Ox Teamster’s Challenge

2011 Ox Teamster's Challenge

2011 Ox Teamster’s Challenge: Still Going Strong

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2011 really tested our metal. All day there was tension among the Crew, the Oxen, the Teamsters and the Crowd. Why? Hurricane Irene was ever so slowly worming her way up the east coast, leaving havoc in her wake. She was aimed directly at New England and the Cummington Fair. By Saturday (which is known as OX DAY) Irene was so close that the air was deadly calm and the sky an unhealthy yellow-green. All the fair animals were restless, as was the overflow crowd, many of whom were tuned to hand-held technology for updates on Irene’s progress.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 2000

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 2000

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In this Cummington Fair event teamsters must work alone with their team, load an unruly log onto a wood-shod sled and then take the loaded sled through an obstacle course, watching out for tennis balls on pylons. Competitors start with 100 points and lose points for mistakes. Some are eliminated by the judge for reasons such as: tipping the sled over or team unable to load the log or move sled. This is a timed contest which often decides the winner.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 2001

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 2001

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As the teams perform there is quite naturally a lot of tension and the polite crowd is quiet. In between there is plenty of good humor, laughter and very good sportsmanship. With so many contestants the Challenge takes all afternoon as each team is allowed 10 minutes to load the miserable log onto a wood-shod sled and take it through the ornery obstacles.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 2002

Ox Teamsters’ Challenge 2002

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At the country fairs this year there were serious signs of patriotism. Cummington Fair in Massachusetts was no exception with flags & banners proudly displayed. There was also a new kind of challenge for the Ox Teamsters Challenge – inclement weather! For the first time in eight years, the Challenge day was rainy and 50 degrees. Three weeks earlier the local fairs enjoyed (?) 100 degrees. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later considering the Law-of-Averages or even Murphy’s Law.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 18th Year

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 18th Year

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When a pair of calves is carefully chosen to become an Ox Team they should be housed together, fed and watered together, yolked together, and exercised together from the get-go. There are as many training methods as there are teamsters. Like children, love and patience produce the best results. A willing team is a joy to work with for many years.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 19th Year

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 19th Year

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Oxen are all from the Bovine species which includes Cattle, Buffalo and Kudus. On hand for the 19th Ox Teamster’s Challenge last August were eight different Bovine breeds of cattle: Brown Swiss, Belgium Blue, Chianina, Devon, Holstein, Milking Shorthorn, Normande, and Randall. This turned out to be our best show so far, with enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable surprises.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 20th Year

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 20th Year

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In 2014 the Cummington Challenge celebrated 20 years of entertaining spellbound spectators while, at the same time, educating everyone about the beauty and intelligence of oxen. In these 20 years upwards of 150 different teamsters have participated in this ever-changing obstacle course with their well-trained teams of various bovine breeds. They were judged and timed and their efforts were always applauded. The SRO audiences were treated to interesting, often comical, stories about each teamster and his/her team. Several bovine beauties were celebrities in documentaries. In all these years there have been only six different winners as some have won as many as six times!

Ox Teamster's Challenge 21st Year

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 21st Year

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Surely it was a banner Challenge. The eager SRO crowd was treated to some bovine beauties guided carefully with voice commands. All the teamsters used the traditional twisted Hickory stick made by a respected teamster of yore, Art Hine, and given to the Challenge by Art’s son Nathan. Ten teamsters took home their share of the rosette ribbons and generous premiums provided by the fair officials. It was a long afternoon filled with patience, surprises and good humor.