SKOWHEGAN — The rides were closed and vendors saw little business at the Skowhegan State Fair today, but the rainy weather didn’t stop the few fairgoers that did attend from having a good time.

“Usually the fair is full of people and the rides are actually working. People are screaming,” said Marissa Park, 12, of Skowhegan. Park was one of several hundred people that attended the fair despite heavy rains that drove attendance down on the second day of the fair.

After jumping through a puddle in her bare feet, Park said that the rainy weather was no reason to stay at home — laser tag was open, she enjoyed fried chicken and French fries, and her uncle competed in the tractor pull, which took place in the shelter of the fairground’s coliseum.

This summer has been wetter than average and today was the same, with three to five inches of rain falling in Kennebec County, according to the National Weather Service.

Before today’s storm the Augusta area has had 10.9 inches of rainfall, which is three inches more than averages, said meteorologist Chris Kimble. Last year at this time the area had 9.39 inches, he said.

By mid-afternoon attendance at the fair was around 400, said Mel Blaisdell, fair association vice president. Normally the event draws between 10,000 and 12,000 people per day over the 10 days it runs, he said.

The weather was also responsible for minor damage and flooding throughout the state, with flood warnings in effect most of the day and a lightning strike causing major damage to a transmission line in Brunswick, cutting off power to 7,400 customers.

Blaisdell said that one of the fair’s biggest events, the demolition derby, which was scheduled for tonight, was moved to Sunday because of the weather.

“We’re hoping for great weather. Not many tickets were sold today,” he said this afternoon from his office, one of the few dry spots at the fairgrounds.

The weather service issued flood warnings for Franklin, Kennebec and Somerset counties effective until 9 p.m., but Kimble said things should clear up for the duration of the weekend.

The reason this summer has been so rainy has to do with moist air traveling up the East Coast from the tropics, he said. Most of the Northeast has had similar conditions, he said.

That pattern continued to create today’s storm, although it was expected to be followed by a cool front that will move in from Canada across the western part of the state tonight, said Kimble.

In Augusta, a morning thunderstorm was blamed for a lightning-related fire and floods from overwhelmed storm drains in the city.

Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said that around 8:30 a.m., lightning struck an abandoned garage at 5 Neighbor Lane, off South Belfast Avenue near the Windsor town line.

Audette said there was a small fire and it took the department about 30 minutes to control it and leave the scene.

An Augusta emergency dispatch officer also said that isolated flooding had been reported early today on Bangor, Water and Winthrop streets. The flooding, however, was mostly due to overwhelmed storm drains and was expected to pass after the heavy rain stopped, he said.

In Waterville, Bob Gilchrist, an engineer at the Department of Public Works said there were reports of minor damage and flooding by about mid-day, mostly in southern rural areas of the city and mostly due to overflowing storm drains and ditches.

He said the department had complaints of minor erosion along some roads and driveway culverts that had overflowed, but that there were no reports of trees down or power outages.

Aside from a lightening strike in Brunswick that damaged a transmission line and cut off power to about 7,400 people, the effects of today’s storm were not major, according to Gail Rice, spokeswoman for Central Maine Power Company.

She said that about 100 customers of the power company reported outages in Augusta this morning and that about 70 customers in Fairfield reported outages lasting less than an hour.

“We’ve had scattered problems but it wasn’t a major event for us. We were able to get power back to affected areas pretty quickly,” said Rice.

At the rain-soaked fairgrounds, many vendors closed shop early this afternoon. Some, like Harold and Susan Hart from Phippsburg, stuck around to enjoy what they could of the fair— an unusual experience Susan Hart said as they watched a tractor pull under the coliseum. The couple sells cinnamon glazed nuts at the Nutty Bavarian of Maine and said they didn’t have a single customer today.

“It depends how busy we are, but normally we wouldn’t leave our stand. This is rare,” she said.

Staff writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
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