FRYEBURG — Thousands of people poured into the Fryeburg Fairgrounds on Tuesday to see everything from youngsters riding oxen to cooking contests and antique wagon exhibits.
Getting there may have taken patience, as two couples from Rhode Island and Massachusetts found out when it took them two hours to get from nearby North Conway, N.H., to the fairgrounds.
“We started at 11:30 (a.m.)” said Linda Bower, who along with her husband, Andrew, and friends Carolyn and Tony Texeirra of Rhode Island got in for free as senior citizens. They thoroughly enjoyed their first time at Maine's Blue Ribbon Classic.
“Very much,” Linda Bower said.
Parking was at a premium and as happens each year, neighbors along Main Street opened up their yards for some quick cash – charging $5 or $10 for parking spaces.
“It's great,” said Kathleen Richardson, who along with her daughter Kaleen McQuillan stood on the roadside waving a flag to direct motorists into their lot.
Tuesday was Senior Citizens Day but they weren't the only ones to flock to the fair.
For some youngsters it was a day off from school for either showing animals or just learning about them.
Jade Smedberg, whose grandparents Roger and Gail Smedberg run Crystal Spring Farm on Route 26 in Oxford, came to the fair to help Rachel Stevenson of Thorndike show her Guernsey cows.
Smedberg, a 10-year-old student at Oxford Elementary School, was readying “Sally” from the Four-R-Fall Farm in Thorndike for showing.
Some youngsters rode oxen instead of showing them. Coy Lyford, 7, and his brother, Hayden, 11, were showing how a 4-year-old Red Holstein named Stratton could be ridden like a horse.
“I take cattle to nursing homes,” owner Gail Billings of Vermont said. She brings her oxen to many events and places to entertain and educate people, she said.
“I walk him just like you would walk your dog,” she said as people gathered around to see the unusual sight and hear Billings talk about it.
Billings said she walks the oxen in all sorts of situations so they can get used to sudden or loud noises.
Bill Lewis, who will be 90 years old next month and has been coming to the fair since he was 10 years old, sat in his wheelchair patting the oxen and asking questions.
“It's a fun time,” said Diane Anderson of Raymond who has been coming to the fair for the last 12 years.
One man who was helping park cars on Main Street said he hopes to organize veterans to bring a veterans day to the Fryeburg Fair in the near future. John Stevens of Fryeburg, whose brother James is a disabled Vietnam veteran, said veterans should be recognized at the fair in the same way that seniors were being recognized Tuesday.
“There wouldn't be a fair without the veterans. There wouldn't be a country without them,” he said.
The fair, which runs through Oct. 7, continues Wednesday with a show of draft horses and ponies beginning at 8:30 a.m., a beef show at 9 a.m., dairy show at 9:30 a.m. and the flower show at 11.
The afternoon events include more beef and working steer shows, a pig scramble, horse pulling and the night show “Asleep at the Wheel” beginning at 8 p.m.
The Fryeburg Fair is Maine's largest agricultural fair and began with a handful of farmers and merchants in 1851.