If Pete Weeks had just one recommendation to make about the Pittston Fair this year, it would be to see the fireworks.

A year ago, the show got rained out on Friday night, and Saturday was barely better.

“Stuff got wet,” Weeks, vice president of the Pittston Fair Association, said Tuesday.

To make up for it, Weeks said, Steve Marson, of Central Maine Pyrotechnics, has promised that Friday night’s show will “look like New York City.”

The Pittston Fair is one of 25 agricultural fairs that take place each year between June and October in Maine.

The fireworks are not  the only draw to the Pittston Fairgrounds, on Route 194.

Volunteers hang quilts Tuesday ahead of the opening of the Pittston Fair. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

From Thursday to Sunday, the daily schedule will be filled with games, midway rides and activities such as pig scrambles, steer and oxen pulls, frying pan tosses, he-man and she-woman contests, a baby contest, and a horseshoe pitch contest. The Exhibition Hall will host a variety of contests of baked, pickled and canned food as well as traditional arts and crafts. And for the more mechanically inclined, the fair features a demolition derby, tractor pulls, kiddie tractor pulls, a burn-out contest (an event that Weeks thinks no one else is offering and comes with a $300 prize) and a 4×4 off-road trucks rock crawl technical course and live music.

There is, of course, even more than that on the schedule, and making it all happen takes a lot of work.

The fair is put on each year by the Pittston Fair Association, a volunteer group that maintains the grounds and the buildings, organizes events, books the entertainment and picks up the trash at the end of each fair.

“It’s all about the kids. We try to put on a show for them,” Weeks said. “The kid activities are free, and the parents love that. A hundred bucks don’t last long at the fair anymore.”

Jean Ambrose can relate to that. As part of the 4-H Club as a teenager, she took part in fair events but drifted away from the fair until five or six years ago, when she was drafted to help out  judging in the Exhibition Hall. For the last several years, she has run the Exhibition Hall with a group of volunteers.

“There was a space in there when we almost lost the fair entirely,” said Ambrose, who is also the chairwoman of the Pittston Board of Selectmen.

“A woman left the land to the Pittston Fair Association for as long as the association had the fair there,” Ambrose said.

When interest in the fair seemed to drop, she said, Steve McGee, owner of Steven A. McGee Construction, and several others stepped in to keep it going, she said. And the fair has grown since then.

“I have to brag on him a little,” Ambrose said. “He’s donated so much equipment and time.”

McGee, who didn’t return a call for comment, is the president of the board. Now he’s also donated about 25 acres of land next to fairgrounds to the fair association, which gives the fair the option to grow in the future.

Weeks, who has worked at the fair for more than two decades, explained his involvement this way: “Once you start putting time in, you don’t want to see it all disappear. I just started helping out. I used to work in the pulling ring out here before I had my driver’s license.”

Now he takes a week of vacation, as do other volunteers, to make sure the vendors get in and get set up, the power is on, the sawdust is delivered and the grounds are ready.

“It takes quite a bit to mow the grounds,” Weeks said, “probably about 25 hours. We have 25 acres and we mow about three-quarters of it. My father is 80, and he mows. My kid is 13, and he mows. When I got nothing better to do, I mow.”

The work doesn’t stop once the fair starts.

“It takes 40 to 50 people to run the show because you have so many activities going on,” Weeks said.

Because a lot of events are outside, Weeks and his fellow volunteers hope for good weather — no rain, and not too hot.

“Nobody’ll come to the demolition derby in the rain,” he said.

Admission is $6 per person age 15 and older. Parking is free and dogs are not allowed.

 

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