FRYEBURG — For 10-year-old Mackenzie Ramsdell, there’s no question that the best part of the Fryeburg Fair is “getting to show the animals.”

Her twin sister, Madelyn, added that hanging with their friends was pretty sweet as well.

The sisters, from Limington, said Monday they’ll be at the fair night and day with their family’s steers until it draws to a close Sunday. They said they love to bathe and weigh their animals, even though they have to wake up at 4:30 a.m.

The girls are among hundreds of young people who are camped out with everything from pigs to llamas as part of the fair that’s been held since 1851 and expects to draw huge crowds daily during its eight-day run.

“There’s nothing quite like it,” said Jason Sherman of Framingham, Massachusetts, who said he’s attended since childhood. He likes the food and the quirky events that give the gathering its unique flavor.

One of those oddball competitions, with blue ribbons handed out to the winners, saw scores of women flinging a 5-pound, 2-ounce skillet through the air to see which of them could send it soaring farthest along a straight line.


For some, the skillet didn’t get far, going up more than out. But others winged it more than 40 feet to great applause.

Joie Milbourn, an 18-year-old shot-putter from Ossipee, New Hampshire, decided to give it a try this year. On Sunday, she tried to practice at home, but on her second throw, the handle on her family’s cast iron frying pan snapped off when it hit the ground.

Fair President Roy Andrews said that happens so often that the fair ordered some specially-made steel skillets to avoid breaking cast iron ones any longer.

In any case, Milbourn’s practice paid off. She came away with a blue ribbon as the best of her age group after breaking the 40-foot mark when her turn came.

One of her competitors flung the skillet so high and so far that it landed handle-first and stuck right into the ground so that the surface of the skillet faced the crowd when it came to rest.

Andrews said the fair has always been a part of his life. Growing up on one of Fryeburg’s 25 dairy farms – all of them now gone – he remembers the fair from long ago.


He started working there at age 15, greasing pigs for a scramble that delighted young and old. Now he’s the one in charge, responsible for 100 buildings on 200 acres and some 650 paid workers who keep the fair humming. The people who do the work, he said, are the fair’s greatest asset, many of them returning year after year for decades.

But most of the fairgoers were in it for the midway rides, the vendors, displays of everything from jelly jars to quilts and, of course, the fair food that nutritionists might well find fault with – maple sugar cotton candy anyone?

They gawked at the 50th Annual Woodsmen’s Field Day with its array of contests to see who among the contestants could do all sorts of unlikely tasks, from chopping away a block of wood underfoot to loading and unloading a logging truck. Competitors were clearly looking to come home with bragging rights as well as a coveted ribbon.

Jay Downs, 19, of Loudon, New Hampshire, had a goal, too.

Downs is in his last year of 4-H, a learning program for young people that’s especially strong in rural areas. He came with his dairy cows, including a couple he bought himself, because he wanted “to give it a shot” to see if they could win a prize.

Downs said there aren’t a lot of dairy operations left in his part of New Hampshire and he’s always been envious of the 4-H program in Maine for young people interested in dairy.


He’s eyeing the field now more as a young adult with a potentially serious interest in making a living rather than as a child exploring the idea. He’s been working with his parents on their farm, which has 85 cows of different types, since graduating from high school last year.

Downs said that cows take a lot of work but he likes them. “Every single cow has a different attitude,” he said. “They’re all special.”

He doesn’t have much use for people who dismiss the dairy industry as driven too much by technology. The reality, Downs said, is that the animals “are like family.”

His goal for now is to make sure his cows are happy, fed and calm heading into Thursday’s competition.

Mackenzie Ramsdell is also eyeing the upcoming chance to win a ribbon.

She said she and her sister are going to wash and brush their steers and comb them carefully to make their hair look fluffy and their legs look strong.


After all, winning matters.

Andrews said he was looking forward to finding out who would come out on top in the skillet throw. After all, he said, the winner would be “the ruggedest woman” at the fair, no small honor.

For Downs, for the Ramsdell twins and for many hopefuls, coming away with a ribbon from one of the oldest and largest agricultural fairs in the country would mean something.

So they’re working and dreaming and not sleeping a whole lot. And they’re having a blast.

The fair runs through Sunday. Tickets are $12 per day and parking costs another $5. Be prepared for a fair amount of traffic as well – it’s a popular event.


Jay Downs, 19, of New Hampshire stands with the dairy cows he brought to the Fryeburg Fair in the hopes of winning a ribbon.

Madelyn Ramsdell, 10, of Limington, leads a steer Monday at the Fryeburg Fair.

FRYEBURG — Winners in the Saco Valley Woodsmen’s Day at Fryeburg Fair on Monday were:

Men’s Champion, Matt Cogar, Diana, W.Va.

Women’s Champion, Stephanie Naud, Brigham, Quebec

Master Champion, Don Lambert, St. Gilles, Quebec

Super Master Champion, Gibson Engel, Brooklyn, Conn.

Rookie Champion, Nick Molleur, Greensboro Bend, Vt.

Twin sisters Mackenzie, left, and Madelyn Ramsdell with the steers they hope will win a prize at the Fryeburg Fair.

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