‘Here for the Agriculture’: Cornish Fair Tries to Keep To Its Roots

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    Poodles from "Michelle's Magical Poodles" take a break from their performance to jump into the lap of Sophie Martin, right, and Anna Ondre, as Maggie Ondre attempts to gesture the poodles back to the show while Summer Lee and her hen Snowcone look on at the Cornish Fair, on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — August Frank

  • Jerry Gingras, left, of Bethel, Maine, and Calvin Willard, of Barnet, Vt., leap to the other side in the log roll competition at the Woodsmen's Field Day of the Cornish Fair, on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. Gingras and Willard won the log roll with a time of 10.21 seconds. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. August Frank

  • Conrad Farnham, of Claremont, N.H., and Candy Durkee, of White River Junction, Vt., dance along to the music of The Shana Stack Band at the Cornish Fair, on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. August Frank

  • Sunapee, N.H., resident, Eamon Washburn, of the New Hampshire State Police Canine Troopers Association, demonstrates their canine Stryker's reaction to a criminal on the run at the Cornish Fair, on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. August Frank

  • Madison Newton, 12, left, of Hanover, N.H., and Zoë Smith, 14, of Benton, N.H., groom their sheep Briar and Fidgit at the Cornish Fair, on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. Other livestock on display at the fair included cows, steer, rabbits and different breeds of hen. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. August Frank

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/19/2018 12:07:28 AM
Modified: 8/20/2018 10:46:18 AM

Cornish — In the middle of the Cornish fairground, between intimidatingly named rides like Pharaoh’s Fury, an art show housed in Town Hall, an ox-pull ring and a plateau crammed with trucks and RVs parked for the weekend, stands the dairy tent. Its central location is no accident.

“The one thing about the Cornish Fair is we’re here for the agricultural,” organizer Marcia Clark said. “That’s what makes a fair.” The fair’s 225 registered cows make it the largest dairy show in New Hampshire, she said.

Clark is a dairy farmer herself. With her family, she owns about 130 head of cattle, 65 of which she milks. She’s traveled as far as Madison, Wis., and Louisville, Ky., to show her cows. Yet the Cornish Fair retains a special significance.

“It’s part of us,” she said, noting her husband had shown cows there as a kid.

Seventeen-year-old George Gowdy, a rising high school senior, was among those vying for a ribbon on Saturday. As he waited to show his Jersey calves, he offered some keys to success: “You need to have good genetics. You need to have strong feet and legs.” Feeding the animals a proper diet helps, too.

The calves were assigned to different classes based on breed and age. Clark served as emcee while a judge studied each animal and praised those with good “dairiness” and “angularity.”

Tina Christie, of Langdon, N.H., was on hand to support her daughter Haley, who was set to show some Jerseys of her own.

“This fair is awesome,” Christie said. “It’s really by far the best fair we go to.”

The biggest event on the Christies’ schedule is the Eastern States Exposition, held each September in West Springfield, Mass. Often called the “Big E,” it draws exhibitors from up and down the East Coast. Gowdy is also planning to make the trip south next month.

Acworth, N.H., resident Scott Luther-Houghton is considering it, too, after his daughter Griselda qualified to participate earlier in the summer. The timing is of some concern, though. “I think we’re headed there,” he said, “but that would involve a couple days out of school.”

Despite never having shown cows himself, Luther-Houghton has encouraged his daughter’s interest in 4-H. “None of us has been involved in farming, but it seems to be something she’s taken quite an interest in, so it’s kind of neat to see her taking ownership of that,” he said.

Introducing young people to the dairy trade, and rewarding those who’ve worked hard at it, brings Clark back year after year.

“Yeah, we need the rides to draw people in,” she conceded, “but we want to make sure that our youth are recognized.”

Many entrants in the Cornish show spent months preparing.

“It takes a lot of work and hours before you come to the fair,” Clark said. “Every person who wants to do well needs to work with their animal every day. ... You’ve gotta have that drive.”

The show also represents an opportunity to celebrate a declining tradition. “Our dairy industry is getting smaller and smaller,” Clark said, “and you don’t want to lose it all.”

Clark is one of roughly 20 directors who plan Cornish’s annual fair, an undertaking that typically begins in October.

“We meet every single month,” co-director Glenn Thornton said, as he manned the fair entrance on Town House Road. “It takes an entire year to make three days happen.”

Thornton described the fair as a symbolic gateway to autumn: “The fair is usually an indicator of the end of summer, and then the kids are back to school.”

Given the work required to plan and execute the weekend-long event, he called it disappointing — “of course it is” — when weather intrudes. Last year, rain depressed the opening-day turnout to a few hundred.

On Saturday, an early drizzle made for another slow morning, but the place was abuzz by the time the sun shone through around 11.

Other fair attractions included a merry-go-round, a jet-ski-themed ride, a bingo tent staffed by the Cornish Volunteer Fire Department and fried food aplenty. Orange painter Gary Hamel added to a canvas inside Town Hall, where Windsor artist Gail Barton had displayed an array of her hand-woven reed baskets.

The Cornish Fair continues today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased on-site for $10 apiece.

Gabe Brison-Trezise can be reached at g.brisontrezise@gmail.com.




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