SKOWHEGAN — The sign on a food wagon at the Skowhegan State Fair on Wednesday said it all: Super-size sausage and fries.

The longest continuously operating agricultural fair in the country, which opens for a 10-day run on Thursday, celebrates its 200th year in Skowhegan, and it promises to be super in size with new rides, livestock shows, agricultural exhibits, antique cars, games of skill, live music and harness racing.

“The 200th is a big deal,” said John Flynn, president of Fiesta Shows, the midway provider. “I know the general public is looking forward to it. The fairgrounds is packed — there’s not any open space on this fairgrounds. We’re totally full here.”

Gates open at 7 a.m. Thursday with a special $1 admission and $12 all-day ride bracelet.

The fair lineup includes three nights of demolition derbies, seven harness racing dates, two truck pulls and two senior citizen days on Monday and Thursday of next week when anyone 62 or older can get in for just $4, said fair Vice-president Melvin Blaisdell.

“It’s a pretty big deal. It’s the longest running fair in North America,” Blaisdell said Wednesday. “We’re the oldest and longest running, and we’re doing quite a lot of different things this year.”

Blaisdell said changes include free admission every day for children 10 and under — it used to be 4 and under. And to speed things up, attendees will not be stamped on their hand when they pay to enter. If anyone wants to leave and return on the same day, they can get stamped when they leave, he said.

“They’ll get it on the way out, instead of on the way in, so it’ll speed up the gate,” Blaisdell said.

People also can sign up for a $500 drawing every day, with a $5,000 bonus drawing at 8 p.m. on the final day of the fair, Saturday, Aug. 18.

Blaisdell said new attractions this year include the Flores Thrill Show, featuring a high-wire act and motorcycle show performing daily behind the grandstand. The Hight family also will show their collection of antique and classic cars.

Walter Hight, whose grandfather Walter founded the Hight family of auto dealerships 107 years ago, said they have 55 antique and classic cars, from the estimated 70 the family owns, on display this year in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first Skowhegan State Fair.

“I didn’t have these here last year,” Hight said. “I did maybe 10 years ago, but it’s the 200th birthday. It’s nice, but it’s hard work moving all those cars.”

Hight said he has an original 1950s Chevrolet 3800 “woody” wagon with wooden side panels, green painted body, whitewall tires and sliding windows, used for transport at Kennebec Camps on Belgrade Lakes. He also has Model T cars; a 1939 Ford Delux, the last year of the rumble seat; several Corvettes; and a 1940 Ford delivery van that was the laundry wagon at Lakewood cabins. Hight also has a 1978 Limited Edition Corvette that has only been driven to be displayed at the fair — about 20 original miles. The original sale price sticker is still on the window and plastic still covers the seats.

The North Atlantic Wrestling Association also will have daily performances in front of the bingo hall on the midway, Blaisdell said.

“They’ve got a couple of new rides. Well one was there last year, and it’s back because everybody loved it last year, called the Fireball,” Blaisdell said. “They’ve brought a new ride that’s never been here called the Thunderbolt. It goes fast with loud music; the kids will all like it.”

Blaisdell said the demolition derby is the most popular attraction at the fair, generating audiences of 7,000 or more on Friday nights. He said the fair last year drew in about 80,000 people over the 10-day run, and he expects more this year.

“It’s supposed to be a good day Friday. Last year Friday got rained out, and when you lose that first Friday you lose quite a lot,” he said. “So hopefully the weather’s going to hold.”

On tap for Thursday at the fair is the antique power show, 4H horse show and poultry show, all starting at 10 a.m. The exhibition hall opens at noon, the midway opens at 1 p.m. and the doodlebug pulling competition is set for 5 p.m.

For all the information, times and schedules at the fair go to skowheganstatefair.com.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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