When Steve Haskell was younger, his horses would pull on the weekends and then would be back to work on the fields and farms starting Monday. He said that’s the biggest change in the competition since he won his first ribbon in horse pulling in 1961.

Haskell was honored with a lifetime achievement award for more than a half-century of horse pulling during the final day of the Windsor Fair.

“We wanted to give him the award before he died,” joked pulling superintendent Greg Baker. “It’s quite an achievement.”

Joined by his family, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Haskell, 84, of Palermo, was emotional as a fair official shared the inscription of a plaque that said everyone has enjoyed watching and learning from him for many years.

“It was a surprise and something I didn’t expect,” Haskell said following the presentation. “I grew up with horses and just kept on doing it.”

Another year of family fun and fried dough came to a close as the fair ended its nine-day run under sunny skies and pleasant temperatures.

By 10 a.m. Labor Day morning, the main parking lot off Ridge Road was filling up, and hundreds of people were walking the fairgrounds in search of that last sno-cone or ride on the Ferris wheel.

Tom Foster, the Windsor Fair president, said it was a great week and he had no complaints. Foster said fair officials estimated that about 28,000 people attended Saturday, which would make it the largest single-day attendance in fair history, which goes back to 1888.

“We had rain (Sunday), which affected our attendance, but it’s been wonderful,” Foster said.

The fair typically attracts more than 100,000 people over its nine days, and Foster expected similar numbers this year. On Monday, fairgoers watched barrel racing, horse pulling and a harness racing card including the $12,000 Windsor Fair Invitational.

One of those attendees who came with his family to watch harness racing and eat lots of fair food was Eric Simms of South Portland. He said he brings his two young children to the fair every year because it was something he did with his dad when he was a kid.

“There’s something for everyone at these fairs, especially this one in Windsor,” Simms said. “You can take a turn at the dunk tank, look at goats, pigs and cows, watch some horse racing and eat all the fried food you want.”

Some of the new things at this year’s fair were popular, Foster said, including a new saw mill building with donated wood, a horse jumping contest and a tent where people can see how wool is spun and how it goes from the sheep to a final product.

“It’s quite interesting,” he said.

Before last year’s fair, the organization spent about $45,000 installing hand rails on the bleachers in the grandstand, and Foster said last year’s goals for capital improvements remain.

He wants to put a roof over the show ring so the fair can host more events through the offseason, which would bring additional revenue for improvements in other places around the 275-acre grounds.

Foster said the five-person executive committee has already started thinking about next year’s fair and will soon begin having regular meetings ahead of the 2018 event.

There are more than 200 people involved in putting on the Windsor Fair, and it takes a lot of planning.

“We’ll meet on a regular basis for the next year,” he said. “We’ve got major projects that we want to do that cost a lot of money.”

There are 26 agricultural fairs in Maine, Foster said, and for a lot of small towns, the fairs are a social event and they make a lot of money for the town.

Simms said as long as the fair continues to offer things for children as well as adults, he’ll keep coming.

“It’s an event for anyone from 9 to 99, as the saying goes, and we’ll be here again next year,” he said. “It’s just one of our family traditions that will continue for generations.”

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jasonpafundiKJ

filed under: