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Sue Bush
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Pownal Community Fair Brings Out the Best

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, July 31, 2005

William Brooks, 12, and a moose-themed game at the Pownal Community Fair.
View Slide Show
Pownal, Vt. – Old-fashioned country fairs free from high-priced rides, steep admission fees and slick carnival atmospheres are few and far between, which made the July 30 Pownal Community Fair a rare gem in the midst of “fair season.”

From tractor pulls –both fuel- and pedal-powered- to a wood-splitting contest to a three-hour dance-a-thon and a bevy of children’s games, this fair relied on active participation to deliver a good time.

And the Saturday crowd was ready to play.

Pulling Tractors, Holding Cards, Riding Trains

Children showed off their pedal-power during a "kiddie tractor pull" at the fair.
Tractor pulling began during the morning. An early crowd gathered at a Church Street field's southern edge to watch male and female drivers put John Deere, Allis-Chalmers, International, and other tractors through their paces. Meanwhile, a cash prize Texas Hold’Em tournament launched beneath a large white tent, and “engineer” Suzanne St. Hilaire fired up the very popular “Pownal Express” train for the eighth consecutive year.

When she dons a blue-and-white striped cap and slides into the train’s driver’s seat, St. Hilaire may be one of the fair’s most recognizable “celebrities.” The hand-crafted train bears sponsor names along its’ blue cars, and this year, as part of southern Bennington County’s moose celebration, a “moose caboose” was added. For many families, photographing children waving as they ride is a fair tradition, and being “big enough to ride the train” can be an infant-to-toddler milestone.

deSamsonow Delivers "Top Chop"

The morning events included the preliminary round of a wood-splitting competition. The splitter pool was whittled down through elimination rounds; a keen eye and sharp swing was necessary to strike a small blue target painted on the wood and ultimately split the wood into four sections with some blue showing on each piece. Trey Carter and Roger Contois hosted and judged the event, which paused after the preliminaries and resumed as a championship finale at 3 p.m.. Numerous finalists competed until the contest was settled, with Alex deSamsonow taking top honors, followed by William Brown and Andrew Webber.

First prize was $100 or a specific amount of wood; deSamsonow chose the wood as his “trophy.”

Vt. state Rep. Bill Botzow D-Pownal/Woodford was included among the wood-splitting contest competitors.

Foot-Power Over Horse-Power

Children’s games entertained young fair fans with penny-pitches in a water-filled pool, a “fish bowl” of prizes, a bouncy-bounce, hoop toss, face-painting, and other activities set up under cover from the sun. The fair food court offered hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage and soft drinks; John Peaslee handled grill duty throughout the entire fair. Private food vendors also set up shop and sold ice cream, pizza, fried dough and French fries.

A noontime “kiddie pedal-pull” was taken very seriously by about 18 young competitors who relied on foot power over horse power and pedaled a child-sized “tractor” carrying a weight-filled wagon. Every competing child was rewarded for their efforts with a trophy and certificate and posed for a group photo at the event’s conclusion.

They Could Have Danced All Night

The “Wild Country Cloggers” provided entertainment during the early afternoon, as a Bingo game and the Texas Hold’Em tournament continued. Fair visitors roamed through a crafter/vendor arena as well as around the perimeters of a vast tent dubbed the “Exhibit Hall.” Flower arrangements, vegetables, canned items, and artwork bore blue, red, yellow and white ribbons bestowed after a morning judging.

A fair highlight was Mountain Music’s DJ “Moose” [Bruce Bell] and a three-hour dance-a-thon that offered cash prizes and trophies as well as other awards. Toddlers, grade-schoolers, teen-aged youth, adults, and even a self-described grandmother with a foot injury took the stage as Moose encouraged the dancers to “keep dancing, don’t stop now, show me your best moves.” Numerous dancers of all ages were presented with small stuffed animals, beaded necklaces and donated cash prizes of up to $30 as they competed in a variety of dance challenges. A “countdown” kept dancers informed of how many minutes had passed; an estimated dozen dancers kept pace with the

Mountain Music DJ "Moose" kept the dancing going on, and on, and on....
event for the full three hours.

Fine Food and Fireworks

As fair events unfolded, pig roast Chef George Messina and a crew of family members tended to roasting meat and a tantalizing aroma swept across the field. Tickets for a late afternoon dinner were sold throughout the day; as plates emptied and tummies filled, DJ “Moose” asked for a review of the Messina family cooking skills. Long, strong applause echoed over the fairgrounds.

After a brief respite, DJs Bob and Nancy Clermont of Starstruck

George Messina and Messina family members volunteered their time to prepare a pig roast dinner.
Entertainment returned music to the fairgrounds and drew audience members into a rousing version of “Name That Tune.” As the sun set and the glow of illuminated colored necklaces appeared like so many fireflies, more dancers took to the stage and the mood was “shake, rattle, and roll” until a 9:30 p.m. fireworks display signaled the fair’s conclusion.

But don’t despair if the event wasn’t on the family agenda this year; plans for the 13th annual Pownal Community Fair are already on the drawing board.

A multi-photograph Pownal Community Fair slideshow will be posted at during the upcoming week.

Susan Bush can be reached via e-mail at or by calling 802-823-9367.

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