The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

From July to October, almost every weekend offers a New Hampshire fair

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STRATHAM, N.H. - The heaviest baby contest and "girlie shows" are gone, but New Hampshire's traditional summer and fall fairs live on.

With just two exceptions, there's a fair somewhere in New Hampshire every weekend between now and Columbus Day. In between the leadoff Stratham fair, which run through Sunday, and the Sandwich Fair in October, there are nine more scheduled, covering every weekend except the last full weekend in August and the first weekend in October.

Most of the fairs offer a mix of agriculture, animals, and amusement park rides and concession stands, along with live entertainment.

Now in its 47th year, the Stratham Fair started with a lobster bake and some horse pulling to celebrate the town's 250th anniversary. That makes it one of the younger fairs — Rochester's fair dates back 139 years to 1875, and the Deerfield Fair started in 1876.

The Lancaster Fair grew out of an agricultural society that began holding horse races in the 1870s, but it didn't take hold until 1902. By 1916, attendance had grown to more than 5,000, prompting directors to consider building a subway-like tunnel under the racetrack to the infield to accommodate the foot traffic, according to the fair's website.

In the 1930s, "girlie shows" became a staple of Lancaster Fair entertainment, along with a milkmaids milking contest. In 1955, a fire destroyed numerous horse sheds and a grandstand the day before the fair opened, but the animals were rescued and the fair went on as scheduled.

According to its website, the Sandwich Fair was started in 1886 by farmers who hoped it would become an annual market day where they could trade and sell cattle. By 1888, organizers had added flower and plant exhibits, as well as contests for the prettiest, heaviest and best dressed babies. News reports at the time noted regretfully that the prizes were won by Moultonborough, not Sandwich, babies. There was very little drunkenness, and "all of those drunk were from out of town," the website states.

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