The Hippo


May 28, 2020








The horse pull is a tradition at the Stratham Fair. Photo courtesy of Annemarie Saunders Peck Photography.

47th Annual Stratham Fair

When: Thursday, July 17, to Sunday, July 20
Where: Stratham Hill Park, Route 33, Stratham, N.H. 
Cost: Daily admission rates are $8 for ages 13 to 64, and $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and seniors ages 65 and older. Children under 6 get in free.

A community affair
Stratham Fair a seacoast summertime tradition

By Jake DeSchuiteneer

 As it enters its 47th year, it’s safe to say that the Stratham Fair is a staple of seacoast summertime festivities. The event, which will be held from Thursday, July 17, through Sunday, July 20, is one of New England’s longest-running annual county fairs. 

The fair wasn’t always such a grand occasion, however. John Hutton, owner of Coppal House Farm in Lee, N.H., and long-time organizer of the fair’s horse- and oxen-pulling events, can remember the fair’s earliest years.
“The Stratham Fair basically started with a lobster bake and a horse pull,” Hutton said. “[It] had some pretty humble beginnings.”
The first Stratham Fair was held in 1966 as a community party to commemorate the town’s 250th anniversary. Nearly half a century later, the party hasn’t stopped.
“[The community] had such a good time that they decided they were going to do this every year,” said Vicky Avery, one of the fair’s directors.  
Hutton’s family has been a part of the fair since its early years. His father started the fair’s horse-pulling competitions, and Hutton took over his role in the 1980s, he said. He has been in charge of the events ever since.
“It’s tradition for me,” Hutton said. “This is the fair we helped start, and we’re a part of.” 
Since 1966, the fair has grown into something much larger — a full-blown festival with live musical entertainment, local food and beer, carnival rides and more. 
According to Avery, the Stratham volunteer firefighters have played a key role in the fair since it started. In its first year, the fair featured a firemen’s muster, she said, and since then the fire department has been an integral part of getting the fair up and running each year. It’s a process that requires a lot of hard work. Unlike other local fairs, the Stratham Fair has no true fairground. Each year, volunteers convert Stratham Hill Park for one weekend.   
“We come in the week before and transform that park into a fairgrounds, which requires a big group of volunteers,” Avery said. “All the volunteers are either fire department members or supporters.”
The fair’s long-standing relationship with the Stratham community’s firefighters goes beyond working together to run the fair, however, as proceeds benefit the fire department. 
“It’s a real community based event, and it’s one we’re all doing for the same purpose — to raise money for the firemen,” Avery said. “The entrance fee is 100 percent toward the goal of raising funds for the fire department.” 
Once the grounds are set up and the fair is open for visitors, there will be a wealth of entertainment on hand. In addition to the more traditional fair activities, the event will also feature non-stop musical entertainment between two stages. Throughout the day on Friday, various rock musicians will take to the main stage, culminating with a performance by notable Manchester, N.H., singer Josh Logan — now well-known for his appearance on The Voice — at 8 p.m. Saturday is WOKQ Country Day on the main stage, and country singer Ryan Brooks Kelly will entertain with a performance at 8 p.m. that night.    
“The one thing that I would go to the fair for is the entertainment,” Avery said. “We have tremendous entertainment.” 
In addition to the headlining acts on the fair’s main stage, the “front porch stage” will feature performances from over 20 musical acts throughout the fair’s four-day run. 
Another major attraction is the annual Miss Stratham Fair pageant, which is slated to take place on Thursday at 7 p.m. on the main stage. This year, the brand new Miss Outstanding Teen Pageant for participants ages 13 to 16 has been added to this year’s list of events as well.
“It is a longtime tradition. … We’ve been doing this for decades,” Avery said. “The pageant is an opportunity for college-bound young women to get money to pay for college. We award over $3,000 in scholarships.”  
Despite the modern attractions, Avery said traditional events like horse-pulling are still a big draw as well. Hutton said his pulling events are tradition.  
“I see people now that we used to judge their grandfathers. It goes generation to generation,” Hutton said.  
As seen in the July 17, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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