After 40 years, the Hebron Harvest Fair has a set pattern to reach success, as was evident this past weekend.
Rain on Thursday, the opening day of the fair, meant attendance was light and some of the events were cancelled.
“It was an OK crowd,” said fair superintendent John Johnson Jr. of the Hebron Lions Club, which organizes the event.
Fair volunteers responded to the previous week’s wet weather by putting wood chips and mats down on muddy areas in walkways and by shifting parking areas around to avoid the boggiest areas in the parking lots.
“Our parking crew (worked) diligently,” Johnson said.
By Friday, the sun had returned and, with it, came the fair’s usual crowds.
Both the good weather and the large attendance continued to Sunday.
There were some new aspects to the 2011 fair, including a new pond installed along the main entrance driveway as the parking lots come into view.
Johnson said the area had been wetlands and the Lions Club wanted to make the first view most visitors had to the fairgrounds better.
“We wanted to enhance it and beautify it,” Johnson said.
Other new elements included: a Lumberjack show, where skilled lumberjacks demonstrated their skills, along with jokes, in their own arena throughout the weekend; the first appearance of the New York State Tractor Pullers on Sunday; and multiple appearances by Matt’s Family Jam, a Missouri band consisting of two parents and their three children.
Matt’s Family Jam took place on the stage in the Family Area, which also included a petting zoo, a corn kernel ” sand” box and games for children.
“The family area is always evolving,” Johnson said.
Marlborough resident Melanie Rodrigues brought her family to the fair: twin 2-year-old boys Jeremy and Keenan.
Although Rodriques has been to the fair many times, this was the first trip for the boys and they were thoroughly enjoying the fair Sunday morning, especially a trip on the “Choo-Choo Charlie” kiddie train ride.
“They really liked the animals,” Rodrigues said about her boys and the animal exhibition barns.
The fair also presented a serious side this year.
With the fourth day of the fair falling on the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, fair officials and the Hebron Volunteer Fire Department prepared a moving tribute at 1 p.m. Sunday with other area emergency responders attending, as well as the Bolton ladder truck.
It was followed by a performance of “Have You Forgotten?” by country music star Darryl Worley, who was also the fair’s headline performer.
Far less disastrous than Sept. 11, 2001 was last month’s Tropical Storm Irene, which impacted fair goers and participants.
The RHAM High School Video Production Club – which sold snow cones at the fair – is also the Community Emergency Response Team headquarters.
RHAM teacher Paul Bancroft said 17 students and adults completed emergency response training last year – training that paid off after Irene.
The team members, including Tyler Balula, conducted door-to-door checks on the elderly residents in the area, and distributed water and food.
Balula and Bancroft were both working the snow cone booth at the fair, with proceeds going to the response team and to programs of the Video Production Club.
Balula, a senior, has been part of the club and the team for a year.
The emergency response training will be especially helpful to Balula upon graduation.
“I’m going into the Army for basic training,” he said.
Other perennials of the fair were oxen pulls, tractor pulls and Hebron’s own demolition derby.
State Rep. Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton, watched the tractor pull, cheering on the 1934 tractor that pulled the longest distance despite its vintage era.
Hebron Board of Selectmen Chairman Jeffrey Watt was at the fair with his family. Both were also supporting the Hebron Republican Town Committee fundraising booth.
Local officials, farmers, and residents from all over enjoyed the fair and its diverse offerings, including Claire Glaude of Sprague, whose favorite part was the large arts and crafts display.
Glaude, at the fair on Friday with her family, said Hebron was her “favorite” of all the local fairs in eastern Connecticut.
“I like this one,” she said. “I’ve always liked this one the best.”
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