The Ferris wheel can be seen above an exhibition hall at the Farmington Fair. Photo by Thomas Michael Corcoran

Maine fairs have many elements that you’ll find at similar events in other states – the midway with a Ferris wheel, fried dough and cotton candy, games with stuffed animal prizes. Then there are the out-there events unique to specific fairs, like the skillet toss in Blue Hill, the hay sculpture contest in Harmony and the manure-pitching competition at the Common Ground Fair.

In between are a handful of things that happen at pretty much every Maine fair, but that might need some explanation if you’ve never been to one before – and if you haven’t, that needs to change. Here’s a primer on what to expect. (And here’s a schedule of Maine fairs.)

Mike Kirkpatrick drives his horses Bill, left and Howie, right, during the 3,000-pound horse pull competition at the Skowhegan State Fair in 2018. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

PULLS

Every farmer wants a strong ox – or horse or tractor – to pull his plow, right? A pulling event tests the strength of oxen, horses, tractors and trucks by having them pull pallets of stones (from several hundred to several thousand pounds) across a pulling ring floor. The machine or beast that pulls the farthest wins.

Charles Rodda, right, of Orono and Ben Notterman of Vermont compete in the crosscut competition during the Woodsman’s Field Day at the Windsor Fair. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

WOODSMEN’S DAY

It makes sense that fairs in the Pine Tree State would celebrate the art and skill of taking down a tree. Competitions are held in different kinds of sawing, including crosscut and bucksaw, plus axe throwing and tree felling. One of the better-known ones is at the Fryeburg Fair.

Grange members hang items for display in the Exhibition Hall at the Litchfield Fair in 2018. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

EXHIBITION HALLS

These are where people try for a blue ribbon by showing off their home and farm skills, from produce they’ve grown or canned to pies they’ve made and blankets they’ve quilted. The Cumberland County Fair features a giant pumpkin contest, with some weighing in at more than 1,000 pounds in past years.

Emily Williams of Mount Vernon blow dries the underside of her new Boer goat kid at the Windsor Fairgrounds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

LIVESTOCK

These are really the must-see attractions of any fair for those of us who spend our days among paved streets and manicured lawns. You can stroll through miles of barns housing goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, rabbits, draft horses, ponies, oxen, steers and milking cows. You can see farmers or 4-H youths win prizes for the livestock they’ve raised, and you can watch demonstrations of sheep-shearing or milking.

A flagger begins the annual Skowhegan State Fair demolition derby at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds in 2018. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

DEMOLITION DERBY

Mainers are practical people and find a use for everything. So maybe demolition derbies started as a way to get a few more miles from a car that’s on its last legs. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty thrilling to see old junkers smashing into each other. Skowhegan State Fair is one place to find these smash ’em up affairs.

Children chase down piglets during the pig scramble at the Skowhegan State Fair in 2018. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

PIG SCRAMBLE

Take 10 very cute and very slippery piglets, let them loose in the pulling ring, then instruct a bunch of 8- to 10-year-olds to catch one and put it in a burlap sack. This event is truly a scramble, and gives an idea of what being a small child growing up on a farm is like.

UPCOMING FAIRS

Windsor Fair, Aug. 26 to Sept. 2

Blue Hill Fair, Aug. 29 to Sept. 2

Harmony Free Fair, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2

Springfield Fair, Aug. 31 to Sept. 1

Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair, Sept. 5-8

Litchfield Fair, Sept. 6-8

Oxford Fair, Sept. 11-14

New Portland Lions Fair, Sept. 13-15

Farmington Fair, Sept. 15-21

Common Ground Country Fair, Sept. 20-22

Cumberland Fair, Sept. 22-28

Fryeburg Fair, Sept. 29 to Oct. 6


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