Bill Shores of Vassalboro drives a team of steers Sunday after collecting a ribbon on the first day of the Windsor Fair. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

WINDSOR — Sometimes, the hardest part of competition is having the patience to wait your turn.

Bill Shores spent his Sunday morning on the opening day of the Windsor Fair at the Vanner Pulling Grandstand, trying to keep his young charges from getting too bored or into trouble with a quiet word or two, a pat or a tap with a goad stick.

A pair of Chianina steers that Shores named Cracker and Jack stood yoked together near the entrance of the pulling ring, shifting from foot to foot or edging away from a loud golf cart putt-putting by behind them.

“I thought it would be a surprise what they’d turn out to be, just like the prize in a Crackerjack box,” Shores said.

Shores competes for fun, but for him, there is a challenge to train animals to work in a specific way.

“There’s a lot more to it than what it looks like,” said Shores, who owns Riverwind Farm in Vassalboro. “Some people say it’s just driving a dumb cow around, but there’s more to it. You have to have a lot trust and respect.”


The pair, now about a year old, weighed in Sunday morning at 1,480 pounds together. The Italian breed of large, white cattle are noted for their strength, and are generally used in pulling events rather than the steer scooting event for which Shores had signed up.

Steer scooting, which springs from the practice of using steers or oxen to haul logs out of the woods, requires more precision than strength. The handler must guide his or her team hauling a wooden sled around the arena in a figure-eight pattern navigating between pairs of blocks, clearing them without hitting them or knocking them over. The teams are scored on the cleanness of the run and time.

“It’s insane how much more strong and powerful they are,” Shores said.

Contestants stack up outside the pulling ring Sunday with teams of steers on the first day of the Windsor Fair. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

When they are fully grown, each Chianina will top out at taller than 6 feet and weigh about 3,000 pounds.

Not far away, fair President Thomas Foster was sitting in his golf cart while surveying the crowds filling the midway and filtering through the exhibitions and events on the first official day of the nine-day fair.

One of the ingredients of a successful fair is the weather, and it looked good Sunday, Foster said. As an old farm boy, he said he used to watch the long-range forecasts, but he does not bother anymore. In recent memory, bad weather has closed the fair only once — on the last day — because a hurricane was pushing through.


This year, the fair, which has been running since 1888, features the traditional events, activities, vendors and fair food trucks.

New this year: A farmers market, where fairgoers will be able to buy produce to take home. The board and batten building was mostly completed before the start of the fair. Some battens still need be added onto the back.

Before his round, Shores thought his pair would do pretty well. Earlier this summer, he brought Cracker and Jack to the Union Fair, where they came in third out of seven pairs.

Shores and his team did well until the very end, when one of the steers caught a glimpse of something distracting in the grandstands at the last turn and knocked over one of the blocks, adding 32 points to his score. On the strength of those numbers, he came in sixth out of 11 teams.

“It’s not too bad,” he said. “It’s experience, I guess.”

And it will come in handy in the future, as Shores continues to compete. He expects to enter his team in future competitions for the next six to eight years. More immediately, however, he said he plans to bring Cracker and Jack to the Clinton Fair, which begins Sept. 8.

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