FRYEBURG — Morning drizzle gave way to sunny blue skies by early afternoon on opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair, basking thousands of jacketed fair-goers of all ages in unexpected warmth.

It was also good weather for Jake Cash of Poland, who took his short-horn oxen “Dick” and “Dan” for a yoked walk down Cross Road on the fairgrounds near the Livestock Entrance gate.

Along the way, he stopped them frequently when people asked to photograph or pet the 4,200-pound oxen that stood nearly as tall as Cash.

He also took each opportunity to teach curious people about the animals, which he will show on Wednesday and Thursday in the Best Match, Best Team and Working Under Command competitions.

“This is just a hobby,” Cash told one man. “I’ve been coming here at least 20 years and, this year at other fairs, I’ve done very well.”

Many livestock owners spent Sunday getting their cattle, sheep, horses, swine and goats ready to show during the eight-day fair.

But inside the new, spacious Livestock Show Arena off Oxen Alley, 500 rabbits of all sizes and colors were being judged according to breed categories by Lindsay Benoit of Vermont.

By 1:30 p.m. Benoit was inspecting 44 Mini Rex rabbits, one at a time, atop a table lined with metal slot-cages in which sat or stood buff, energetic bunnies.

Their owners, or interested onlookers like Judy Koch of Gray, stood behind the pens, eagerly watching Benoit examine each rabbit’s ears, teeth, eyes, face, color density, hair, shape of body and overall balance.

“I’m trying to learn about the different breeds,” Koch said. “I’m just an interested spectator, and this judge, she’s very informative.”

“She tells you about the good points and the faults and why she places them where she (ranks) them,” she said. “She’ll blow the coat to see if their true color is underneath.”

“Oh, and I also learned that bunnies with black spots are called ‘broken,'” Koch said. “I thought, ‘Where are they broken?’ Because they didn’t look broken, and she said, ‘No, no. It’s the coat. Some are full color and some are broken color.'”

Koch brought along her friend Florence Albison, a Flemish Giant rabbit breeder, and a neighborhood girl, Miranda Mastera, both of Gray.

“I only come to the fair once a year, but I like opening day, because there’s so much going on,” Koch said.

Her daughter shows Southdown sheep.

“It’s pretty quiet in here, even though there’s 500 rabbits,” she said. “There’s no barking and meowing in this ring.”

The only noise came from bunnies tossing feed dishes around in their cages while checking out other rabbits or people bending down to peer excitedly at them.

Albison took her 5-month-old Flemish Giant “Jerry” out of his cage and set him atop it to allow photographs to be taken. Jerry, however, had other ideas.

With a mischievous twitch of his nose, the rabbit that had earlier won Best of Breed and Best Junior out of six other Flemish Giants, suddenly leaped off the cage, making a break for a row of other caged bunnies.

However, Jerry dove headfirst into a white plastic bag, allowing Albison to quickly grab him and put him back atop his cage for the photo opportunity.

“Now, Jerry, behave. What’s gotten into you?” Albison scolded.

Brenda Westover of Woolcott, Vt., walked by carrying two 6-month-old Jersey Wooly rabbits back to their cages after being judged. She said that of the four she entered, one took first place.

“I’ve been showing rabbits for 20 years,” Westover said. “I brought 14 rabbits to this show and have 50 at home.”

In addition to ribbons, winning rabbits bring in some cash for their owners, but that’s not why people like Albison and Westover raise and show bunnies.

“We don’t make any money at this; it’s just pure love,” Westover said.

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On opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair, Jake Cash of Poland shares information about his two 5-year-old short-horn oxen, “Dan,” center, and “Dick,” which each weigh 4,200 pounds. Cash was out walking the yoked pair, which will be shown in competitions on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 7 and 8.

Florence Albison of Gray places her 5-month-old Flemish Giant rabbit “Jerry” atop his cage after the large bunny won Best of Breed and Best Junior during Sunday’s Open Rabbit Show in the new Livestock Show Arena at the Fryeburg Fair. Albison, who had been at the show since before 9 a.m., said she was waiting until 5 p.m. to learn if Jerry would also win the Best of Show award.

Rabbit owners Sarah Brady, left, of Rumney, N. H., and Barbara, Marie, and Paul Simoneau of Lyman watch Open Rabbit Show judge Lindsay Benoit of Vermont examine a Mini Rex bunny on opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair. Five hundred bunnies of 15 breeds were entered in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. show.

Open Rabbit Show competitor Brenda Westover of Woolcott, Vt., shows off two of her 6-month-old Jersey Wooly rabbits after they were judged during opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair.

Jake Cash of Poland, who said he has worked with oxen for 50 years and shows them as a hobby, parades his pair of shorthorn oxen “Dick,” left, and “Dan” along Cross Street near the Livestock Entrance gate on opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair. The oxen will be judged in three different competitions on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 7 and 8.

Open Rabbit Show spectator Judy Koch, right, of Gray watches judge Lindsay Benoit of Vermont examine and share reasons for scoring a Mini Rex rabbit on opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair. Beside Koch, Miranda Mastera of Gray checks out other Mini Rex bunnies waiting to be judged.

Elliot Norton, 2, of Bryant Pond waits for 5-month-old shorthorn steers Chateau and Briand to giddy-up and go on Oxen Alley on opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair. Standing just out of the picture was steer-driver, owner and Norton’s relative, David Cox of Cox Farm in Bryant Pond, who stopped to educate interested people about the cattle.

On opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair, oxen owner Jake Cash, center, of Poland, talks to a man about his hobby of showing oxen at fairs while a small crowd checks out Cash’s two shorthorn oxen.

Open Rabbit Show spectator Miranda Mastera of Gray shows off Bridgton rabbit breeder Joann Harmon’s 8-week-old Mini Rex bunny on opening day Sunday at the Fryeburg Fair. Harmon of Bridgton brought eight Mini Rex and Netherland Dwarf rabbits to the compeition.

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