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SKOWHEGAN FAIR: Horse-pulling events highlight state fair's offerings

SKOWHEGAN -- Horse pulling is regarded as one of the mainstays of the Skowhegan State Fair, this year celebrating its 190th season.

On Wednesday, the R.A. Berry Memorial Horse Pull was held in memory of Robert A. Berry, well-known horseman who pulled draft horses at the fair starting in about 1960, according to Stephen Frederick, pulling superintendent and assistant livestock superintendent for 37 years.

Frederick, who manages all pulling events, including tractor, oxen and horses, said Berry's son, Ed Berry, has taken over for his father.

"He had been going with his father since he was six years old," Frederick said. "Ed's son, Robert III, is actually doing the teamster part."

Robert Berry III said it was nice to see the pull dedicated to his grandfather.

"Horse pulling was what he lived for," he said.

Frederick said the pull named in Berry's honor acknowledges his dedication to the sport.

"He worked in the woods and no matter what, he would take time off to go to the fair. It was his vacation, " Frederick said.

Frederick said several long-time draft horse pullers have events named after them, including the Shorty Dyke Memorial Pull, the Pud Porter Memorial Pull and Earl Padham Memorial Pull.

"We appreciate everyone that comes," Frederick said. "They put on a good show. A lady was here today affiliated with the Humane Society and the Pulling Commission and said how good it is here. Some people are confused. They think the horses are abused. They are not being abused; this is what they were bred for."

Meanwhile, Melvin Blaisdell, vice president of the fair association, said rainy weather on the first couple of the days of the fair had hampered turnout at the fair overall.

"But they're coming back," he said Wednesday. "We had a pretty good crowd last night. There were probably 1,500 people at the stunt show. And the weather is supposed to be good the rest of the week."

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