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For some, nostalgia, yesteryear, main attraction at Cummington Fairgrounds

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Cole Dunham, 7, of Ware, sets chain to compete in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Cole Dunham, 7, of Ware, sets chain to compete in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Mark Carr, of Tivito, R.I., leads his 10-month old Holsteins in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Mark Carr, of Tivito, R.I., leads his 10-month old Holsteins in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Nan Clark speaks before the start of the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Nan Clark speaks before the start of the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Kenny Patten, 12, of Springfield, N.H., tries to go through between his Holsteins to prepare to compete in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Kenny Patten, 12, of Springfield, N.H., tries to go through between his Holsteins to prepare to compete in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Bryan Mollison, of Savoy, Mass., leads his Holsteins Bandit, left, and Zeus, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Bryan Mollison, of Savoy, Mass., leads his Holsteins Bandit, left, and Zeus, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Nicole Demastrie, of Savoy, leads her Normande, Moon, let, and Neon, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Nicole Demastrie, of Savoy, leads her Normande, Moon, let, and Neon, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Faustyna Jaracz, of Cummington, left, holds her Market Lamb, Cosmos, as her brother Adam holds his lamb Damian during the competition in the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Faustyna Jaracz, of Cummington, left, holds her Market Lamb, Cosmos, as her brother Adam holds his lamb Damian during the competition in the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Adam Jaracz holds his market lamb Damian during competition at the 146th annual Cummington Fair on Friday.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Adam Jaracz holds his market lamb Damian during competition at the 146th annual Cummington Fair on Friday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Camden Goelz-Ellis, 2, of Easthampton, milks a mechanic cow during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Camden Goelz-Ellis, 2, of Easthampton, milks a mechanic cow during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>James Marra, of Chesterfield, tries to start the antique engine during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    James Marra, of Chesterfield, tries to start the antique engine during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Joel Carr, of Goshen, tries to start the antique engine during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Joel Carr, of Goshen, tries to start the antique engine during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Bill Baronas, of South Deerfield, cuts a wood during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Bill Baronas, of South Deerfield, cuts a wood during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Malakai Collins, 1, of Greenfield, left, and his mother Alyssa, center, shake bottles to make a noise as Vicki Ethier, right, interacts with them during her performance in the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Malakai Collins, 1, of Greenfield, left, and his mother Alyssa, center, shake bottles to make a noise as Vicki Ethier, right, interacts with them during her performance in the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Elaina Bigda, 3, of Florence, feeds a goat during the 146th annual Cummington Fair on Friday.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Elaina Bigda, 3, of Florence, feeds a goat during the 146th annual Cummington Fair on Friday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Sofia Melnik, 4, of Deerfield, left, get a face paint from Bria Arponti, right, as her cousin Konner James, 4, center, looks at her during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Sofia Melnik, 4, of Deerfield, left, get a face paint from Bria Arponti, right, as her cousin Konner James, 4, center, looks at her during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Bryan Mollison, of Savoy, Mass., leads his Holsteins Bandit, left, and Zeus, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

    YOSHITAKA HAMADA
    Bryan Mollison, of Savoy, Mass., leads his Holsteins Bandit, left, and Zeus, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Purchase photo reprints »

  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Cole Dunham, 7, of Ware, sets chain to compete in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Mark Carr, of Tivito, R.I., leads his 10-month old Holsteins in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Nan Clark speaks before the start of the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Kenny Patten, 12, of Springfield, N.H., tries to go through between his Holsteins to prepare to compete in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Bryan Mollison, of Savoy, Mass., leads his Holsteins Bandit, left, and Zeus, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Nicole Demastrie, of Savoy, leads her Normande, Moon, let, and Neon, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Faustyna Jaracz, of Cummington, left, holds her Market Lamb, Cosmos, as her brother Adam holds his lamb Damian during the competition in the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Adam Jaracz holds his market lamb Damian during competition at the 146th annual Cummington Fair on Friday.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Camden Goelz-Ellis, 2, of Easthampton, milks a mechanic cow during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>James Marra, of Chesterfield, tries to start the antique engine during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Joel Carr, of Goshen, tries to start the antique engine during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Bill Baronas, of South Deerfield, cuts a wood during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Malakai Collins, 1, of Greenfield, left, and his mother Alyssa, center, shake bottles to make a noise as Vicki Ethier, right, interacts with them during her performance in the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Elaina Bigda, 3, of Florence, feeds a goat during the 146th annual Cummington Fair on Friday.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Sofia Melnik, 4, of Deerfield, left, get a face paint from Bria Arponti, right, as her cousin Konner James, 4, center, looks at her during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • YOSHITAKA HAMADA<br/>Bryan Mollison, of Savoy, Mass., leads his Holsteins Bandit, left, and Zeus, right, in the 20th Annual Ox Teamsters Challenge during the 146th Annual Cummington Fair at Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

“It’s a nostalgic thing,” said Mark Carr of Tiverton, Rhode Island. “It’s of the yesteryears, you know?”

Carr competed with Black and Label, 10-month-old Holstein brothers. Training oxen, he said, has been a tradition in his family for half a century.

The competition, in which teamsters, or trainers, guide teams of two oxen through an obstacle course using primarily voice commands and light taps, was among many events Saturday, the third day of the 146th annual Cummington Fair. The event closed Sunday.

The oxen challenge was started 20 years ago by the late Merwin Clark, a Chesterfield resident who died in March 2013 at age 91. It is now run by his former wife, Nan Clark, 85, of Chesterfield.

More than a dozen teams maneuvered around an obstacle course that included poles, cones and buckets of water — with the buckets being the only thing that generated points for being knocked over.

Partway through, trainers had to chain their oxen to a large sleigh for them to pull over the finish line. Participants competed for both speed and agility and were awarded cash prizes and gift cards.

As Carr guided Black and Label through the course, the crowd gasped in anticipation as the animals made their way by one of the buckets, and sighed heartily as they just missed knocking it over. Teamsters won $20 for every bucket that got knocked over.

Katya Bowen, of Pittsfield, said she has been watching oxen at local fairs since she was a little girl. She grew up near Boston, she said, and used to go to a similar fair each year in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

“It was like the highlight of the year,” she recalled. “These people being able to guide these huge animals to do what you want them to do is pretty impressive.”

And for Clark, the excitement still runs high after 20 years.

“Oh, I just love this,” she said, throwing her hands in the air. “I love oxen. I think they’re wonderful.”

She recalled that Merwin wanted people to know that oxen can be trained with kindness, using mainly voice commands and soft touches from the driving stick.

“He really understood animals,” she said. “He was kind.”

The Clarks had divorced after being married for 20 years, but continued working together to organize the oxen challenge because they “both loved it,” she said. After his death, a plaque with his name on it was put up in the main building at the fairgrounds. Each year, the names of the challenge winners are added.

Though Carr’s oxen did not make it through the obstacle course within the time limit, for their young age, he said, their work was “exceptional.”

“I was very pleased with them,” he said.

Clark, who does all of the announcing for the challenge, noted to the crowd that when oxen were used for logging, they were regarded for how much they could pull, not their speed.

She later noted in an interview that oxen do not get agitated as easily as horses. If they get stuck in mud, she said, they won’t kick it up, but simply wait for their master’s next command.

“It was oxen who opened up the west,” she said.

Meanwhile, with the rain gone, overall fair attendance was up, noted Tom Carter, one of the organizers.

“I think we’re in line for a really good year,” he said. “Most people don’t want to miss the Cummington Fair.”

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.

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