WINDSOR — Blue skies, cheerful vendors and squawking chickens greeted attendees Sunday on the opening day of the Windsor Fair.

The contests got off to a muscular start with an early-morning weigh-in of giant pumpkins and squash.

The enormous contenders required a New Holland skid-steer loader to pick them up and place them gently on the scales.

Smaller entrants were moved by a seven-man squad holding onto handles sewn into a heavy canvas tarp.

Kathy Skehan, of Litchfield, couldn’t contain her joy and surprise when her pumpkin weighed in at 820 pounds to garner the top prize in the adult division.

“It was supposed to be between 600 and 700,” she said.

It was a personal best for her, requiring a lot of assistance from her husband, Mark, and coming after seven seasons of growing giant pumpkins. Both Skehans wore T-shirts touting the Maine Pumpkin Growers Organization.

“There’s one more in the field,” she said. “If God’s willing, it’s going to go to Sanford.”

There, she’s likely to compete again against Al Berard of Sanford, who on Sunday took first in the squash category with a 644-pound green giant. Berard took firsts in both categories in 2011. He was the first to shake Kathy Skehan’s hand and congratulate her.

Brothers Logan Wood, 11, and Cody Wood, 8, of Jefferson, took the top two spots in the children’s category for giant pumpkins. The children’s category includes youngsters up to age 12.

Some jack o’lanterns were entered as well, most of them still green rather than the more traditional orange.

Logan’s orange pumpkin weighed in at 313 pounds; Cody’s weighed 236 pounds.

Cody provided a summary of his technique: “I gave it water, five gallons up to 10 gallons, and I gave it a couple pounds of horse and cow manure.”

Logan used manure and a sprinkler and made sure to cut off all other pumpkin blossoms from the vine. “I just let two grow,” he said. “It makes that one weigh more.”

The adults shared tips as well. They watered, fertilized, protected, cushioned and babied their giant gourds, spending hours a day tending them.

They pick them at the last possible moment, allowing them to soak up and retain as much water as possible, and they move them, generally by strap and tractor, to pickup-truck beds for the ride to the fair.

Dylan Botbyl, 18, of Windsor, is still perfecting his squash-growing technique. He’s taken second place in the squash category three times. “I haven’t really placed in the pumpkins yet,” he said.

Another entrant, Dana Wrigley, of Oakland, placed fourth with his 407-pound giant pumpkin. He explained that a squash entry can be only gray or green. “If there’s a white or cream color or orange, it goes under pumpkin,” he said.

Darrell St. Jean of Windsor sat at a picnic table, handing out tags and collecting paperwork from entrants, helping his grandfather, Al Turner, run the event.

The entries in the 2012 Giant Pumpkin/Squash contest remain on display throughout the fair. They’re near the administration building, alongside a barn featuring a variety of animals, including pairs of turkeys and geese, small goats and a flock of chickens squawking and obviously hoping to peck into the pumpkins.

Nearby, commercial vendors and others cranked up propane stoves, turned on refrigerators and prepared booths as they awaited the crowd.

At “Maggie’s Duck Pond,” Kate Miller of Portsmouth, N.H., stood atop a stepladder hooking neon-colored stuffed animals to chains hanging from the poles supporting a tent top.

Miller had just dismantled her booth at the Union Fair, which closed Saturday. Many other vendors did the same.

A few horses trotted by turn around the track, getting exercise in preparation for the afternoon harness races, and ignoring the water truck sprinkling the dirt track.

Arthur Strout, maintenance director for the fair, was pleased with the sunshine. Last year’s opening day was canceled by Tropical Storm Irene.

“I hope there’s no rain for nine days,” said Strout, who is also Windsor’s fire chief.

The schedule and more information about the fair is available at www.windsorfair.com.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be reached at 621-5631 or at:

[email protected]