Back in Time at Markham Fair, Power and Majesty
Owing to the covid-19 pandemic, Markham Fair, like so many other events, was canceled for 2020. We thought it fitting, then, to look back in time at Markham Fair as we have experienced it with our family over the past 40 years.
One of the first displays encountered by visitors to the Markham Fair was a collection of antique farm equipment and other machinery common on farms years ago.
Given that fairs were always a place for farming families to congregate, display their wares and gain recognition for their efforts, highlighting the means by which they accomplished that was very fitting.
The display was a great opportunity for people of all ages to discover unusual and out-of-date methods of tilling the land and bringing in the harvest.
It was an intriguing area with saws buzzing, motors revving, and machinery clinking and buzzing.
For anyone who grew up on a farm, it was an opportunity to travel down memory lane with a hands-on look at some of the equipment.
Volunteers were on hand to demonstrate how the machines worked.
Because a lot of the machines had moving parts, the volunteers had to maintain and troubleshoot any problems that might arise with the old technology.
The volunteers were in their element answering lots of questions from the onlookers.
Markham Fair was also a place for owners to display their prized animals as they vied for top prize in the show ring. A lot of effort went into prepping the animals for their debut.
Our family enjoyed watching the extent to which animals were groomed for their moment in the ring.
Before a panel of judges, the livestock would be paraded around the arena as the judges rated specific aspects of the animals on show.
Cattle were brought in from local farms and those not so close to Markham.
And finally the moment they had all been waiting for, the awarding of the ribbons.
For several hours each year, Bob and I with our family would take in every aspect of Markham Fair.
When our children were young and even not so young, they always enjoyed a few Midway rides sometimes even convincing Bob and me to go for a spin…literally.
More often than not, we were on the sidelines taking photos to tuck away for future reference.
The Markham Fair was known for its exhibits in the Homecraft and General Exhibits Buildings, and we eventually contributed to several of the competitions that were held. One of my favorites was the Antiques and Collectibles. It was amazing to see what treasures some people had kept from the past, and even I was able to take home a few red ribbons.
By the time dinner rolled around, we would all be exhausted. With food in hand, we often would head to the Livestock Barn to secure a place in the stands for the 7 o’clock Heavy Horse Pull.
The Heavy Horse Pull featured teams of Clydesdale, Percheron or Belgian horses. Teamsters would have the horses immaculately groomed and turned out in their finest rigging.
Horse pulling is a draft horse competition where horses in harness, usually one or two animals, try to pull a stone-boat or weighted sled a distance set by the administrators.
There were two parts to the competition, the light weight pull and the heavy weight pull. A horse was only allowed to participate in one class or the other.
A teamster was allowed to have up to two helpers, and two attempts were allowed for each pull.
While a team was engaged in pulling the stone-boat, the judges asked for absolute silence from the audience and teams in waiting.
Despite the stands being filled to capacity, you could hear a pin drop. The tension was palpable as everyone silently urged on their favorite team. We came to recognize certain teamsters from one year to the next.
The course was well marked with chalk lines that were refreshed after each pull, and if any horse were to step outside the lines, that team would be disqualified. The winner was the team or animal that could pull the most weight the furthest.
During those years that Bob participated in the Old Tyme Fiddling Contest, we had to pass on the Heavy Horse Pull since both events ran simultaneously. In every case, the Markham Fair would culminate with a bang as fireworks were set off even as the horses strained and the strains of fiddle music still emanated from the huge entertainment tent. It was always a blast!
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