If you ignore the modern cars and the modern clothes, Vinland Fair in Baldwin City might make you forget what year it is, at least for a few hours.
The fair was founded in 1907 and lacks the mechanical games and noisy rides of larger fairs. This helps make it feel more like a community celebration than a carnival blowing though town might, and that’s how its patrons like it.
“My grandparents took me here when I was a kid, and I competed in a lot of the same events the kids are doing today,” said Charles Hill, 76.
Hill sat watching the horseshoe-pitching training, where youngsters and adults could get tips form veteran pitchers. Sitting in the shade, listening to the ring of shoes striking the metal stake got Hill thinking about his father, who had pitched competitively in the 1930s and ’40s.
“Every little town had a team in those days,” Hill said. “Baldwin would pitch against Ottawa,” and his father would travel around the region on weekends, competing in tournaments.
Hill, who was the Eudora School District Superintendent in the 1960s and ’70s, held up a pair of horseshoes inscribed “1926,” the year his father, Earl Hill, won them at the Vinland Fair.
Hill recalled the area had been home to several legendary horseshoe pitchers back in his father’s day, such as Roland Kraft of Lecompton, who lost use of his arm to polio but went on to win seven state horseshoe pitching championships.
“Unfortunately, my dad never could teach me to pitch as well as him,” Hill said. “So I thought I’d come here and see if I could pick up some tips.”
Another horseshoe enthusiast, Ken Martin, 78, instructed curious children in the art of the horseshoe pitch. Martin has been pitching at Vinland Fair for 20 years and is a member of the Lawrence Horseshoe Club.
The club gives him the opportunity to pitch every week, and the fair gives him the opportunity to pass his interest along to younger generations.
“Enjoy yourself. It’s a fun game,” Martin said.
Near the homemade slices of pie and T-shirts for sale stood a display of scarecrows, guarding the historic Exhibition Building. This year’s scarecrows included likenesses of a Jayhawk, a Viking warrior and a cat.
Each entry will get a ribbon to honor its maker’s contribution to the fair, said scarecrow supervisor Robin Miller.
Fifty yards away, children showed off their farm skills, from sawing logs to husking corn. As a spectator, half the fun is taking in the comments coming from the crowd.
After 8-year-old Gracelyn Hinderliter won the corn husking contest for her age group, one of the judges joked that she should put her talents to good use.
“I have a whole field of that,” he said looking in her bucket of corn. “You want to come work for me?”
Though there will be some bona fide competition, such as the antique tractor pull tonight, the Thursday events were low-key, with friends and parents cheering each other on.
Eleven-year-old Jerree Miller participated in two-man log sawing, and said it was similar to an event he had done in 4-H.
“It was pretty easy at first, but it gets hard when you get down to the bottom,” Jerree said.
Brandon Newell, 10, took the extra challenge of sawing two logs in a row with two different friends.
“He’ll be tired tonight,” a woman in the crowd said after Brandon sawed his second log.
Afterward, Brandon retired to the stands, huffing and puffing. He said he had taken on the second log out of friendship.
“He didn’t have a partner, so I said I’d help him out,” Brandon said
Vinland Fair runs through Saturday and takes place at 1736 N. 700 Road in Baldwin City. Parking and admission are free. For a complete list of events, visit vinlandfair.wordpress.com.