After hiatus Cummington Fair is back

  • Fred Howes of Ashfield drives a 1937 Silver King in the Antique Tractor Parade, Aug. 26, 2017, during the 149th annual Cummington Fair. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2021 9:29:15 AM

CUMMINGTON — After the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be canceled last year for the first time in its more than 150-year history, the Cummington Fair will return to the fairgrounds this week, hosting events and facilitating camaraderie for attendees from far and wide.

The fair will take place from Thursday to Sunday, with gates opening at 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“A lot of people I talk to are just glad to see it back,” said Albert Judd, president of the board of directors of the Hillside Agricultural Society, which runs the fair.

Judd noted that this year’s fair planning occurred over a 2½-month period, as opposed to the normal year’s time frame, because of uncertainty around whether the pandemic would force it to be canceled for a second time.

Another board member is Kenneth “Trudge” Howes, whose farm is just down the road from the fairgrounds.

“My ancestors have all been involved with the fair,” said Howes, who now has a son on the fair board with him.

He and Judd said that they were looking forward to socializing with people they only get to see at the fair.

“It’s just going to be nice to visit with people,” said Howes, 68, who believes he’s probably been to the fair every year of his life.

While the fair is returning, the pandemic is still present, and has had an impact on this year’s fair as well. Plexiglass has been put up to protect fair workers. People must wear masks or face coverings inside buildings and outside of buildings when they’re unable to socially distance, something that attendees will be reminded of by signs.

“Hopefully, people will do as requested,” Howes said.

Judd also said there will be sanitizing stations throughout the fair.

In another nod to the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be held at the fair on Saturday and Sunday. The clinics, which are being organized by Hilltown Community Health Centers, will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. both days.

In terms of notable events, the fair will feature live music, showings of animals such as rabbits and sheep, horse and ox pulls and demolition derbies.

Kevin Hollister, a board member of the Hillside Agricultural Society, is in charge of entertainment at the fair and is also the public address announcer.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Hollister said.”We’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible.”

Music at the fair will include the Shelburne Falls Military Band on Thursday, Sarah the Fiddler on Friday, and The Linda Ronstadt Experience on Sunday, which is fronted by Tristan McIntosh of American Idol fame.

“We put a lot of effort into this,” Hollister said.

Demolition derbies will take place Friday and Saturday while horse pulls will take place on Friday and Sunday, and ox pulls on Saturday. Also on Saturday is the Ox Teamster’s Challenge, an event in which teams navigate an obstacle course.

Hollister did note, however, that there will be no square dancing this year.

“How can you social distance when you do-si-do?” he said.

Fireworks will be held Thursday night, an event that’s not a regular occurrence at the fair, but one that Judd and Howes said is being put on to celebrate the fair’s return.

“To say welcome back, everybody,” Judd said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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