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Hardwick Fair bounces back from storm; 247th annual gathering.

Byline: Donna Boynton

HARDWICK - Brent Kassavant of Spencer stood at the edges of the show tent waiting with Mud Ball, his 5-month-old calf.

"When I first saw her (at Monsons Farm in New Braintree), she came right up and started loving me right away," said Brent, a member of the Two Town Trotters. "She just looked like the perfect show cow."

Brent and the gray-brown Mud Ball stood in a field that was still soggy from the previous night's rain and wind that kicked off the 247th annual Hardwick Fair. Rains poured and tents collapsed, some tents flew to opposite ends of the Town Common, and a tree blew down, crumbling a rock wall near the Hardwick Town House.

But the fair went on yesterday. Blueberry pancakes were served in the morning rain. Crowds still flocked to the Town Common, despite the intermittent showers and downpours, to attend what is billed as the oldest town fair of its kind in the country.

"We come here every year because it's so friendly, and it's a nice family event," said Shirley Salvadore, who attended with her husband, Romeo, their five adult children and eight of their 12 grandchildren. Their sons participate in the fair each year - Robert Salvadore with a tractor-pulled wagon in the parade, and Joe Salvadore in the road race.

The Salvadore family of South Barre has been coming to the Hardwick Fair for the past decade. They watched as children came by, pulled in red Radio Flyer wagons by their parents in the children's parade, while dozens of International Harvester and John Deere tractors lined up for the antique tractor and implement parade that would follow.

Megan Raskett of Hardwick Sugar Shack has been coming to the fair since moving to town in 1989.

"It's a real sense of community here," Mrs. Raskett said. "When I first moved here, I wanted to get to know people, so I volunteered at the fair. That's a good way to get to know a lot of people, and after a while you get to know everybody."

Mrs. Raskett and her husband, Joe Raskett, have had their Hardwick Sugar Shack booth at the fair for the past 10 years, and have experienced the fair from both a volunteer and vendor point of view.

"The Hardwick Fair is unique - it is an old-time country fair. There are no rides or games," Mrs. Raskett said. "Here, kids can come for agriculture, farming, food and fun without all the expense and bright lights."

She said she has met people from as far away as New York City and California. Mrs. Raskett said the family visiting from California planned their trip home to visit relatives to coincide with the fair.

"What is amazing is how many people grew up in the area and still come back for the fair," Mrs. Raskett said.

Linda Tomasi was born, raised and still resides in Hardwick, and yesterday marked her 56th fair. Despite the years that have passed, she still gets as excited about the fair as when she was a child.

"It's still the same - it's thrilling because it is so unique," she said. "I feel like I live in a world created by Andrew Wyeth."

For the past five years, Ms. Tomasi has made and sold T-shirts for the fair.

"When I was a child, it never rained," she said, adding that Friday night she had to wash and fold more than 400 T-shirts after the deluge. "It has rained for the fair since I started selling the T-shirts. I think next year I will sell umbrellas."


CUTLINE: (1) Vats of water were provided for cows that were being shown at the Hardwick Fair during yesterday's stifling, sticky heat. (2) Ethan Watkins, 6, of Spencer, takes stock of the competition as he prepares to show his cow at the fair yesterday. (3) John Flamand of Ware competes yesterday in the chainsaw competition, in which participants cut an oak 10 by 10 for speed and precision. (4) The horse-drawn wagon was a very popular attraction at the fair yesterday.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 23, 2009
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