December 10, 2018
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Maine man, former pro bull-riding champ, launches ‘Extreme Country Fair’

File | Portsmouth Herald
File | Portsmouth Herald
Bull rider Chris Freeland of Arundel is thrown from the animal during the Extreme Country Stampede Tour rodeo in York in 2011 in this Portsmouth Herald file photo. The organizer of that event, Kenny Churchill, has planned the Extreme Country Fair to take place in Epping, New Hampshire, starting Thursday afternoon.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Kenny Churchill will see his dream come to fruition. He has organized and put together the first Seacoast Extreme Country Fair.

The fair, which will take place Thursday-through-Sunday at the New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, will have a variety of entertainment and events.

Churchill hopes the event will be held annually going forward.

“We want it to grow like the Calgary Stampede,” he said. “Hopefully, in the future we can get it to be a two-week fair with even more shows and amusement rides. There’s great room for expansion.”

The York resident, a former professional bull-riding champion, has spent a large part of his time organizing the event and trying to make it different than a traditional country fair.

“My style is looking to do things that other fairs aren’t doing,” he said. “I want to do my own fair like Fryeburg, but on a different level.”

The fair will have traditional events such as a rodeo, draft horse pulls, bull riding, local band performances and barrel racing. As for the “extreme” part of the fair, Churchill said it will also have a robotic competition, freestyle motocross events, monster truck rides, chuckwagon racing and other events fairgoers can participate in.

“People from outside can come in and compete, instead of just going to the fair and watching,” Churchill said. “They can participate rather than spectate.”

Fairgoers can compete in cornhole tournaments, mechanical bull riding and line dancing competitions. The winners of certain events can win monetary prizes or a custom-made golden buckle, Churchill said.

File | Portsmouth Herald
File | Portsmouth Herald
Kenny Churchill adjusts his daughter's hat before the opening ceremony of the Extreme Country Stampede Tour rodeo in York in this 2011 Portsmouth Herald file photo. Churchill is launching the Extreme Country Fair Thursday in Epping, Hampshire.

Churchill, who grew up in Boston, spent the majority of his life around bull riding and the rodeo. Watching his dad ride bulls inspired him to follow in his footsteps. After leaving Northeastern University early to pursue a professional bull-riding career, Churchill went on to win world championships in 1996 and 1997. “I put my hockey and college dreams behind to chase a dream and goals I really wanted,” Churchill said.

Churchill said organizing the bull riding World Cup in 1999 originally inspired him to bring a large fair to the Seacoast. “When we put the World Cup together, I was reaching out to Brazilians, Guatemalans and people from all different cultures. That’s what really made me want to bring something like that to the Seacoast area,” Churchill said.

Churchill has lived in York for years and feels the Seacoast is a great place for what he is trying to accomplish. “The Seacoast corridor is one of the best places for economics,” he said.

It took Churchill nearly 15 years to find what he feels is the perfect location for this event. What was once a dream of doing a fair like this began to turn into a reality after spotting New England Dragway. “I would drive by the dragway when I had to bring my kids to soccer, and I saw how big it was and immediately got excited,” he said.

One of the biggest worries about planning such a large event is Mother Nature. “We have to pray for good weather,” he said. “I’ve been out there in pouring rain announcing these events when there’s 20 people in the crowd, but I have to act like there’s 10,000 because those 20 people paid to have a good time and are here to see a great event.”

If it does rain during the fair, Churchill said, “The show must go on.”

The majority of the funding came from Churchill, while some came from sponsors and vendors, he said. “We’re also taking a lot of the money and giving it back to the American Legion to help out the veterans,” he said.

Certain items from the fair, like cornhole boards used in the tournament will be raffled off and the proceeds will be donated to charities.

The Seacoast Extreme Country Fair will take place from 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For information on tickets and more, visit seacoastextremecountryfair.com.

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