By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- email@example.com
STEPHENSON -- According to Kenny Gentry, getting a hay bale to go the distance comes down to one thing.
"Muscle," said Gentry, whose 23-foot throw earned him the win in the hay bale throwing contest's men's division. The contest was one of several events that helped close out the week-long Frederick County Fair on Saturday evening.
Gentry, of Cross Junction, has been throwing bales for about 20 years, and he said it's not something a person picks up overnight.
"It takes time and practice," he said, and breaking the bale's strings is a common mistake.
Jeff Moulden, of Clearbook, opened the contest's men's division. Moulden, who has been participating in the fair for more than 30 years, said he and his wife, Becky, were helping out with the contest.
The participants were divided into three divisions -- men, women and children. Mrs. Moulden said the participants would be judged on the distance and accuracy of their throws.
When it comes to throwing the bales, "it's more technique than anything else," Moulden said.
"It's an acquired skill," he said. "Brute force just doesn't work."
"You can actually tell which boys have been on the farm and tossing hay bales up on the wagon," Mrs. Moulden said.
Moulden, who owns a farm with his parents, said he and his wife were on vacation during fair week. The community atmosphere keeps then coming back year after year, he said, and their children have participated in various fair events.
"The whole week you're here it's just like a big family group," he said. "All the kids know each other."
Sandra McDonald, of Winchester, said her son, Dustin, was competing in the throwing contest. Though the bales "can be pretty heavy," her son, who's 22, has been throwing them since he was about 10 years old, she said.
McDonald said she has some experience throwing them, too.
"We've loaded up a trailer or two," she said, but throwing technique isn't often a concern. "We just have to, any way we can, get them in the barn on the farm."
Shelley Dudley, of Winchester, said she and her daughter, Grace, 5, were both participating in the event.
"I've never thrown a bale of hay, so I don't know what to do," Dudley said. Though she's lived in the area her whole life and come to the fair every year, "I didn't even know they did this," she said.
The rides keep her family coming back to the fair every year, she said.
"The kids love riding the rides," she said.
Savannah McKee, 10, won the children's division. McKee, who is Miss Pre-Teen Frederick County this year, said she and the other children didn't throw a whole bale of hay.
"It was kind of heavy, but it wasn't that heavy," she said.
Brenda Schrank, of Winchester, took top honors in the women's division. Schrank said she threw bales when she was "very little" growing up in Wisconsin, but she hasn't done it for a long time.
Schrank said she entered because her children dared her to participate in the contest. This is the family's second year at the fair, she said, but their first time participating in some of its events.
"We just came out to have some fun," she said.