how the couple met. 

“We used to camp,” said Jesse, smiling toward his wife.

They now make day trips to visit the fair and compete with their horses.

“It is easier with the kids,” said Jesse, who held 14-month-old Lindsey.

Twins Mariah, left, and Morgan Seavey, 6, attend the 161st Litchfield Fair on Saturday. Kennebec Journal Photo by Abigail Austin

Their twins, Mariah and Morgan, 6, wore matching jeans and camouflage T-shirts. They each took their turn in the kiddie tractor pull, peddling miniature tractors towing weighed trailers.  

“They are very competitive with each other,” Casey said. 

Mariah was able to pedal 55 feet 1 inch. That earned her a fourth-place ribbon.  

Morgan was a stiff competition to her sister, but she did not peddle quite as far. She traveled 47 feet 10 inches, earning sixth place.  

Dave Smith, director of the Litchfield Fair, said the fair hit a record for attendance on its first day; however, he did not think that it would surpass last year’s total attendance of 17,000. 

He said those visiting the fair had been generous following the discovery of about $130,000 missing from the fair coffers. 

In August 2018, the fair’s former treasurer, Ryan A. Beaudette, of West Gardiner, was arrested on a felony theft charge. He had been treasurer from 2014 to 2018, when club officers voted to fire him from the post and he resigned.

“We are back on our feet,” Smith said.

Until a new treasurer is found, Jim Campbell, the 2nd vice president, is serving as acting treasurer.


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