Opening night in Waterford

WATERFORD – Opening Thursday night’s free rides to everyone, not just children, seemed to help the crowd swell on the opening night of the 55th annual Waterford Community Fair.

Not that having to pay $10 or $12 for an armband would have deterred 8-year-old Taylor Anderson of Barlow or her cousin, 9-year-old Cassie Reynolds of Vincent.

“They don’t care if they’re paid for or free as long as they get to ride them,” laughed Taylor’s mother, Mary Anderson.

Taylor and Cassie were yelling excitedly and bouncing up and down even after they exited the Tubs of Fun ride, where riders climb into tubs they can spin individually as the tubs themselves rotate around a central axis.

“It feels like it’s turning you upside down when you look at the floor,” Taylor said.

“It goes so fast I couldn’t even see,” added Cassie.

Community fair board Treasurer Rhonda Turner said she hadn’t gotten a chance to tally attendance Thursday night, but she could tell it was up from last year just by looking at the crowd.

“Attendance is way above normal, and that I would attribute to the free rides,” she said.

Rides have traditionally been free for children on the first night of the fair, but this year the board decided to open it to people of all ages.

“It really made a world of difference,” Turner said. “I’m anticipating this being the norm on Thursdays” going forward.

That wasn’t all that brought people out to the fair on Thursday though. There were multiple attractions for the Cunningham family of Waterford.

“My husband’s doing the tractor pull right now,” said Alana Cunningham, 29, as she escorted son Daniel away from the tent where he had just been anointed a prince in the baby contest sponsored by the Waterford High School cheerleaders.

“I sang all my song in the microphone,” Daniel proudly proclaimed when asked about his victory.

It was his first time in the competition, while his counterpart, 3-year-old Brooklyn Arnold of Beverly, was named princess for the second year in a row, extending a winning streak that began two years ago in the prettiest baby contest, said her mother, Heather.

Waterford resident Ron Drayer, 69, came to the first Waterford Community Fair and said he hasn’t missed many since.

“I’d say I went to 19 out of 20,” he said.

The fair gives him an opportunity to catch up with folks he may not have seen all year. And while he enjoys looking at tractors and other displays, Drayer said those are secondary attractions.

“It’s the people, not the fair,” he said.