Fair celebrates 200 years with human cannonball, hot dog eating contest

TOPSFIELD — Topsfield Fair General Manager James O’Brien said he, his staff and the board of the Essex Agricultural Society spent three years planning the 200th anniversary of the nation’s oldest fair.

The result: A human cannonball on Arena Road, a fireworks spectacular sponsored by Eastern Bank on the fair’s first Saturday night, and some free concerts: one by “Born to Fly” country singer Sara Evans, The Charlie Daniels Band with its wild fiddle ride of the “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and Chubby Checker doing the twist.

“The first thing people ask me is Chubby Checker dead?” joked O’Brien during a press preview of the fair in Coolidge Hall on Wednesday. “No, he’s not dead and he puts on a heck of a show.”

You can catch these and many new and returning events when the fair opens on Friday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. The fair’s 11-day run ends Columbus Day, Oct. 8 with a Demolition Derby in the arena.

A guide to the fair with dates and times can be found at topsfieldfair.org.

The warm, humid nights have been great pumpkin growing weather, O’Brien said, hinting that the giant pumpkin weigh-off on the fair’s first night could smash the fair’s weigh-off record of 2,075 pounds set in 2016.

O’Brien hinted that local Topsfield pumpkin grower Woody Lancaster has a cucurbit in his patch the size of a Volkswagen, but O’Brien also said Lancaster, who won last year’s weigh-off with a 2003.5-pounder was not saying how heavy his pumpkin might weigh.

For country music fans, there’s a paid concert in the arena on Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. featuring Country Music Association’s “Female Vocalist of the Year” Martina McBride. General admission to the concert is $30, and pit tickets are selling for $35. Concert tickets are in addition to fair admission.

Also back in the arena for shows from Sept. 30 to Oct. 5 is the fan favorite of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride.

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