SANDWICH – For the past 57 of the 125 years of the Sandwich Fair, Jon Baudino has set up his table of handmade wooden toys on the same corner.
His familiar spot has seen a lot of changes as more vendors are added and new families experience the festival, but the same family-friendly atmosphere that drew him to Sandwich is what has him hoping he comes back for a 58th time next September.
“I just love this fair,” Baudino said. “I just wish I was younger so I keep going.”
Baudino and his fellow vendors packed up Sunday night as the Sandwich Fair wrapped up another successful year, said John Hallaron, superintendent of concessions and displays. Even after 125 years, the fair is growing and attracting large crowds, including a 70,000-plus crowd Saturday, Hallaron said.
Hallaron said the fair featured more than 350 vendors, about 30 of which were new – a testament to the success vendors have found year after year. He said many of those businesses – such as Silver Dollar Bakery, which had a huge line of people Sunday looking for one last treat – have become a staple for fairgoers.
“We’re at our boundaries,” Hallaron said of the explosion of vendors over the years. “It has expanded tremendously, and it is just my job to continue to it.”
Jo Aleene Miranda, who runs the El Cheapo Grande’s Trading Post, said the family atmosphere is what attracts many vendors. Miranda said she used to go to more than 40 events a year, but Sandwich is the only fair that has remained on her must-attend list.
“A lot of fairs have gone by the wayside because of drinking and loud music,” she said. “They held on to their identity here. They make it like a family reunion, and not a lot of fairs can make that claim.”
The Sandwich Fair tradition has been passed down generations in families such as Debbie Suiter’s, which is one reason Suiter said the fair has reached the 125-year milestone.
Suiter, who was with her daughter Sunday, said she takes the week off of work every year for the fair and would take her children out of school on the first day for a meal at Fay’s.
Similar traditions exist in Angela Farley’s family, who was helping park cars Sunday. Farley said she has attended the fair 14 years in a row; her husband has gone most of his life.
“It’s kind of cool to see the train he rode on when he was a kid is the same train our kids now ride on,” she said.
Even those who have stopped making annual visits still feel the pull. Barbara Wales said it had been 15 years since her last visit, but the trip Sunday reminded her of what made the event so special.
“I just like seeing all the exhibits and bumping into people I haven’t seen in awhile,” she said. “And it’s fun to eat your way around the fair, too.”
After 125 years, Hallaron does not expect it to slow down. Like Baudino, Hallaron could not help but think about the changes that have taken place since he started at the fair in 1972.
“It just continues to put Sandwich on the map,” he said.