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Take the Pig Home: A History of Prizes at the Haddam Neck Fair

Submitted by Elizabeth Malloy, Executive Director, Haddam Historical Society

(August 20, 2022) —The 110th Haddam Neck Fair will be held over Labor Day Weekend from September 2 to September 5, 2022. Over the past century townsfolk have entered everything from baked goods, chickens, flowers, cows, oxen, horses and even children (the baby contest). In the early 20th century, residents could enter everything from cottage cheese to their finest piece of tatting. There was a prize for the best collection of antiques and you could enter and show your “tame” raccoon, skunk or ferret.

Most entries received a cash prize and ribbon as they do today, but there have been some unusual premiums over the years. The 1914 fair sponsored a pig contest which consisted of contestants having to chase a greased pig let loose on the fairgrounds.  If you caught the pig, it was yours to take home.

In 1918, the youngest pair of steers won a gallon of Cow Ease (seen above) valued at $1.25; the best heifer, not in milk, won a flashlight, and the best registered cow was awarded a quart of carriage varnish. One of the most practical prizes was for the best- grade cow which won “one bull service by herd sire.”

Special Premiums in the past included a roll of roofing paper for best sow and litter and one aluminum sauce pan for the best exhibit of baked goods. A pair of shoes was the prize for “finest piece of hand sewing,” and a raincoat, valued at $8, for the most exhibits entered.

By the late 1940’s, prizes included “a furnished home, car, and radio.” Smaller contest awards were blankets, candy, dolls and a grocery basket. In the 1950’s you could win a bag of sugar or can of beans in a Fair contest. Today most prizes are limited to ribbons, trophies and cash, but last year the skillet throwing contest winners were awarded a large, medium and small skillet for first, second and third place.

I have a drawer full of my Haddam Neck Fair ribbons, including my 1973 first place blue ribbon for my corn husk doll collection, and my recent 10th place ribbon for skillet throwing.

This year the Haddam Historical Society is sponsoring a baking contest of Soft Gingerbread (page 40 of the Fair book). First place will be two tickets to our Fall House Tour on October 8, 2022 valued at $70, along with a nice ribbon. Visit www.haddamneckfair.com for additional information.

Photos provided by Haddam Historical Society

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