Kirk Corum, left, and Luna Johns pet goats July 26, 2019, at the Pittston Fairgrounds. The annual fair has been canceled for this summer, but organizers plan to return in 2021.

The countdown clock to the Pittston Fair has been reset for 2021.

The fair, a staple of summer fun for more than six decades in the southern Kennebec County town, has been canceled for the first time because of public health concerns.

“We had a meeting on June 1,” Kim Alley-Pelletier, Pittston Fair board secretary, said Thursday. “We wanted to see where the governor was going with all of the next steps, and wondered if there would be anything different.”

Earlier this year, in a series of public health directives, Gov. Janet Mills banned large gatherings and ordered nonessential businesses to cease in-person contact and impose social distancing where possible, followed by a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Maine.

The highly contagious virus causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, which as of Thursday had killed 95 Maine residents and sickened thousands more.

As part of a phased reopening plan, the cap on public gatherings was raised June 1 from 10 to 50.

“We tried like heck to get one going,” Alley-Pelletier said. “How do we follow through with it? Everybody and their brother would be there.”

Butch Durgin steers a plow pulled by his horses Bill and Ben during the plowing contest July 26, 2019, at the Pittston Fairgrounds. The annual fair has been canceled for this summer, but organizers plan to return in 2021.

Instead, fair organizers have started to consider whether they might be able to hold a community fair in the fall, showcasing locally made products.

“It would be great to have our local vendors support each other and get our community back together,” Alley-Pelletier said.

Without the usual exhibitions, 4-H and competitions, it could not be called an agricultural fair, she said, but it could be a way to bring community members together.

“I don’t know if we could pull it off,” Alley-Pelletier said, “but we would try like heck to do it.”

The announcement came earlier this week along with information that the Piscataquis County Fair in Dover-Foxcroft had also been canceled.

Across the state, 16 other fairs have been canceled so far this year, including the Bangor State Fair, Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Litchfield Fair, Monmouth Fair and Windsor Fair.

Eight other fairs, including the Skowhegan Fair and Cumberland Fair, remain on the schedule, but plans could change.

“This has been a hard decision for all of them to make,” said Barry Norris, executive director of the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs.

Alley-Pelletier said fair organizers posted a notice on the fair’s website to let people know something is in the works.

Even though the fair is canceled, she said work continues to maintain the fairgrounds on Route 194, mowing lawns and clearing fields.

“We can’t do anything without obeying the guidelines,” Alley-Pelletier said. “Who’s to say what’s going to happen in July, let alone in October, which is where we’re looking. Time will tell.”

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