NORTH STONINGTON — Ever seen a costumed goat race?
You can Thursday evening at the North Stonington Agricultural Fair, which opens for four days of farm-flavored fun at the fairgrounds on Wyassup Road.
Goat racing and an artificial milking cow are two of the new additions to the annual fair, which continues daily through Sunday.
Resident Mac Gray first encountered goat racing more than 40 years ago in Pennsylvania. This year, he decided to bring the quirky contest to Connecticut.
“This is the first time in New England, that I know of, and I go back quite awhile,” Gray said Tuesday.
“It’s never been done in this area,” fair president Mike Riley said.
And the artificial cow is a new interactive exhibit to let kids experience milking a cow, which Riley said many children and even adults might have never done.
The plywood cow produces a “milk” mix of water and soybean milk for the demonstration.
But nobody will mistake this faux bovine for the real thing.
“The udder is square,” fair volunteer Nancy Weissmuller said.
“It’s not quite what we expected,” Riley added. But it’ll be just a few feet away from the real cows in the barn, he said.
Animal showings, tractor pulls, baking and quilting contests and a ham and bean dinner are just a few of the other activities that give the fair its down-home feel. There will be live musical entertainment daily as well.
The success of the fair is due in large part to volunteers who give their time and skills each year, like the small group that came from New London by taxi on Tuesday to help with setup. But it’s getting harder to find people willing to help, especially young people.
“It’s hard. Sad to say it, but the younger group wants to make money,” Riley said.
And that means that the regular organizers have to do more even as they get older.
“A lot of us have been here for years,” Riley said. He started in the 1970s. Longtime fair electrician Paul Ames is constantly helping solve problems and fix things, Riley said.
“He does more than he’s supposed to. He’s from town and wants to be part of the fair,” Riley said.
Weissmuller has been volunteering since the days when the Grange and the town’s fire company ran the fair exclusively, and there were no outside vendors. She sold tickets for visitors to use at the food booths.
“It was many years before we got any outside vendors,” she said.
It’s been a busy year preparing for the fair. Major upgrades were made to aging water lines, Riley said. The fair is also trying to appeal to younger people with small children.
“We’re also starting a baby care center, for nursing and with a changing station,” he said.