Carmen Fisher, left, helps her son, Gage Poliquin, groom a calf before the dairy showmanship event Saturday at the Litchfield Fairgrounds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

LITCHFIELD — Six-year-old Iris Poliquin calmly walked her six-month-old calf Taffy into the show ring at the Litchfield Fair, two hands on the chain and leather strap around its head, a proud smile crossing her face as she showed the for-the-time-being-docile farm animal she raised to judge Ashton Caron.

Caron, 20, judging the youth dairy cattle showmanship competition for the first time after showing cattle since he was a young boy himself, noted Iris and the other youngsters in the “pixie” category of the show handled and presented their critters expertly. He remarked that didn’t know why Iris had a helper with her — an older girl who followed alongside Iris and Taffy just in case she needed to step in — because she did such a great job showing her calf on her own.

Iris may be new to the show circuit, but she spent plenty of time with Taffy, so the pair were prepared.

“It’s her first year, but she does everything with her calf,” mom Carmen Fisher of Sabattus said, as she watched first her son Gage, 9, and then Iris show their calves in the show ring at the Litchfield Fair on a blisteringly hot Saturday morning.

“I have to give her hay and grain and clean her stall every day,” Iris said of Taffy after taking second place in their showmanship category. “I like walking my calf around. She makes me feel like I’m happy.”

Adam Brown of Exeter, another youth competitor, and his roughly year-old Jersey calf Gemma took first place in the intermediate showmanship category. Brown also shows other animals at fairs and other shows, including beef cattle and a flock of sheep, with Gemma being his only dairy cow. He raises his beef cows for about a year, shows them and, ultimately, sells them by the pound at auction for slaughter. He estimates he spends several hours a week with them, getting up at 5:30 a.m. He said he loves showing animals, mostly because he meets so many great people while doing so.


Asa Mehuren and Whole Milk, left, Lena Mehuren with Raindrop, center, and other contestants parade their calves Saturday in front of judge Ashton Carter during youth dairy showmanship event at the Litchfield Fairgrounds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s hard, but you get used to it,” he said of raising, carefully caring for and bonding with calves only to sell them to become food. “But you realize it’s what they were raised for. You treat them right, give them the best life you can. But it’s what they’re raised for.”

Gemma, as a dairy cow, gets a bit of a reprieve. He plans to hold on to her to show her some more and then maybe sell her to a dairy farm to be milked. After their turn in the show ring she stood calmly, briefly munching on the back of a wooden bench.

“She’s a little bit sassy,” Adam said of Gemma.

Lena, 8, and Asa, 9, Mehuren, showed calves Rain Drop and Whole Milk, both heifers, with help from their older sister, Emma, 23, who said her father has a dairy farm in Searsport and she and her siblings have a herd of show animals. Their grandmother watched the shows from a wooden bench next to the show ring. The family also plans on Sunday to show their sheep at the Litchfield Fair, which runs Friday to Sunday.

“We all started showing when we got to be nine-years-old,” Emma said of the farming family. “This is (Lena and Asa’s) first year really competing. It teaches them a lot of responsibility and leadership skills. They also make a lot of friendships through it. It’s a lot of hard work; they have to get up pretty early in the morning.”

Asa said he likes it when he gets money for his birthday or other holidays so he can use it to buy and help raise cows, which he can then enter in contests and win money so that he can invest in more cows. And so on.


Lena Mehuren, 8, left, trims hair on the back ridge of a calf Saturday under the watchful eye of older sister Emma Mehuren at the Litchfield Fairgrounds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

A steady crowd flowed onto the fairgrounds in Saturday’s sun, taking in the colorful rides and games of the midway, viewing antique tractors and other agricultural displays, and dining on food ranging from sausages cooked alongside mounds of frying onions to wraps, Mexican food, fried seafood and plenty of French fries.

Jim Campbell, treasurer of the Litchfield Farmers’ Club, which puts on the annual fair, said Saturday attendance so far had been good. A storm threatening to hit the fairgrounds Friday steered clear of the fairgrounds, dropping a little rain but not wreaking havoc or chasing very many fairgoers away.

Campbell said the agricultural fair gives people who might not otherwise interact or know much about animals a chance to get up close and personal with farm animals. He said volunteers spend time throughout year, off and on, making improvements to the fairgrounds, such as upgrading electrical systems and building new structures for displays. The 67-year-old, an officer with the fair since 1998, said he’s been coming to the fair since he was a knee-high kid, and the event is a family affair for many area families.

“The Litchfield Fair is, yes, a fair, but it’s also, to a lot of people, like a homecoming,” he said.

Admission to the fair is free for kids under 12, $5 for ages 12 to 17, $5 for seniors over 65, who were allowed in Friday at no charge, and $9 for adults.

The fair continues Sunday with events including horse pulling and showing, a demolition derby, youth sheep and meat goat show, an antique car parade, pig scramble and live music.

Iris Poliquin holds on to her calf during pixie division of youth showmanship event Saturday in front of judge Ashton Carter during the youth dairy showmanship event at the Litchfield Fairgrounds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

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