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September 27, 2013

Dive right into fair's opening week events

This is the 195th year that the Topsfield Fair has hosted agricultural contests, musical entertainment and dozens of food booths at the fairgrounds on Route 1A.

Here are three events visitors might want to check out in the fair’s opening week.

World Champion High Dive Show

Dana Kunze won’t set any world records at the fair for diving from a great height.

He already broke that record seven times, and he set it in 1983 by diving from a platform 172 feet in the air at Sea World in San Diego.

High dives only count if you can walk away from them, under your own power, Kunze said. If they take you out on a stretcher, it doesn’t count.

His record hasn’t been broken in 30 years.

But Kunze will climb to a platform and set himself on fire at the Topsfield Fair, before diving into a pool that is 10 feet deep and holds 50,000 gallons of water.

“He is wearing a pure cotton outfit, with no fire retardant material at all,” Kunze said. “We put a cape that has been soaked in high-test gas on his back.

“He climbs the tower to a 10-meter level, and he’ll stand there and burn for 15 or 20 seconds, before diving off the tower to extinguish himself.”

Kunze first described this diver in the third person, but later revealed that he will be quenching flames in person at the Topsfield Fair.

“I started diving when I was 13,” he said. “I’m 52. I’ve done this dive probably over 10,000 times in my lifetime.”

Kunze was a regular competitor in cliff-diving competitions at Acapulco that “ABC Wide World of Sports” used to broadcast regularly in the 1970s.

He also performed his record-setting dive live on ABC, and it has received close to 13 million views since it was posted on YouTube around five years ago.

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