WINDSOR — Natalie and Clara Domin vacuumed, combed and primped their sheep to ready them for the Windsor Fair judge. And even as they worked diligently on final touchups with the animals they had raised from birth, it became clear the real preparation had begun well before they ever set foot — or hoof — into the show ring.

The work and bonding began soon after the animals’ birth at their Freeport farm. It is also home to 14 sheep, four horses, 22 chickens, four ducks, dogs, cats and rabbits. Daily chores include feeding, caring for and training their animals.

“We come from a farming family, and I always knew I wanted to have these experiences with animals,” said Natalie Domin, 19, who is studying animal and veterinary science at the University of Maine and hopes to go to veterinary school. “I’ve just fallen in love with any and all animals; I can’t explain why,”

She said the sheep they showed at the Windsor Fair didn’t just have to be prepped for the show, they also needed training. A sheep that behaves badly in the ring, she said, would reflect badly on its handler. She said being around the animals since their birth helps, but they still needed to be trained to follow her lead in the ring. The sisters appeared able to largely control the animals by placing their hands on their necks and chins, guiding them around the ring.

The Freeport sisters are the daughters of Rachel Stinson Domin and two of the many grandchildren of Ann and Keith Stinson. The Stinsons raised their five daughters on a Richmond dairy farm, nearly all of whom are involved with animals in one way or another. Several family members were on hand Saturday, posing for pictures with the girls and their sheep. The girls’ mother oversees the Cumberland County Sheep Club, part of the 4-H organization that features youths raising and working with farm animals.

“You can’t teach that in a classroom, in 4-H they really learn a lot, about sticking with something and about responsibility,” Ann Stinson said of her granddaughters.

Clara Domin said it can be hard knowing some of their sheep will ultimately be sent to market which, in turn, means they could then end up in a slaughterhouse for their meat.

Judge Stan Moreau matter-of-factly described some of the sheep in the market sheep show Saturday as “ready for the slaughterhouse,” a compliment that they had filled out nicely and were raised well by their young handlers.

Saturday’s sunny but not overly hot weather boded well for another strong day of attendance at the fair, longtime fair President Tom Foster said. He noted attendance at the fair so far had been strong, in line with the numbers of people it saw in 2019, which was one of its best years. He expects that by the close of the fair on Labor Day, more than 100,000 people will have attended the fair to take in its large midway, numerous food booths, entertainment and agricultural events.

New offerings this year included a beer tent. A law change last year in Windsor was needed to allow beer to be served on the premises. Foster said no problems had been reported with that addition, and said a police officer was stationed outside. No one under 21 was admitted to the beer tent, located next to the horse racing track.

Also a new this year — COVID-19 vaccinations. MaineGeneral Health officials are offering vaccinations there for free, each day from noon to 6 p.m., and anyone getting one also gets a free pass into the fair for another day.

Due to the coronavirus, Windsor Fair and most others were canceled last summer. It was the only year there hasn’t been a Windsor Fair since it began in 1888.

Foster, who has been fair president for 30 years, said he invited MaineGeneral to this year’s event and, earlier in the week, they’d already administered around 50 vaccinations.

He said fair officials encouraged people to wear masks to the fair, particularly when inside buildings. However, very few attendees appeared to be wearing masks Saturday morning as the fairgrounds slowly came to life and a crowd began filing in.

“We’re asking people, at the entrance, to wear a mask, but we’re not requiring anybody to wear one,” said Foster. “It’s a suggestion, and we’ve got masks available for people to wear. It’s up to individual choice.”

The fair continues Sunday and Monday with more harness horse racing, a cornhole tournament, numerous more farm animal competitions, and an antique car show.


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