Pumpkins, pastries and piggy protests at 142nd annual Deerfield Fair

William Wallace, 12, left, and his 8-year-old brother Mark Wallace of Deerfield pose with Steve Geddes' record-smashing 2,528-pound pumpkin.

DEERFIELD - On the heels of a rain-soaked week, the crisp autumn air and clear blue skies arrived just in time for this weekend's 142nd Deerfield Fair.

Billing itself as "New England's oldest fair," the Deerfield Fair will draw thousands of attendees to the town's historic fairgrounds over the weekend to take in the sights, sounds and flavors of the New Hampshire harvest season.

Sarah Yates, 30, of Portsmouth, said she's been to the fair every single year since she was a baby. The fair food, she said, is a big part of what keeps her coming back year after year.

"Sam, Joe, & Ed's steak and cheese, chicken kabobs, apple cider doughnuts - oh, Mylanta - so yummy," Yates said of her favorite fare to have at the fair. "I worked out at the gym every day so I could come to the fair and eat. But other than that, tractors old and new, four-wheelers and snowmobiles are what I need to see."

Drawing major headlines at this year's fair was Steve Geddes of Boscawen, who took first prize in the fair's annual Super Pumpkin/Squash Weigh Off. His 2,528-pound pumpkin also holds the record for the largest pumpkin ever grown in North America.

Geddes, a retired state worker and member of the New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, says he's not a farmer, but merely enjoys growing the plus-size gourds as a hobby.

"You don't have enough time to grow big ones if you're a commercial pumpkin farmer," Geddes said. "It's generally the hobbyists that grow the biggest ones and the big goal is always, can I grow bigger than I did last year?"

But not all of the fair's attendees were in such great spirits.

Lined up along Cotton Road at the main entrance on Saturday were about 15 people who came out to protest the fair's annual pig scramble - a common county fair practice where children have just a few minutes to wrangle a pig by the hind legs and stuff it into a burlap sack.

Those who successfully catch a pig are allowed to take it home free of charge to do as they see fit.

Kristina Snyder of Chester, who organized the protest, described the practice as "unnecessary and cruel."

"Our point is you can be a very successful fair if you don't have these events," Snyder said. "They're baby animals. They're scared and can get hurt. The kids aren't learning farming; most of the time they're not even keeping the pigs anyway. So, what are the pig scrambles for?"

Deerfield Fair officials could not be reached for comment.