By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — After 41 years, it has become an institution in North Andover.
The Sheep Shearing Festival will take place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Common. Besides the demonstrations of sheep shearing and herding, at least 45 crafters will be on hand to show and sell their handiwork and an ample assortment of food vendors should guarantee that no one will go hungry, according to Jeffrey Coco, co-chairman of the Festivals Committee, which organizes this event.
To enhance the farming flair of the festival, Smolak Farms will offer hay rides, Coco said.
Last year, Cowpie Bingo was introduced and proved especially popular. A total of 625 squares will be marked off on the Common and for $10 per square, daring souls can take a chance on a $1,000 grand prize, or several $100 prizes.
The Festivals Committee faced a crisis this year because Roche’s Farm, which provided the cow last year, was unable to repeat the service this weekend, according to both Coco and E.J. Foulds, coordinator of Cowpie Bingo.
Richardson’s Farm of Middleton, however, stepped up and provided a “docile” cow that will wander among the 625 squares and bring someone a huge monetary reward by relieving herself on one of them, Coco said. Foulds credited Dan Gil, a local landscaping contractor who does business as Earthworks, and Magnifico Plumbing of Middleton with arranging the bovine boost from Richardson’s.
With only a few days left until the festival, there are still Cowpie Bingo squares for sale, Foulds said. They can be purchased at the Lowell 5 Savings Bank on Thursday; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2104 on Thursday and Friday evenings; the police station Friday; in the downtown from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday; and at Butcher Boy from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
If there are any squares left after those opportunities, they’ll be on sale at the festival, Foulds said.
Festival organizers are expecting thousands of visitors, especially if the weather is as pleasant as has been forecast. Coco strongly urged people not to even try to park near the Common, where parts of the streets will be closed.
There will be plenty of parking at the nearby Franklin and North Andover Middle schools, Coco said, and a free shuttle bus will be running throughout the festival between the Common and those locations.
Coco said he expects there will be a dozen or more sheep. Andy Rice, of Hoggetts Farm, Brattleboro, Vt., will once again provide his shearing skills while David Kennard, of Wellscraft Farm in New Hampshire, will offer his herding acumen.
When the sheep arrive on the Common, Kennard, with the able assistance of his border collies, corrals them into pens. There will be alternating demonstrations of shearing and herding throughout the festival, Coco said.