Children, animals are the stars

STRATHAM — Alyson Bronnenberg, who leads the Merrimack County 4-H Oxbows, watched proudly from the stands Saturday as her 11-year-old daughter Lindsay worked with two steers in the judges’ ring.

“It’s one of our qualifying events,” said Bronnenberg, who recalls doing his own performances with his sisters in 1996. “The goal is to get to the Eastern States Expo, sort of their Olympics. She’s doing pretty well.”

Saturday’s event was the Stratham 4-H Summerfest, a replacement for the Stratham Fair, which has been held for more than 50 years but has been canceled in recent years amid the coronavirus pandemic. This year, there were no traveling rides and the many other vendors that travel the fairground circuit for multi-day events. It was kind of a one-day mini-fair, focused on kids 4-H with farming and animals in Stratham Hill Park.

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Lindsay Bronnenberg of Loudon is following in her mother Alyson's 4-H footsteps during the Stratham 4-H Summerfest at Stratham Hill Park on Saturday July 16, 2022.

Bronnenberg said children who participate in the event get their pair of calves after they are born.

“They start with halter training and basic commands,” she said. “They end up yoking the animals and tying the ones for training to a wheel or a log.”

The Summerfest event also featured a dog show.

Holly Lewis, a former 4-H dog show student, now judges and guides young children working with their dogs during the Stratham 4-H Summerfest in Stratham Hill Park on Saturday July 16, 2022.

“It’s the 12-15 age group (the age of children),” said Holly Lewis, an organizer. “They are judged on showmanship, control, presentation. Their dogs have to pass obedience, as usual like sit, stay.”

Dotty Thompson, owner of Legacy Lane Farm in Stratham, donated a petting zoo with baby goats. It was very popular.

“I come to the fair every year,” Thompson said. “I like the way it is today. This is how it should be. We are here for the animals and for the children.”

Shawn Chapin, 9, from Stratham, was more than ready to try out his skills as a future farmer during the Stratham 4-H Summerfest at Stratham Hill Park on Saturday July 16, 2022.

Dan Crow, president of the Stratham Volunteer Fire Department Association, said the new event was organized with children in mind. We don’t know what will happen next year.

“There is no official decision regarding the fair,” said Allison Knabb, a member of the city’s board of directors. “This year 4-H reached out to us and it seemed like a good way to go, to have this for the kids.”

The event was free, donations were accepted. Unlike the traditional Stratham Fair, the event was not a fundraiser and donations will be used to cover costs for the day. Knabb said Summerfest is organized by the city’s police, fire and recreation departments.

Pie-eating competitors prepare to devour pies during the Stratham 4-H Summerfest at Stratham Hill Park on Saturday July 16, 2022.

4-H – which stands for head, heart, hands and health – is a program of the United States Department of Agriculture that provides young people with training in agriculture and other disciplines. 4-H is offered locally by Strafford County and the University of New Hampshire.

Robin Simard of Farmington was so taken with a kid that she is now considering having her own goats.  She had many questions for Dotty Thompson, owner of Legacy Hill Farm during the Stratham 4-H Summerfest at Stratham Hill Park on Saturday July 16, 2022.

Summerfest featured projects made by 4-H members, livestock judging, farm programs, an antique tractor show, and a pie contest.

The fire department opened its food shack, and Hodgie provided an ice cream stand.

Live music, provided by Fretbenders, and magic shows by BJ Hickman performed throughout the day.

Stratham’s first softball game between police and fire was scheduled for late afternoon to cap off the day.