, Salem, MA

September 21, 2012

Fair's first weekend offers plenty to do

By Will Broaddus
Staff Writer

---- — The Topsfield Fair starts next Friday, bringing agricultural exhibits, good food, fun rides, first class entertainment and exciting events to the fairgrounds on Route 1 for the 194th year.

Among the new and old things to see, hear and do on the fair’s first weekend, here are three suggestions:

Marine Corps Band

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Topsfield Fair, the United States Marine Band will bring its stirring musical traditions to the fairground’s Trianon Stage starting Sunday at 7 p.m.

Their appearance marks a meeting of two great traditions: the country’s oldest fair and the band, which was established by an act of Congress in 1798 and is the country’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization.

The Marine Band’s repertoire includes patriotic tunes and precision military marches, and their audiences often include the nation’s chief executive.

They have been known as “The President’s Own” band since performing for John Adams at The White House in 1801.

They continue to play the executive mansion on a regular basis, at state dinners and special occasions.

A few weeks after performing for Adams, the band played at the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, and has played at the inauguration of every president since.

The band will also play at the Trianon Stage at 2 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1, and at 7 p.m. in the Grandstand. On Tuesday, Oct. 2, it will appear at both 2 and 7 p.m. in the Grandstand.

Dock Dogs

Dock Dogs are dogs doing what comes naturally — leaping off the end of a dock to retrieve something from the water.

If you think your dog has what it takes to compete in one of several categories, online preregistration, which is discounted, ends Sept. 23.

Dogs will be judged for different sets of skills, including how far they can jump and how high, as well as how quickly they can retrieve an object from the water.

The competition is held in a specially prepared pool in the Grandstand on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the opening weekend.

To preregister, visit Owners may also register their dogs at the fairgrounds.

Horse Pulling

Both speed and power will be on display at the horse pulling events, which start in the arena on Sunday at 11 a.m. and continue there throughout the day.

These competitions feature teams of horses pulling sleds, known as “stone boats,” filled with loads that weigh 4,000 pounds to start.

Weight is added in increments in each round. Teams must pull the stone boats at least 12 feet — which judges measure with a pole — to qualify for the next round.

Teams are classed by size, which begins at 3,400 pounds per pair of horses, with between 10 and 15 teams competing in each of six classes.

Speed translates into power as the horses try to budge their increasingly heavy loads. Handlers try to give them an edge by leading their horses into an angle, called a “cut,” that will allow them to swing the load and get it moving.

A device called an evener distributes the weight into the teams’ harnesses. As soon as they hear its metal ring drop onto a hook on the stone boat, they start to pull.

If you go What: 194th Topsfield Fair When: Friday, Sept. 28, to Monday, Oct. 8; opening day, 1 to 11 p.m.; daily 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Where: Topsfield Fairgrounds, 207 Boston St., Route 1, Topsfield Information: Tickets on weekends, holidays and Oct. 5, $15; weekday tickets, Sept. 28 and Oct. 1 to 4, $11. Children under 8 with an adult free at all times. Parking $10. Call 978-887-5000 or visit