SKOWHEGAN — With the temperature topping 93 degrees Thursday at the Skowhegan State Fair, the 4-H Club slogan of head, heart, hands and health had to share top billing with three other words that begin with H.

Hazy, hot and humid.

But the heat didn’t stop the crowds on opening day of the 198th annual state fair, the longest continuously operating annual agricultural fair in the country.

“I was surprised to see the line, as hot as it is,” said Terry Gilmore, glistening with perspiration as she cooked Italian sausages over a hot grill at Fred’s Foods. “I’m going to say it’s probably 100 back here, at least. But what are you gonna do? You gotta cook.”

The line to buy ride tickets as the Fiesta Shows midway opened at 1 p.m. Thursday was four people wide and plenty deep in the hot sun. Fairgoers were there in sun hats, straw hats, shorts and halter tops for the $2 gate admission and $12 ride bracelet.

Jennifer Baker, of Wilton, stood in line with her daughter, Natalie, 8, and her friend, Avery, also 8, as Mom applied sun screen to their noses and cheeks.


Was it too hot to come to the fair, Avery was asked?

“No,” she said. “It’s not too hot.”

Baker wasn’t so sure, taking precautions with sun block.

“It’s a little hot for me,” she said. “I would rather it be in the evening, but this is the day they have the $12 bracelet, so that’s why we’re coming today.”

Gilmore, 53, of Wilton, whose food stand serves hot and sweet Italian sausages with onions and peppers, hamburgers, foot-long hot dogs and shaved steak sandwiches, said her stand has operated by the welcome arches at the entrance of the fairgrounds since her father, Fred Gilmore, started working the circuit 30 years ago.

Gilmore said she tells her cooks to back up constantly, away from the grill, on hot days, and to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.


“I was born into the business,” she said slapping sausages onto the hot grill. “My grandmother and grandfather started out with cotton candy, a couple of little rides and a cooker. My mother and father worked the grill since my father was a teenager. He died in 2003 and I took over the business and kept Fred’s Foods alive, taking my father’s name.”

Now, Gilmore said, her family operates five sausage booths at Maine fairs and carnivals, along with two pizza stands and a french fries trailer that converts into a blooming onion cart.

Along the midway Thursday, skill games shared the heat with fair rides, including a big Ferris wheel and two new thrill rides: The Trabant and The Surfer.

“It’s very warm,” said Josh Henderson, a carnival worker running the Machine Gun game booth, which uses clips of BBs to hit paper targets and win a prize. “It’s supposed to be 93 — it’s like Florida weather here. Good thing I’ve got 20 years of Florida experience. Usually by this time of year, I’m used to 115 degrees down there. At least I’m in the shade.”

Patrolling the midway in full uniform with a deputy Thursday, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said the idea on a hot day is to take it slow and to drink plenty of water.

“It’s extremely hot — hot and humid,” Lancaster said. “Other than the crowds being slightly lethargic walking around, I don’t think it’s going to affect the crowds. Tonight, as it cools down, it’ll be a good time to come. There’s a lot to do here.”


Over at the children’s barnyard and the poultry exhibition, a nice breeze was flowing through the buildings, lessening the potential heat stress on the animals.

“They seem to be doing OK,” Sheila Dean, of Madison, said in the poultry barn. “The chickens don’t like it when it’s hot, but they’re doing fine. We put a fan in and are making sure they have water.”

The state fair continues Friday and runs until Saturday, Aug. 20. Gate admission costs $10 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday and $8 on the other days. Ride bracelets cost $17 on Saturdays and Sunday and $15 all other days. This year’s fair features three nights of demolition derby — Friday, Monday and Friday, Aug. 19 — truck and tractor pulls, horse pulling and the Rave X Outer Limits freestyle motorbike shows Tuesday through Thursday.

The Kennebec Valley Woodsmen Championship is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday in the Coliseum. Daily exhibits include a children’s barnyard, a new rabbit exhibit, 4-H shows, a crafters’ corner, live music and bingo games.

There are Independent Wrestling Entertainment shows each day, live in front of the bingo hall; and daytime harness racing for seven days beginning Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m.

Other features at the fair include exhibition halls for local produce and homemade products, working horse and steer shows, G-Force Laser Tag, shows by Conjuring Carol, antique power equipment, Longaberger Basket exhibits, an art show and a 4-H Day parade at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Monday is Senior Citizen Day, when anyone 62 or older gets in for $4.


Gates open daily at 7 a.m. Exhibition halls open at noon and the midway opens at 1 p.m.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.