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North Stonington — Crowds of people kicked off the fair season here on Thursday afternoon, leaning over fences to watch tractor pulls and dog shows, crowding vendors to buy funnel cakes and chocolate-covered bananas, waiting in line to ride on the Ferris wheel.
But in a deserted corner of the fairgrounds, away from the roaring engines and mooing cows, 13-year-old Carson had found what he seemed to consider the best part of the North Stonington Agricultural Fair: his friend's goats.
"They're like dogs in the way they act," said Carson, who was eager to teach passersby about goat behavior. "The only thing different is they don't eat dog food."
Carson, who declined to give his last name, lives in an area of Stonington that he called "a kid ghost land." He seemed content to avoid the bright flashing lights of the carnival rides and spend his time with the goats instead.
He let the smallest goat - which he said was named Intel - chew on his orange Minecraft shirt and green wristband as he sat on the fence.
"He's my buddy," he said affectionately.
While Carson and Intel enjoyed their solitude, the atmosphere at the cattle stable and wash station nearby couldn't have been more different.
Serious-looking teenage girls led cattle to and from their stalls and cleaned out manure. Young adults from different farm families got to know one another as they lounged next to hay bales with soda and cigarettes. Children of families visiting the fair peered at the cows and played on the pile of wood chips nearby.
"We always have a blast here," said Carrie Kenyon of Richmond, R.I.'s Meadowburg Farm. She said she's been showing her cattle at the fair, and more recently has been joined by her daughter, 14, and son, 2.
Her 2-year-old - R.J. Ken yon, clad in a John Deere shirt - isn't old enough to help tend to the animals, but he entertained himself with a toy tractor while his family was at work. He didn't seem to mind the myriad of legs - human and animal - that swarmed around him as he sat near the entrance to the stables.
In another farm family, a slightly older child was hard at work: Molly Perkins, 4, sprayed down a cow named Apple and scrubbed him clean while her mother dealt with other matters.
"They live for this," said mother Megan Perkins of Molly and her three older sisters, ages 5, 7 and 9.
The family attended last year and the girls, excited, even set up a countdown to track the number of days left until the fair - during which the family joins other farmers in spending the night on the fairgrounds in their campers and tents.
But the opening evening of the fair, which is in its 50th year, attracted more than just farmers and their friends: as evening fell, the area around the carnival rides became overrun by teenagers gossiping, giggling, flirting, and, of course, texting.
Hannah Welch, 13, and Donny Devino, 14 - both of North Stonington - were even on "sort of a date." They held hands and sprawled out on the grass with friends, gazing at the rides silhouetted in the summer sunset.
"I'm going to go on all the rides," declared Welch, kicking off her flip-flops and smiling.