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Out & About: North Haverhill Fair goes virtual, with an emphasis on looking back

  • Gerald Stoddard says goodnight to his friend Dale Gregory, both of North Haverhill, N.H. Stoddard had spent the day at the fair on July 22, 2015. The two are horseshoe-throwing partners. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News File photograph — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2020 9:31:05 PM
Modified: 7/18/2020 9:31:03 PM

The memories range from 4-H exhibits to tractor pulls, but they all connect to one thing: the family created not by blood but by spirit and devotion to the North Haverhill Fair.

The annual fair, which has been held in North Haverhill for more than 70 years, was canceled this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fair takes place in late July, and it draws around 22,000 people over the course of five days. In the in-person fair’s place, organizers have started a virtual fair, which includes the sharing of memories on Facebook and the nonprofit organization’s website.

“This is the first year we’ve ever had to cancel. It’s been pretty emotional for a lot of us,” said Hannah Leland, one of the directors of the fair. “We really had to make that decision for the community. It was just what was safest for everyone.”

Both fair officials and attendees post photos and recall their experiences from years past. And they often spur comments from other users, who reply with their own memories.

“When my daughter was younger, she started the tradition of getting her jacket signed by singers during Meet and Greet at the Thayer Stage,” Gary Scruton wrote in one post. “Even though she has moved away, I have continued the tradition and have the jacket signed by our amazing artists. This little moment has become a big memory in our families’ lives.”

That emphasis on sharing memories is the core of organizers’ goal this year.

“I think people are enjoying that walk down memory lane,” Leland said. “This year’s theme was ‘Little Moments Big Memories’ and we’ve really captured that. We’re trying to keep the spirit of the fair and summer alive.”

Many of the fair organizers have been involved for decades, either as attendees, 4-H participants or volunteers (and often all three).

“I was born in 1983 in July, and three weeks later my mom had me at my first fair in a carriage. I’ve literally never missed a fair in my life,” Leland said. “It’s fun to look back on and reflect. You don’t always have time to do that within the thick of the fair. You’re too busy.”

The 4-H program has always been at the heart of the annual event, and that’s no different with the virtual fair, showcasing the accomplishments of the children involved.

“4-H is what really drives us,” fair president David Lackie said. “We said we have to do something for these kids. They work hard with their animals and their sewing and their crafts.”

Another portion of the virtual fair that’s a little more tangible is the “Hay Bale Trail.” In recent years, the fair has featured hay bales that have been turned into works of art by volunteers. That’s still going, but with a slight change of venue this year.

“To keep that going, we’re doing a hay bale trail on main street in Haverhill this year,” Lackie said.

The trail will begin at the Grafton County Complex and run along Dartmouth College Highway to the North Haverhill Fairgrounds. The hay bales will be on display from Sunday-Sunday online and in-person. People can go online to vote for their favorites from 4 p.m. Sunday through noon next Sunday.

“We’re just trying to make this a positive thing for the fair,” Lackie said. “We just don’t want to let the fair die for a year.”

Editor’s note: For more information, visit nohaverhillfair.com or facebook.com/northhaverhillfair.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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