NORTH HAVEN — The 71st annual North Haven Fair opened Thursday night at 5 p.m.
Just inside the gates, dozens of fair-goers perched in a picnic grove while munching on standard carnival fare, as well as international offerings from Greek and Thai food vendors, as they listened to dinner music provided by DJ John Bimonte of Double J. Sound. Bimonte, who grew up in North Haven, said he has been donating his time to the event for the past three years because he wants to give back to his community.
Beyond the picnic tables, gaggles of teenage girls clustered around each other’s cell phones, giggling and texting. Groups of boys observed the girls intently, while they leaned against concession trailers or congregated around stands where they showed off their prowess at games requiring them to hit targets with balls, rings, darts, and toy guns, among other items.
Parents waited indulgently along railings at the exits of nearby fair rides or took photos as they watched their kids twirl, spin and flip, or experience gentler motion, in the case of smaller children. And wide-eyed tots in strollers held on tightly to prizes won for them by family members or nibbled happily on fair treats.
Jessica Butler, 27, of Hamden, said she and her young daughter Andrea attend the fair every year. Butler said she came to the fair as a child, and she wants to expose her daughter to the tradition.
Andrea’s favorite activities are “looking at the animals, petting them, and riding the rides,” Jessica said.
Andrea corrected her mother. “Actually, it’s everything,” she said.
The fair features plenty of interesting animals for Andrea and other kids to enjoy. Elephant, camel, and pony rides are offered in a fenced-in enclosure on one section of the grounds.
However, zoo and circus animals are not the only novelty creatures featured at the festival. Ticket vendor Ashley Gentile proffered the chance to look inside a gated stall and witness a 1,000 pound hog, which she said was the largest pig ever to be displayed at a fair.
Fewer than 50 yards away, a racing track with obstacles was constructed where pig and duck races will be held daily.
Converted warehouses housed more traditional animals, such as those typically found on farms or in petting zoos.
Other modified warehouses accommodated vendors selling clothing, beauty products, home services, and novelty items.
Ray Dzwill, 66, of Clinton, who was also a Record-Journal pressman in the 1960s and ‘70s, sat in the bleacher area by the stage that will host most of the fair’s scheduled entertainers, accompanied by friends George and Rhonda Kevalas of North Haven. Dzwill said he came to support the couple, who enter multiple fair competitions annually, including vegetable, sketch, and wood burning contests.
Fair president Martha Vincent said many talented acts will appear on the fair stage over the course of the four-day event, including a Friday performance from Johnny Cash tribute band Cash is King, a Saturday show by up and coming country star Tyler Farr, and a Sunday exhibition by Northeast Wrestling.
She also highlighted The Famous Wallendas, a trapeze troupe which will perform several times a day in an arena across the grounds.
Vincent said the fair will offer special deals Sunday, such as $5 admission for seniors and a $22 all-ages identification bracelet which allows the wearer to go on an unlimited amount of rides.
Vincent encouraged area residents to come out during the weekend and support the community event, which makes for “a fun day for a family,” she said.
“There’s plenty to eat, plenty to see, and plenty to do,” she added.
The North Haven Fair is located at the North Haven Fairgrounds on Washington Avenue. The fair will continue today from 3 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
More information, including a schedule of events, is available at www.northhaven-fair.com.