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Frozen T-Shirt Contest is highlight of second day of Jefferson County Fair

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WATERTOWN — Fairgoers experienced an unusual way to keep cool Wednesday at the Jefferson County Fair: “iced tee.”

The Frozen T-Shirt Contest kicked off the second day of the fair, which runs through Sunday. Billed as the oldest continuously operating fair in America, it is celebrating its 197th anniversary this summer.

The two dozen competitors faced the challenge of thawing a shirt that had been frozen into a ball of ice. Barbara E. Harter, one of the judges, outlined a few simple rules before the event began:

“They can use anything around them,” she said. “To win, the shirt has to come over your head and arms, like a normal shirt would.”

Although Mrs. Harter made it sound easy, untangling the frozen T-shirts proved challenging for all competitors.

“We’ve had them frozen for a week and a half,” Mrs. Harter said. “They are rock solid.”

Judging the contest is one of Mrs. Harter’s many duties this year. She is honorary director for the entire fair, and she also serves on the fair’s Special Events Committee. She has been volunteering at the Jefferson County Fair for more than 20 years.

The contest took place in the Fuccillo Entertainment Area of the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, surrounded by concession stands, carnival rides and a variety of vendor and sponsor tents.

Participants were divided into three divisions based on age. First to the stage were children ages 9 to 12, followed by 13- to 17-year-olds and lastly adults age 18 and older.

In preparation for the contest, participants developed a variety of strategies.

“Throw it on the ground,” said 7-year-old Haley R. Carrier. “Because ice can break on the ground.”

Haley is the daughter of Sonja and Jason Carrier, of Watertown. She was permitted to compete in the 9 to 12 age group, and won second place.

Logan M. Way, 12, used a different approach to thaw his shirt. Logan is the son of Shannon Weller and James Way, of Gouverneur.

“Stick it next to your body,” he said. “Your body heat warms it.”

Logan took first place in his age group, winning coupons for free rides and a voucher for a free milk at the dairy tent.

Tami L. Petrus, Watertown, competed in the adult division after she watched her two sons, Ethan, 8, and Joseph, 10, take their turns in the contest.

“It’s not easy,” Mrs. Petrus said. “The shirts are frozen into balls, and you have to find a loose point to pull on.”

At the end of all three rounds of competition, only one participant — from the adult division — had managed to don his shirt before time ran out.

While giving away some spare shirts after the event, Wayne A. Harris, chairman of the Special Events Committee, joked about how solid the shirts turned out this year.

“This year it seemed to be a bit too hard,” he said. “Next year maybe we will try freezing them for only three days.”

However, all in attendance were entertained, something that made Mr. Harris happy.

“We’re a pretty close-knit family here at the fair,” he said. “We all work together as a team.”

Special events like the Frozen T-Shirt Contest will continue on a daily basis for the extent of the fair. For a complete daily fair schedule, visit

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