The show goes on at the North Stonington Agricultural Fair
North Stonington ― Even when the power goes out North Stonington, the tractors still pull and the pigs still race.
After an electrical issue forced the 57th edition of the North Stonington Agricultural Fair to close early on Thursday ― the fair’s opening night ― President Mike Riley had the fair’s gates open for its scheduled 4 p.m. start time Friday evening.
“We’re trying to be safe with everybody,” Riley said, who is in his 23rd year as president. “That’s all.”
Electricity fed from the outside to the fairgrounds was shut down, though some rides were running on generators. Fair officials were waiting on a large generator to arrive at some point Friday night, Riley said, as well as Eversource crews to return after they had to tend to another call.
Though some parts of the fair had a delayed opening due to the lack of power, such as the baked potato stand, other events like Rosaire’s Royal Racing pigs were on as scheduled. Five pigs race at a time over the course of three heats of races. The most enthusiastic fans from the crowds were randomly selected to cheer on one of the five pigs.
Genny Beeney from Mystic was fortunate to have her pig, No. 4 Sizzling Sausage, take home the gold. Beeney was awarded a “gold” medal, a checkered flag and a “poopy piggy key chain” for her efforts.
“A lot of years I’ve come to this fair,” said the 19-year-old, who brought her boyfriend along for his first time.
Though Beeney said she missed the horse pulls on Thursday night, her favorite event, she settled for the pig races and tractor pulls.
That’s where Phillip Rioux took center stage. After being born and raised on a farm, the 26-year-old from Cromwell said he’s been competing in tractor pulls since he was 14 years old. Friday night was Rioux’s 12th pull of the year already, as he competes in other fairs like Berlin’s, and he was not afraid to go first.
“Absolutely. I’ve been pulling with this circuit for the last eight years. I know everyone here,” Rioux said. “I’m not afraid to jump out and see what it’s about.”
Rioux’s modified Oliver 77 tractor pulled 3,500 pounds of moving weight 81.42 feet on his first go. Since he was the first competitor, he was allowed to pull again and registered 90.59 feet, but was immediately out-pulled by the next competitor.
“Being around this crowd,” Rioux said, was his favorite part of competing. “It’s the same people. Everyone helps each other.”
The cattle farmer from Swamp Oak Farm said he can add weight to his tractor via brackets he attaches to the back. Though they don’t serve any practical use for farmwork, they allow Rioux to compete in heavier weight events.
Riley said the fair tries to bring in new attractions each year. For 2022, organizers brought in a new iteration of pig racing, as well as ax throwing.
Friday night showcased a dairy cattle show ahead of the tractor pulls. A magician was roaming the grounds to entertain guests before they took in the pony and miniature horse pulls. A Tom Petty tribute band took the stage for shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. before the Pawcatuck River Dog Demo. The night concluded with a hay bale toss.
With food vendor offerings ranging from fried Oreos and gyros to Southern barbecue, curly fries and Thai food, there are plenty of options for everyone.
Beeney said she was going for the fried dough, while Kim Gouvin and her grade-school-aged granddaughters Brynn and Cailin opted for the “World’s Best Sundaes.”
“They’re delicious,” the three said in harmony.
The fair continues through the weekend, with a full event list at northstoningtonfair.org.
Senior citizens get in for $6 on Saturday, when the gates will open at 8 a.m. Sunday is Active Military Day, when those who serve our country will be able to enter for $6 as well. Gates open at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning and parking is always free.
From 11a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, guests can purchase a $35 bracelet for unlimited access to the rides.
No matter what event or meal you show up for, Riley knows that it’s the people that matter most.
“It’s a time when you get to see people you haven’t seen for a year,” he said. “Everybody expects to see each other.”