Ledyard fair opens for 72nd season

Sisters Sophie Chandler, right, 12, and Natalie Pacheco, 9, of Groton ride the Rock Star during the opening night of the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Sisters Sophie Chandler, right, 12, and Natalie Pacheco, 9, of Groton ride the Rock Star during the opening night of the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Ledyard — After a tumultuous six months for the town's signature agricultural fair, it turned out to be just another season — with more to come — as the fair opened Friday evening for its 72nd year.

Despite worries about the sustainability of the fair in the spring, fair President Loretta Kent announced during the opening ceremony Friday that the event would be back again in 2018, owing to a careful overhaul of its finances and offerings that left the organization with enough revenue to support another season.

"We pulled together to make it all happen," she said.

Down by the barn sponsored by the Ledyard High School Agriscience department, a goat obstacle course challenged the most patient children and obstinate livestock: with a small fence and hay bale to jump over, a hoop to fit all feet and hooves in and a platform to stand up on.

Cooper O'Keefe, 8, who likes goats because they are "soft and fun," tried his hand to coax Bonnie, a Nigerian dwarf goat larger than himself, through the obstacle course.

"I'm going to run as fast as I can and lead her through," he said as he was yanked backward by the goat, who reluctantly followed O'Keefe before stopping cold midway over a hay bale. Eventually, both boy and goat made it through the course, with a time of 1 minute and 17 seconds.

All of the fair's essential community events, including the animal shows, craft and cooking competitions as well as draft horse pulls and Miss Ledyard pageant, remained, Kent said.

Donations from local businesses, stricter financial controls and leadership that carefully evaluated every offering during the three-day event all helped the fair pull back into the black.

As members of Boy Scout Troop 12 in Gales Ferry raised the flag for the opening ceremony, Kent remarked that the fair will be around "as long as the community wants us."

The remaining days of the fair will include a pie-eating contest, a horseshoes tournament, as well as all of the fair's food vendors, amusement rides, agricultural attractions and bands such as Branded Country and Bon Jersey.

The fair will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

n.lynch@theday.com

Gavin Lajeunesse, 14, of Montville leads his goat Nigel over an obstacle during the goat olympics at the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Gavin Lajeunesse, 14, of Montville leads his goat Nigel over an obstacle during the goat olympics at the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Siblings Andrew, left, 6, and Liza, 8, Fake of Mystic react as he competes in the ring toss during the opening night of the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Siblings Andrew, left, 6, and Liza, 8, Fake of Mystic react as he competes in the ring toss during the opening night of the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
From left, friends Brady Moorehead, 11, Oliver O'Keefe, 5, and Mason Northrop, 6, wait to show pigs during the opening night of the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
From left, friends Brady Moorehead, 11, Oliver O'Keefe, 5, and Mason Northrop, 6, wait to show pigs during the opening night of the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Chase Beattie, 10, of North Stonington feeds the 14 rabbits he would be showing during the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Chase Beattie, 10, of North Stonington feeds the 14 rabbits he would be showing during the Ledyard Fair on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The 72nd annual event continues on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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