The Hippo


Aug 24, 2019








Courtesy photo.

49th annual Stratham Fair

When: Thursday, July 21, through Sunday, July 24. Fairgrounds open from 3 to 10 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Where: Stratham Hill Park, 270 Portsmouth Ave.
Cost: Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and seniors over 65, and free for children under 6. All fairgoers will only need to pay $3 admission on Thursday, the 300th anniversary celebration day.

Fun for the ages
Stratham celebrates 300 years during country fair

By Matt Ingersoll

 As the Stratham Fair returns for its 49th year, the town itself will be celebrating an even bigger anniversary — its 300th year since settling.

The fair, taking place Thursday, July 21, through Sunday, July 24, is widely recognized as one of the oldest traditional country fairs in New England. It started way back in 1966 as a small party to celebrate the town’s then-250th anniversary, with a chicken barbecue and a lobster bake as the main attractions. After the success of that party, the town decided to host a full-blown fair and held its first official one the next year, in 1967.
The families of the original fair founders are still involved nearly 50 years later with those old favorites — the barbecue and lobster bake — but the fair has evolved into an event that attracts more than 20,000 people each year and is filled with live entertainment, local vendors, 4-H agricultural exhibits, games and more.
A special 300th-anniversary play called “Inspired by the Past” will be featured at this year’s fair from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night, following the opening ceremony, and will showcase what the first fair was like. 
New this year will be mountain bike stunt shows from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. 
A 4-H exhibit with an animal parade and animal shows throughout the weekend will be open during the fair, in addition to all the traditional carnival rides.
“The idea behind 4-H is that these are kids who raise these animals to show, so these are animals that are groomed and fed appropriately,” Entertainment Coordinator Vicky Poland said. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for kids who may not have grown up in an agricultural environment to learn about farm animals, and it’s also a great way for our community to pay homage back to those roots.”
Another favorite among the kids, Poland said, is the pig scramble. Kids get one “scramble” a day, in which they put their name in a lottery to get to be in the pen with baby pigs. If they are successful in catching a pig, then they get to take it home.
Live music and entertainment will be featured every day on two separate stages. Poland said the smaller Front Porch Stage will feature ongoing sets from local musicians all day. The Main Stage will have music acts and several events that are new to the fair this year.
Friday’s headliners will be the Seacoast-based classic rock band Rosie at 6 p.m. and the Bon Jovi tribute band Livin’ on a Bad Name at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday is “Country Day” on the Main Stage and will feature a country line dancing clinic at 4 p.m. by Michelle Jackson and the DanceFunatics before The Darren Bessette Band, a country and rock cover band, performs a set at 5 p.m. 
The fair will close with a fireworks show on Sunday night.
Caren Gallagher, the fair’s director of vendors and concessions, said food and craft vendors both new and old are expected to set up shop each day throughout the fair.
“I have a handful of vendors that are local people, either doing some arts and crafts or [who] have their own local businesses in food,” Gallagher said. “I have your typical home improvement vendor. I also have a guy who depicts a shoemaker from the early times. He and his family are actually coming up to do some shoemaking and farming demonstrations, to show what they were like when the town was first founded.”
Gallagher said one of the new vendors this year is a local fudge-making business owner.
“He actually just moved into town, and he’ll be offering fudge from his own startup business,” she said. “He figured it would be a good way to get to know people and that he would try it out.”
For the third straight year on Sunday, businesses and vendors based in New Hampshire will arrive for NH Made Day. Some of the local vendors that will be included are Better Than Average of Barrington, a company that makes jellies and jam from Moxie soda, and Heidi Jo’s Jerky of Derry, which sells locally made jerkies and sausages.
Poland said an old fair favorite coming to this year’s event once again is Josh Landry, a professional chainsaw carver from Massachusetts.
“He is incredible,” she said. “You can visit his stand anytime and he can carve you special custom-made things.”
The Stratham Fair is the annual fundraiser for Stratham’s volunteer fire department, Poland said. She said it’s become a good fundraising opportunity for other local organizations as well.
Tickets can be purchased either any day of the event or online at Free parking is available onsite at Stratham Hill Park (270 Portsmouth Ave.). Dogs are not allowed on the fairgrounds unless they are service dogs. 

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