By Will Broaddus Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — The Topsfield Fair is entering its last weekend, but offers plenty of fun things to do through Monday. Here are three suggestions:
It wouldn’t be a country fair without country music, and Kentucky native John Michael Montgomery will bring the sounds of Nashville to the Topsfield Fair’s grandstand tonight at 7 p.m.
Montgomery has had more than 30 singles on Billboard’s country charts, including two No. 1 hits, and his performance will be simulcast at the Trianon Stage.
Other major acts to perform this weekend include pop rockers Hot Chelle Rae, who will share their party anthems and love songs Saturday at 6 p.m., at a ticketed show in the arena.
A ticket will also be required to hear young singer Bridgit Mendler in the arena at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Audiences may recognize Mendler from the show “Good Luck Charlie” on the Disney Channel. Her first studio album, “Hello, My Name Is...,” is due out later this month.
Vocalizations of an entirely different sort will be heard in the Essex County Farmyard, Saturday at 11 a.m., at the cock-crowing and hen-flying contest.
The rooster who crows the most times in half an hour is the winner, said Ed White, superintendent of the fair’s poultry department.
“The judges try to get them to crow by talking to them, crowing at them — you name it, they do it,” White said.
Around 15 roosters compete, and White has heard some crow as many as 50 times, while others wouldn’t even open their beaks.
“Some get stage fright,” he said. “Some crow the whole time. The public loves it.”
Hens also need encouragement to get started in their contest.
“We throw them up in the air and see how far they’ll fly,” White said.
Commercially raised hens will flap up into trees at night, to get away from predators, White said. But they don’t fly much, because they’re too heavy. Ten feet is a typical flight distance at the contest, although occasionally there’s a surprise.
“Sometimes a bird just kind of flies away,” White said. “I hope it doesn’t go into somebody’s fryer.”
Climbing for cash
Some people try to climb the ladder of success. Others would rather climb the Money Pole at the Topsfield Fair.
“It’s about a 20-foot, stainless-steel pole,” said Doug Gillespie, at the Essex County Farmyard. “We get about 10 to 15 volunteers to come out and see if they can climb to the top of the pole, and they win a $10 bill.”
There is no age limit for the contest, which will be held Saturday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Monday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“We do everything from 3- to 4-year-old kids to senior citizens,” Gillespie said. “Usually little kids have the best success. For their body size, their legs are stronger.”
The pole is not greased, but last week’s rain still made it hard to grip.
“If it’s wet, it’s impossible to climb,” Gillespie said. “If you can grip the pole with arms and legs and keep pushing up, that’s the technique that works.”
The cash pot has been sweetened by a vendor who is offering the winners $20 gift certificates for turkey sandwiches, Gillespie said.
“It’s like a rite of passage,” he said. “Kids have been coming back for 10 years, hoping to prove they can still do it.”