TOPSHAM — Dick Brown used to show his own animals at the Topsham Fair when he was a kid, starting when he was nine years old. He’s 65 now and returned to the fair some 10 years ago as the Superintendent of Livestock.

But don’t let his title fool you. He knows a little (quite possibly a lot) about most aspects of the fair, and that’s his voice you hear on the PA during the Demolition Derby and other events.

When a novice fair-goer asks Brown questions that probably seem rather silly, he’s enthusiastic and clear in his answers; his love of the fair is as sweet as fried dough. Appropriately, livestock are heard protesting in the background during our phone conversation.

“Oh, that’s just my sheep,” Brown said, working from his home in Richmond. “I’m moving my sheep to clean out the barn.”

Brown walked this curious reporter though a myriad of questions about mysterious events like “tractor pulls” and “log hauls,” so much so that I forgot to ask him to explain Tuesday night’s “side by side, four-wheel mud-runs,” which he mentions with so much matter-of-fact enthusiasm it makes a person wonder why they wouldn’t go.

(The printed schedule clarifies the “mud runs” with the word “ATV,” if that helps you decide. 7 p.m.)

“Thursday, we’ve got the modified truck and tractor pulls, and we’ve even got some coming in from Canada to compete,” Brown said. “Then of course, Wednesday we have the Demo Derby, always a favorite. This year, we have a vehicle donated by Roberts Auto in Bowdoinham, and the highest bidder wins the car and gets to run it in the derby.”

There is derby money to be won, and Saturday night also features a “50-50,” which is basically a raffle event. “Last year, we gave away $1,248 in the 50-50!”

Brown says the Demo Derby track has been changed up this year, and the grandstands have also been relocated, “for a better show all around.”

Other gas-powered events include a “back hoe” contest, where an operator must perform some tricky moves, and a “redneck truck pull,” where truck owners push their vehicles to the limit with “progressive weights” (it’s complicated), attempting different distances in different categories.

You may be more interested in four-legged events. There is a lot of “pulling” and “hauling” at these agricultural-themed fairs, where seemingly willing animals (horses, steer and oxen) pull either logs or sleds loaded with weights. These rather beautiful beasts are carefully groomed and trained for these events, and exhibit rather spectacular displays of muscle and brawn.

“They pull based on their weight, and are weighed in the morning before a competition,” Brown said. “If they’re even a little over, say, 2,000 pounds, then they go to the next class up. They pull a load a certain distance; the bigger the cattle, the longer the pull.”

It’s something to see (and a peek at YouTube confirms it can be dangerous), these huge animals straining and grunting, dragging enormous loads to please their commanding owners.

Other events demonstrate more than an animal’s strength. “The horse log-pull shows just how clever the horse is,” Brown explains. “A course is set with cones and tennis balls on top, they’re dragging a log, and the log will roll and twist with each turn. If it goes the wrong way, the cones fall. It’s really very interesting to watch the horses navigate. ”

A “goat show” might have you envisioning some sweet goats parading in their fanciest goat-bathing suits, but this event actually involves an obstacle course with training and response a critical part of the action.

On the other hand, “mutton busting” for eight-year-olds (in protective gear, riding and hanging onto a sheep for dear life) and “pig scrambling” (where adults might join in the five-, six- and seven-year old groups for fun at any time) seem like events that will likely involve some serious hooting and hollering from the audience.

First Vice President Marie Brillant says the most popular draw at the fair is the Demo Derby—no surprise there—and she helped paint the scenes for some Family Day events.

Sunday, Aug. 13 offers pure family-friendly fun, like a “he/man, she/woman” event, which involves things like picking up and moving heavy objects, such as rocks, or throwing logs. The “fry pan throw contest” is all about throwing heavy skillets and winning for distance (something some of us have practiced for years without even knowing), and the “back seat driver” event takes place on golf carts, with a family member directing a blindfolded driver through an obstacle course. “That can be a lot of fun to watch,” Brillant chuckled.

This year, as in year’s past, a boy’s and girl’s bike will be given away in a drawing each night, in the derby area (also where the harness racing takes place).

With all that plus harness racing (betting allowed — and it’s free admission this Sunday and Monday, before the fair really kicks in), live bluegrass, folk, and country music, carnival rides and midway, the Topsham Fair has enough to keep you busier than a one-legged man in a butt kickin’ contest. (We didn’t come up with that ourselves, sadly.)

And remember: Always leave room for a little more fried dough.

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