, Salem, MA

September 6, 2013

New offerings, old favorites at Topsfield Fair

By Bethany Bray

---- — TOPSFIELD — The Topsfield Fair’s slogan this year is “Make time for a great time.”

And a great time it will be, with a jam-packed schedule that boasts familiar favorites, like the giant pumpkin weigh-off and draft horse pull, to new items, including a monster truck show and weekday concert by Beverly native and “American Idol” finalist Angie Miller.

And, of course, there will be the beekeeping, vegetable, rabbits, cattle, poultry and other agricultural barns the fair is known for, as well as 100 food booths.

The fair — said to be America’s oldest continually operating county fair — will open Oct. 4 and run through Columbus Day, Oct. 14.

“We have a great program. The only thing we can’t control is the weather,” said fair President Frank DiLuna at yesterday’s press preview for the 2013 fair. “We’re hoping for 11 days of sunshine.”

Last year, it rained for eight days during the fair, and attendance was low: 380,000 visitors. Usually the fair draws between 450,000 to 500,000 people, said James O’Brien, the fair’s general manager.

Fair management has adopted a number of extra security measures for this year’s fair, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings in April. O’Brien said they’ve been working with local police to create an extensive security plan.

Fair-goers will see extra police on the fairgrounds, and every bag and parcel that comes into the fair will be opened and searched. Bomb-sniffing dogs will check the entire property before the gates open at 1 p.m. on Oct. 4.

The extra security measures are “proactive” and not in response to any specific threat, O’Brien said.

“We do want people to realize that at all times this fair will be safe,” he said. “We feel we have a good system that won’t slow lines down (at the gates) ... We want people to feel comfortable.”

People can bring in everything they’re used to bringing, such as bags and coolers, O’Brien stressed, but the items will be searched.

“We’re trying to do this in the most reasonable way,” he said.

Satellite parking lots, with shuttle buses to and from the fairgrounds, will again be set up at Masconomet High School and North Shore Community College.

There will be a fireworks display on Friday night, Oct. 4, and the grand parade through Topsfield will step off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Two concerts will be held on Oct. 12 that require an extra ticket beyond fair admission: English singer-songwriter and rapper Cher Loyd and Coco Jones, star of the Disney Channels “Let It Shine.”

Angie Miller will perform as part of a weekday lineup of free concerts that includes the Ipswich-based band The Fools, crooner Bobby Vinton, pop singer Britt Nicole and “X Factor” winner Tate Stevens.

Also on the schedule are a baking contest; oxen, horse and tractor pulls; a rodeo; demolition derby; monster truck show; dock-dogs jumping contest; Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show; daily live music and a slate of other events.

This is the first year the fair has adopted a slogan, which was selected in a contest this spring. The fair received more than 400 entries, which were narrowed down to five finalists. Online voters selected Beverly resident Julia Lawrence’s submission, “Make time for a great time,” as winner.

Another new feature this year is a signature dessert: the Topsfield Fair Berry Parfait. The treat, created by Mann Orchards in Methuen, is a mix of berries, a flaky crust and whipped cream — made in a cup so it’s portable as you stroll the fairgrounds.

“There’s been a lot of tastings going on,” said DiLuna, chuckling.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.


When: Oct. 4 through Oct. 14, Opening parade through Topsfield Oct. 5, 9 a.m.

Where: 207 Boston St./Route 1, Topsfield

How: Tickets on sale now

More: For full schedule and details, see


1818: founding of Essex Agricultural Society, the nonprofit that runs the fair

450,000 to 500,000: visitors on an average year

380,000: visitors last year, when it rained for eight days

180: security personnel trained for this year’s fair

700: fair volunteers

400: paid fair employees

80: people signed up to show 4H cattle

100: food booths on the fairgrounds

400: entries in this spring’s contest to pick a 2013 fair slogan (winner was “Make time for a great time,” written by Julia Lawrence of Beverly)

$27,000: amount in scholarships the Essex Agricultural Society gave out to Essex County students last year

$275: cost of lifetime membership in the Essex Agricultural Society, which grants you free admission to the fair for life