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October 9, 2012

Smiling past a rainy fair in Topsfield

TOPSFIELD — The unlucky numbers at the Topsfield Fair this year were seven and 11. It rained for seven of 11 days, shrinking attendance by an estimated 30 percent over last year with income likely to be off by 40 percent.

Even so, general manager James O’Brien was upbeat yesterday as the fair’s final Monday drew crowds so large it was difficult to walk down the midway.

“There are so many wonderful people who come,” he said. “Every day’s a good day.”

And it was difficult to find a discouraging word from fairgoers or staff.

“It’s been good,” said William Leavitt, who sells maple syrup harvested by his family business, Leavitt Family Maple of Sunapee, N.H. “This weekend, we’re going to end a decent fair. ... When all is said and done, we’ll be satisfied.”

Leavitt has had a booth at the fair for 10 years. He’ll take time explaining to the curious how the maple syrup is harvested and why the process is so labor-intensive. For that matter, if you think gasoline is expensive, a half-gallon container of Leavitt’s maple syrup goes for $27. He sold nearly two dozen of those this year and lots of smaller containers.

He also did a good business in cotton candy made with maple syrup for $4 a bag.

The fair was packed with a variety of attractions, from farm animals to the Ferris wheel to homemade ice cream. When he looks out, O’Brien said, “I see mothers with strollers.” There are kids, and there are people in their 90s and everyone in between. Even the demolition derby had a 16-year-old driver — “It’s legal,” stressed Ron Cummins of JM Productions, the organizer — as well as drivers in their 60s.

Jeff Bucknam of Lynn was a participant in the derby at the arena yesterday afternoon. He purchased a $300 car to do it in. At most, he could win a trophy or a $700 prize for winning the figure-eight race. He expects to get a few dollars from a junkyard when he sells whatever is left of his car.

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