By Jack Minch
LANCASTER -- Moo went the cow.
Baa baa, said the sheep.
A rooster in a shoulder-high cage crowed as thousands of visitors from around the state visited the 131st Bolton Fair at the Lancaster Fairgrounds on Saturday.
"It's an old-fashioned agricultural fair," said Rose Darden, president of Bolton Fair Inc. "We try to keep it less commercial and a fair value."
Vendors sold sausage, pizza, sodas and, of course, fried dough while carnival workers called out, enticing visitors to play their games.
Darden was ecstatic with the pleasant New England summer day.
Last year's fair was a rain-soaked affair that kept crowds down and caused financial problems.
A 7-year-old boy named Uilleam Harper, of Lancaster, heard about the financial woes from his father, Stephen Harper, and gave back the $211 he earned in prize money last year for showing his pigs, Chocolate and Applesauce, and his cow, Mr. Magoo.
"We had to borrow money to start this year's fair and he handed me his check and said he doesn't want the Bolton Fair to go away," Darden said.
Uilleam is a second-grader at Mary Rowlandson Elementary School.
"He's a great kid, we're proud of him," said his father Stephen Harper, whose daughter Olivia, 7, was also at the fair.
This year's fair includes sheep, chickens, pigs and cows, said Linda Crabtree, the animal-show director.
Fran Meyers, of Littleton, has been displaying her knitted hats, mittens, socks and sweaters since the fair relocated from Bolton.
It is the only fair at which she sells her wares.
"I think it's a fun time," Meyers said.
Masood Ashraf, of Fitchburg, took his wife, Hafsa Ashraf, and their children, Rumana, 13, Maryam, 10, and Haroon, 8, to the fair for the first time to see the animals.
"That's the biggest attraction for us, not the rides," Ashraf said. "We've already done Canobie Lake Park."
That's not to say the family wasn't planing to enjoy some fried dough and other carnival specialties.
Sharon and Mike Basteri, of Lancaster take their children Lauren, 9, and 7-year-old twins, Michael and Matthew, every year.
Lauren said she enjoyed the animals but thought the chickens were cool.
"They were fat," she said.
Bruce and Karen Shepard, of Fitchburg, strolled down the midway soaking in the sights, sounds and the sun.
The newlyweds, who were married New Year's Eve at the Fitchburg Fire Department fire station, weren't taking any spins on the carnival rides but did enjoy some Italian sausage from a vendor and volunteer to be bone marrow donors.
"It's entertainment, not the rides," Karen Shepard said.
Jon Weaver and his girlfriend, Krista Duchnowski, both of Clinton, watched Belgian draft horses pulling 3,400 pounds of cement blocks.
"It's really incredible to see the strength of the horses," Duchnowski said.
Shawn and Lynne O'Neil, of Bolton, attend the fair yearly for the horse and oxen pulls, show birds, art exhibits and fiddling demonstrations.
"The range of talent, it's just entertaining," Shawn O'Neil said.
Dave Anderson, of Bridgewater, was at the fair with his grandchildren Ben Geezil, 7, and Connor Geezil, 12, showing their chickens.
The preparation work is the fun part, Anderson said.
"I think raising the birds, putting them in condition for show," he said.
Kim Boge, of Hudson has gone to the fair each of the last three years with her husband and children Dylan, 41/2, and Peter, 2, to have some fun feeding cows and watching pig races
"It took them a little bit to warm up to the animals," Boge said. "They are tired but they like it."
Liz Ellsworth and her husband Andrew Brownlee, of Stow, took their daughter Hannah, 11/2, for the first time.
"It's nice to see there's something like this that's local to us," Ellsworth said.
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