Mark Tripp and Lynne Stackpole-Tripp are pulled by Finn, a Gypsy cob from Sable Oak Equestrian Center in Brunswick, during the 24th annual Sleigh Day at Skyline Farm. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

NORTH YARMOUTH — Under blue skies on a snow-covered field, adults and children lined up Saturday to catch a sleigh ride powered by two draft horses, Shay and Tiny of North Anson, New Hampshire.

On a nearby outside track, Finn, a black and white Gypsy horse from Brunswick, pulled an old-fashioned “cutter” sleigh over the snow, resembling an idyllic Currier and Ives picture.

Farther out in the field, children were sliding down a gentle, snow-covered slope.

Hundreds of people turned out for Saturday’s 24th annual Sleigh Day at Skyline Farm, a nonprofit that transformed a farm into open space, a community resource, and a carriage museum with an extensive collection of antique sleighs and carriages.

Sleigh Day is one of Skyline’s community events encouraging people to visit, said Jennifer Robbins, president of the organization. “We have a carriage museum – that is our crown jewel. We have almost 150 carriages and sleighs,” she said. “A lot of people live locally and have never heard of us.”

Much of Sleigh Day is meant to demonstrate how sleighs from the 1800s were used to get around during the long winters. Historically, sleighing was a form of entertainment. Races were common, and sometimes there were crashes.


But the day is not only about history, Lynn Young, the secretary of Skyline Farm said. “People think that sleighing is something that happened a long time ago, but it still happens today.” All over Maine, people own horses and sleighs. Some clubs drive teams in carriages and sleighs, she said.

Ray Belicose, of Scarborough, looks through Skyline Farm’s Carriage Museum during the 24th annual Sleigh Day in North Yarmouth on Saturday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

She was pleased with Saturday’s crowds and the conditions. “We’ve had years where we had to plow because there was too much snow and had to plow a place for the horses to sleigh. … Today is actually pretty perfect,” Young said. Conversely, there have been times when sleighing was called off because there was no snow.

The farm used to be owned by Ken Sowles, who loved horse-drawn carriages and sleighs. He owned horses and collected many sleighs and carriages.

After Sowles died, Young, who lived near the farm, and others didn’t want to see the farmland lost to a housing development. “We thought, ‘We can’t look at McMansions in the field. We just can’t be another development,'” Young said. “We wanted to save this. Because Ken always wanted it to be a museum, we wanted to do that.”

In 1999, the nonprofit Skyline Farm was created. Ken Sowles’ son, John, is on the organization’s board.

Inside the carriage museum, visitors get a close look at nearly 150 sleighs and carriages, some of which date to the 1700s. “It’s a little chance to travel in time and see what it was like,” Young said. People love sleigh bells, she said. There’s a display of vintage sleigh bells that visitors are allowed to pick up and ring.


John Sowles was one of several volunteers sharing stories of the horse-drawn vehicles. After World War II, people were cleaning out their barns, making room for tractors and cars, Sowles said. His father acquired the carriages and sleighs, often for free, he said.

Each vehicle has a story card sharing its history. “Who owned it. Who used it,” he said.

One carriage in the museum is called a “comfort wagon.” It has early axles made of wood, which had to be stopped every 10 miles to be regreased. “This was used during the time of George Washington,” Sowles said.

Children peer out of a sleigh being pulled by spotted draft horses Shay and Tiny, and steered by Aaron Boyce of Pineglenn Farm, at Skyline Farm in North Yarmouth. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Another is a “school bus sleigh” from 1890, first used to deliver milk to Portland residents. Because it has a cabin-like shelter, it was used until the 1930s as a horse-pulled school bus bringing children to the Valentine Street School in Westbrook. It was gifted to the museum by the Knight Family and Smiling Hill Farm.

There’s a “Cee-Spring Landau” built in 1902 in New York, considered a formal carriage that looks like it came out of a British novel. The Landaus are still used in British ceremonies. This carriage is hung on springs providing a smooth ride and has automatic folding steps when the door opens.

Another is the “Flying Dash Sleigh” built in the 1820s, a small sleigh with a curved body and decorated by artwork, considered a stylish ride. Riders would sit in the open sleigh covered by bear skins and heavy robes.


Ray Belicose, of Scarborough, visited on Saturday because he loves sleighs. “I work on restoring them. I enjoy the whole area of sleighing, the culture of it, the 1800s stuff from the old days. It’s enjoyable. I’m mesmerized when I see the sleigh and the horse running through the snow,” Belicose said.

He was studying an 1890 cutter sleigh – an open two-seater that was fast and very popular in Portland, he said.

Ben and Katie Jones, of Cumberland, brought their toddler, Nellie, to Sleigh Day. They were planning to take a ride on the snow by the two draft horses. “We’d love to get Nellie on there and make a family memory,” she said.

She enjoyed learning about the ornate, black Hansom carriage in the museum. Hansom cabs were used in the 1800s in Europe, New York and Boston. “The gentleman was telling us that originally it didn’t have doors, and passengers would hop off without paying,” she said. Doors were added, and passengers who did not pay were delivered to the police station, Jones said with a chuckle.

Passengers in Hansom cabs would pay their fare through an opening in the roof of the carriage. “That’s where the term ‘paying through the roof’ came from,” museum volunteer Nick Buck said.

Katie Jones was amused. “It’s very cool,” she said. “We had no idea how interesting the carriages would be and the different types.”

The museum will be open Sunday afternoons through March 24.

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