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Updated: October 24, 2023

Maine agricultural fairs close out strong 2023 season

Ride at the fair Photo / Jim Neuger Passengers experience the thrill of centrifugal force on a ride at the Fryeburg Fair earlier this month.

Maine agricultural fairs, a staple of summer and early autumn that traditionally wraps up with the Fryeburg Fair, closed out a strong season for vendors, communities and fair-goers in 2023. 

"The total fair season was great," Barry Norris, the executive director of the Augusta-based Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs, told Mainebiz by phone.

While the group won't have an exact count of attendees until early November, feedback from local organizers indicates that visitor numbers were good despite a rainy summer, he said. The fair season was canceled in 2020 during the pandemic and has been in comeback mode ever since.

"After COVID people came out in droves," Norris said. "Then each year it's been getting a little better."

This year's season started with the Springfield Fair from June 12-18 and finished in Fryeburg from Oct. 1-8.

two people with cow
Photo / Jim Neuger
Sharon and Den St. Pierre of Sharonden farm in South Berwick groom Adeline, a Brown Swiss dairy cow, at the Fryeburg Fair.

Popular attractions that expanded in 2023 include Lil' Lumberjacks in Presque Isle, an interactive area where youngsters received training in how to put out fires, learned about construction from local builders and borrowed books from a treehouse library.

In Blue Hill, advertised as a "Down to Earth country fair," the Charlotte's Web exhibit was also bigger this year as Wilbur the pig was joined by other farm animals. The exhibit pays homage to the 1952 children's book written by E.B. White at his farmhouse in Brooklin, on Maine's Blue Hill peninsula.

More than farming

While mostly focused around agriculture and farming, Maine's fairs also showcase equine sports as well as local arts and crafts. Some fairs also feature unique forms of outdoor recreation including tractor pulls, pie-eating contests, axe-throwing and even manure-throwing. A horse of a different color is the Common Ground Fair in Unity, which features a range of nature-minded vendors.

“Our state’s fairs not only celebrate Maine’s rich agricultural heritage but also unite those who depend on the outdoors for their livelihoods or as an integral part of their lifestyle,” said Jenny Kordick, executive director of Maine Outdoor Brands, a Portland-based nonprofit trade alliance of around 180 members. 

"This year many local outdoor product and service brands exhibiting had success connecting with customers who value the high-quality craftsmanship and sustainability that characterizes Maine’s outdoor industry,” she added. 

Kordick, a Mainebiz 40 Under 40 honoree this year, said she received the most feedback about September's Common Ground Fair, where several of the trade group’s members exhibited. 

Exhibitors included axe maker Brant & Cochran LLC, Grandy Organics, Maine GearShare, Peace House Studio and Angelrox and American Roots.

Grandy Organics used the opportunity to conduct on-site taste tests in Unity, pitting cashew against cashew in a bracketed competition for a new product launch. The fan favorite was the Everything Bagel Cashew, which the company plans to start selling in bulk later this year.

Now that fair season is over, Norris said the next item on the agenda for the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs is the group's annual conference in January, which usually draws 500 to 600 attendees. 

The meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26-28, 2024.

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