The sound of banjos and chainsaws mixed with the sweet smell of cinnamon sugar-covered fried dough and warm apple crisp have returned to the Deerfield Fairgrounds.

The 144th annual Deerfield Fair opened Thursday after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the popular four-day event billed as New England’s oldest “family fair” last year.

The fair draws visitors from across New England and beyond, and after last year’s hiatus, organizers say they’re expecting an even bigger turnout than the crowd of 122,000 in 2019.

“The attendance is very high. I know when I did the opening ceremony this morning, in the four years I’ve been president it’s probably the largest group gathering that I’ve seen at an opening ceremony,” said Donald Wyman, president of the Deerfield Fair Association.

Wyman said reaction to last year’s cancelation was mixed.

“Some people were very angry that we didn’t have it. Some people were happy that we didn’t have it. Like everything else, it’s hard to keep track of what everybody wants, but we had to do what we felt was safest for everybody,” he said.

An addition this year that will be welcome news to fairgoers is the opening of another restroom near the sheep barn built a few years ago.

The fair offers something for everyone, from the popular horse-pulling competition and farm animal shows to fruit and vegetable exhibits and amusement rides.

And, of course, there’s the food.

That’s something Amanda Knowles of Somersworth and her family always looks forward to and they’re hardly alone.

She starts with breakfast, moves on to a foot-long hot dog, and then enjoys an ice cream.

She said the fair is a family tradition, and while she missed it last year, she noted one positive.

“It helped me keep five pounds off. That was one benefit,” she joked.

Her son, Sammy, 9, prefers pizza and fries. He and his 4-year-old sister, Abbie, enjoy seeing all the animals.

“I’m going to chase a pig someday,” he said as he ran around outside the swine barn.

Portsmouth resident Rachel Gould attended last week’s Granite State Fair, formerly known as the Rochester Fair, and came to Deerfield on opening day.

“I love the fair. I’ve always loved it,” she said.

She visited with her daughter and 2-year-old grandson, Owen, who had a pony ride and planned to hit the amusement rides.

Like many others, Gould missed attending the fair last year.

“I missed so much last year. Everybody did,” she said.

Photo by Jason Schreiber

Lisa Gasperini of Seabrook attended the Deerfield Fair for the first time this year.

She usually attends the Topsfield Fair, but this year she decided to visit Deerfield and the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Maine, as well.

Gasperini said she loves spending time with the animals.

“I grew up on a farm,” she said as she petted a sheep’s head in the sheep barn.

The fair will run through Sunday. For more information, click here.

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