North Haverhill, Cornish and Tunbridge fairs plan return after COVID interruption

  • Jasper Lawrence, 4, of Tunbridge, Vt., keeps an eye on the tape as Chris Reed, of North Montpelier, Vt., measures his sunflower at 10 feet, 8 1/2 inches during the preparation day for the Tunbridge World's Fair in Tunbridge, Vt., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Lawrence was at the fairgrounds with his mother, Mariah, back, and siblings Willow, 1, left, Miles, 9, and Rowan, 7, to check in on the family's entries for judging. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Tosha Christman, 11, of Washington, Vt., bathes calves at the fairgrounds on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, before the start of the World Fair in Tunbridge, Vt. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to John J. Happel

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2021 8:36:08 PM
Modified: 4/15/2021 8:36:05 PM

CORNISH — It’s time to go to the fair again.

After a yearlong hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Upper Valley’s three major fairs — North Haverhill, Cornish and Tunbridge — have announced dates for 2021.

“Listening to the governor (Phil Scott of Vermont) gave us courage to do it, and he says we’re going to be open by the first part of July,” said Alan Howe, the president of the Tunbridge World’s Fair, which is scheduled for Sept. 16 to 19. “We were all hopeful it was going to work out, but we weren’t positive about it.”

Like Tunbridge, the Cornish Fair directors looked to state government and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu before deciding to go ahead with its Aug. 20-22 dates.

“When he gave the go-ahead for Fourth of July parades, we took it as a signal that New Hampshire was going to be opening up,” said Meriden resident Steve Taylor, one of the fair’s directors. “We didn’t want to lose the community support. If you just throw in the towel for a long period of time, people who volunteer will drift away, make other plans.”

The North Haverhill Fair is the first of the trio and is scheduled to take place from July 28 through Aug. 1. A banner on the North Haverhill Fair Association’s website announcing the dates reads “See You This Summer!” and performances are also listed on the schedule.

Both Howe and Taylor said there are no major changes to fair activities. There will still be carnival rides, livestock shows, live music and food vendors.

“It’s just going to be the usual and hopefully we will get a lot of people back,” Howe said, adding that Antique Hill will be open and plans are in the works for tractor, oxen and horse pulls. “As far as vendors, we hope we’re going to get everyone back. We’re just working hard and will do the best we can.”

In terms of masks and social distancing, both fairs said they would take direction from their respective states: If there are still mask mandates in place, masks will be required. If the mask mandates are no more, visitors will not be required to wear them.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to support that,” Taylor said about enforcing a mask mandate of their own.

In Cornish, there is another level of excitement as they recently broke ground on a new livestock facility, in addition to other upgrades.

“I think that the donors that stepped up and contributed to this thing, every single person said the Cornish Fair is so important to life in the region here,” Taylor said. “People look forward to it.”

A staple of all three fairs is livestock and agriculture. At the center of those programs are the hundreds of youths who participate each year.

The resumption of the fairs is also good news to the 4-H community: While clubs have been able to meet in-person for short windows of time, activities have largely been virtual, said Sarah Kleinman, director of the Family and Farmworker Education Programs at UVM 4-H. There are around 800 youths throughout Vermont who are involved in 4-H livestock programs through their local clubs.

While UVM 4-H is still waiting on guidance from the state about whether they can participate in fairs, they are hopeful it will work out.

“I know that our constituents, our 4-H family, is really excited about the possibility, but it’s premature for us to say we’re all in,” Kleinman said. “I’m really hopeful that we’re able to engage fully. The livestock engagement in 4-H is just as important as school sports, so we’re pushing as hard as we can.”

Also this summer, the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival has been pushed from June to September.

Bookstock, which takes place in Woodstock, has been canceled.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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