FARMINGTON – Just a couple of hours after the Farmington Fair opened Sunday, the best part had begun for Gil Whitehead.

The 10-year-old from Belgrade was showing his two working steers for the first time. As he rapped the calves with a stick to keep them under control, they were judged for cleanliness, behavior and presentation.

Contests and carnival rides have taken over the fairgrounds for the week. The 170th Farmington Fair started Sunday morning and ends Saturday night.

“It’s been hectic, as usual, but good,” said fair secretary Neal Yeaton.

As the weather warmed up and the midway opened in the early afternoon, more and more people filtered onto the fairgrounds to watch tractor pulls, check out the animals and fill up on fried food. Yeaton said he expected as many as 25,000 people to come to the fair this week.

It’s an annual tradition for Marge and Ken Buckler of East Wilton. He goes for the pulling; she likes the livestock.

“The atmosphere is wonderful,” Marge Buckler said as they walked through a building housing Lane’s Barnyard Friends.

Melinda Lane’s father-in-law and mother-in-law started the exhibit of baby animals 21 years ago in a float at New Sharon’s bicentennial parade. Fair officials there asked the Lanes to bring their animals to the Farmington event, and they’ve been coming ever since.

“The goats seem to be the biggest hit,” Lane said.

For many of the exhibitors, the first day of the fair is strictly for setup.

Tom Nelson spent the morning tying tags to coops that will house the chickens he raises at his home in New Sharon.

“They’re some people’s pride and joy,” Nelson said about the birds entered in the poultry show.

Animals aren’t the only objects of scrutiny at the fair. The exhibition hall was lined with prized produce, canned foods, baked goods and artwork.

Other displays were purely educational, such as the agricultural museum featuring old-fashioned tools, a butter churn and a horse-drawn buggy.

Behind the museum, beekeepers were selling honey and candles. At the sap house, the Maine Maple Producers Association handed out samples of syrup.

It’s the fourth year that the sap house has been part of what Alfred Bolduc refers to as “Nostalgia Avenue.”

He pointed to the blacksmith demonstration and the old schoolhouse.

“These are the things people remember as children,” said Bolduc, owner of Sugarloaf Maple in New Portland.

“Every year, they’re building it more and more,” he said.