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By Sarah Shemkus

If you’re going to the Topsfield Fair, we know you’re going to check out the giant pumpkins (last year’s winner topped 2,100 pounds!) and probably take a whirl on a ride or two. But then what? With so many offerings and events, it can be hard to decide where to spend your time, so we’ve rounded up ten of our favorites to get you started. 

1Stop and smell the flowers: The flower show is a perennial favorite among fair-goers, with landscaped gardens, floral arrangements, and meticulously shaped bonsai exciting the senses. Exhibitors install displays the morning of opening day and then replace them midweek, so the beauty never dims. “Everything looks as fresh on the last day as it does on the first,” says fair general manager Jim O’Brien. 

2. Sample the cuisine:Fair food is perhaps best known for highlighting food that is deep-fried, served on a stick, or both. And yes, bacon on a stick and fried pickles will be available. But Topsfield’s vendors go far beyond those narrow limits, so come with an empty stomach and snack on apple pie, chicken parmesan, vegetable tempura, smoothies, turkey legs, and more. 

3Catch a buzz: For an unexpectedly fascinating time, visit the beekeeping building. Observe active hives and try to spot the queen, make your own beeswax candle, and sample and buy some locally made honey. 

4Cuddle something fluffy: There is no one so cool that they don’t melt when confronted with a downy baby chick, the silken fur of an angora rabbit, or the wobbly legs of a new lamb. So embrace the aww and visit the poultry house, rabbit displays, and farmyard for your chance to gawk at some of the cutest creatures out there – if you’re lucky, you may even snag a snuggle. 

5Get cooking: The fair’s demonstration kitchen is in constant use, so swing by to smell the fresh apple pie during judging time, learning how to get started with home canning, or buy a freshly baked loaf of raisin or oatmeal bread.

6. Horse around: Draft horses are known for their size and strength, but their events at the fair bring out another side of these impressive animals. Find a spot in the packed house to watch the beautifully turned out draft horses display their elegance, precision, and grandeur. “It’s great energy and it’s a lot of really beautiful horses,” says Lisa Kriz, one of the co-chairs of the draft horse department. 

7Pig out: Adorable and feisty, the fair’s two sows and numerous piglets are among the most popular animals at the event. With a little planning you can also catch the popular swine races (they compete for an Oreo) and swimming pigs, which perform regularly throughout the week. 

8Rock out: Musically inclined visitors will want to catch a show or two during the fair’s run. On October 9, Tommy James and the Shondells will be performing hits like Mony, Monyand I Think We’re Alone Now. Three days later, see founding members of Creedence Clearwater Revival do some of that band’s biggest hits under the name Creedence Clearwater Revisited. And throughout the 10 days, there will be plenty of other musicians taking to the stage to get your feet moving. 

9Cowboy up: The Massachusetts-based New England Rodeo lets us northerners get a chance to watch professional bull riders and barrel racers compete. Experience cowboy thrills close to home. 

10Appreciate some art (and crafts): Over 300 amateur and professional artists display their paintings, drawings, and photography at the fair. Browse their work, watch live demonstrations by area artists, and maybe even buy a piece for your home. Also check out the hand-sewn quilts, intricate knitting, woodworking and more in the crafts displays. 

Come one, come all
The Topsfield Fair takes care to make the fair accessible to anyone who wants to enjoy the event, O’Brien said. This year, a sensory room will be available to let attendees on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities relax away from the noises and lights of the fair, and on the first Monday of the run rides will be run for several hours without music or flashing lights. A nursing room will be available for breastfeeding mothers. Fair staff and volunteers are trained to assist any guests dealing with dementia, and wheelchairs are available on premises. 

October 4 through 14. For tickets and pricing, visit topsfieldfair.org.