After making plans for years to go to the Addison County Fair and Field Days (Vermont) to be part of the gathering of scythers, only to see those plans thwarted by work, this year finally the stars aligned. And I am so glad they did.
Years ago, I spoke to Lucien Paquette, who founded the fair in 1948. He also originated the fair’s hand mowing competition. During that conversation, he encouraged me to head north to Vermont and participate in the contest. Finally this month, I was able to attend, meet and see him in action, and also meet a large group of his disciples, admirers, family members and friends. All share in common two things, their admiration for him and a love for scything.
Lucien Paquette sharpening his scythe
Mr. Paquette is a sharp 100 years old, with the energy of a man of 70. We had the honor of celebrating his birthday and cheer on the historic number of participants who would test their skills at the competition. Men, women and children—around 30 in all—endured the midday, 100-degree heat, and mowed for the joy of it and to honor his legacy.
Mowers and volunteers
Every category had great and experience mowers.
The equipment also was impressive. I saw a great variety of blades, snaths and handles: old and new, American and European, and snaths straight, curved, wooden or metal. There was even a handmade anvil apparatus made by Mark Shattuck, a local welder and great mower, who also made attractive aluminum snaths. It was obvious that human creativity and imagination have no limits.
The contest is based on an individual performance rather than a group race. I found it interesting and friendly to the mower so that during the action, you didn’t have to worry about the others at your sides. Some observers like to see all mowers racing next to each other at the same time, but then the event lasts only a few minutes.
The judging system was very impressive to me.
A 25-foot bar positioned along the length of the windrow, with a measuring tape nicely (and transversely) affixed to it every 5 feet, was used to measure the width of the swath at different points along the “road.” In addition, the judges measured at several points the height of the stubble as well as the general and consistent look of the cut area. I am not used to such precision. However I like it, since it is very transparent to all.
Most of all, the Addison County Fair’s mowing contest may be the friendliest ever.
I was blown away by the welcome I received,
the openness and enthusiasm of the organizers, volunteers and participants; and the warm camaraderie among mowers, even to the point of warning a newcomer like me of obstacles and ditches that would otherwise have slowed me down. I can’t believe I haven’t participated in the contest before. And I can’t imagine missing it again.checking/graduating the angle
do you see someone patrolling the area?
Stay sharp my friends