A mix of old and new at 102nd Hopkinton State Fair

  • Dave Ward of Hopkinton and his granddaughter Molly Nyhan, 12, of Concord visit the goats at the Hopkinton State Fair in Contoocook on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, during “Townie Night,” a special pre-opening for local residents. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Laura Sheehy from Loudon unloads the family pigs with her husband, Josh, at the Hopkinton Fairgrounds on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The fair runs Sept. 1-4. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Logan Shone works on setting up the roller coaster at the Hopkinton Fairgrounds on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The Webster Church food booth volunteers work on opening their stand at the Hopkinton Fair on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Justine Geer of Warner sets up her Hay Maze at the Hopkinton Fairgrounds on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The fair runs through Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Staff and wire reports
Thursday, August 31, 2017

This year’s Hopkinton State Fair offers a lineup of classic agricultural shows, with new entertainment and rides to boost attendance.

The fair kicked off Thursday with “Townie Night,” when gates open only to Hopkinton residents, a tradition that gets rave reviews from the locals who host the event every year.

Dave Ward of Hopkinton said he’s been coming to the fair for 10 years, often with family.

“I think it’s great. We come every year. I mostly like the animals,” he said, noting the dog show and rabbit hut.

His granddaughter Molly Nyhan, 12, of Concord came along for her first fair. She like the bunnies, too.

“I wish I could just take all the animals home,” she said.

The fair has filled its barn space for beef cattle and dairy and has a big 4-H representation, fair board Treasurer Bob Allen said. In some years, there hasn’t been as much participation due to declines in the industry, but that’s not the case this time, he said.

“We’re really pleased that people are regrouping and coming back,” Allen said.

The 102nd fair will feature a grandstand show on Labor Day by Recycled Percussion, the New Hampshire-formed band that’s assisted residents on its television show, Chaos and Kindness. A number of country music, folk and blues acts will perform as well.

There also will be comedians; hypnotists; a truck and tractor pull; a demolition derby; horse and dog shows; and educational exhibits on maple syrup, wildlife and farming in the past.

There will be three new rides, including a roller coaster called the Cyclone and a spinning ride called Vertigo that includes a 110-foot tower and gives riders a view of the fairgrounds, said Gene Dean, CEO of Fiesta Shows.

“Just don’t eat right before you get on there,” he said.

And of course, there will be lots of food, including a new “BBQ Saloon.”

The fair, which runs through Labor Day for the general public, had been held for five days in years past; it changed its schedule to four days in 2015 to save money. Even with that change, attendance has held steady at about 70,000 people each year.

The cost for a day pass is between $8 and $12 depending on age, or $19 to $29 for a weekend pass. Admittance to Recycled Percussion, the demolition derby and amusement rides costs extra.

Turning a profit hasn’t always been easy for the state’s fairs, but organizers say interest and attendance is rebounding.

The fair brought in $915,140 in revenue in 2015, $907,061 in 2014 and $845,038 in 2013, according to financial documents. Meanwhile, expenses were $967,461, $863,392 and $997,088 for the same time frame.