A grange member works on an agricultural exhibit at the Farmington Fair last year. This year, many nonprofits are taking a financial hit from the fair’s cancellation. File photo

FARMINGTON — When officials announced earlier this month that the Farmington Fair was canceled, for many it meant a loss of income and no chance to show off their accomplishments this year.

The Franklin County Agricultural Society (FCAS) operates the fair and this was to be the 180th fair.

In a phone interview with the FCAS members ( Rupert Pratt, Tom White, Glenda Barker, Terry Mosher, Craig Jordan, Randy Hall, Tom Sawyer, Marcus Rowe and Neal Yeaton) voiced their concerns about the canceled fair.

“Between 46 and 48 individuals participate in the pulling contests, 20 of those with horses,” Yeaton said. “About 100 people work parking cars, at the gate, in the Exhibition Hall and at the pari-mutuel races.”

Just under 25,000 attend the fair and that doesn’t include vendors and exhibitors with passes, he added.

Many Maple Street residents get an income boost by allowing off-fair parking in their yards.

Annually, the fair pays out $75,000 in premiums, $80,000 in wages for fair week and $250,000 for the horse racing, Treasurer Marcus Rowe said in a phone interview.

“It’s going to be a big hurt for the county, no question about it,” he said.

NONPROFITS

Several nonprofits depend on their presence at the fair to earn operating costs.

For Roderick-Crosby American Legion Post 28, Bingo and Lucky 7 at the fair are the biggest fundraiser of the year.

“We put the most man-hours into those,” Commander Matthew Smith said. “It’s going to be really, really hard to replace. After expenses, we bring in about $2,000 on the Bingo. We count on that and the Lucky 7 to pay the post’s heating oil for the year.

“We have to seek alternative fundraisers this year. It’s a challenge.”

Farmington Grange, located at 124 Bridge Street in West Farmington, operates a food booth in the Exhibition Hall. A recent Facebook post noted the Grange may have to close this winter due to lack of income. The Grange is home to the winter farmers market.

“The past few years, we’ve taken in about $2,000,” member Marion Sharoun said. “It pays for the heat through the winter.

“It’s sad, we’ve decided we probably can’t keep the building open. We’re concerned with where the winter farmers market would go.”

The fair is the Grange’s biggest fundraiser, Master Bonnie Clark said.

VENDORS

One vendor, Misty Acres Alpacas owned by Red and Connie Laliberte of Sydney, has sold alpaca clothing at the Farmington Fair for seven years.

“This is a really tough year,” he said. “Our major source of income for the farm comes from fairs, flower shows, Christmas craft fairs. Everything has been canceled until November, probably the first of the year when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.”

Clothing sales last year at the Farmington Fair were about $8,000, Laliberte said.

YOUTH 

Young people enrolled in Franklin County Cooperative Extension’s 4-H programs are also hard hit with the fair’s cancellation.

“We have 98 youth enrolled in the 4-H program here in Franklin County, Community Education Assistant Judy Smith said in an email. “There are roughly 50% that exhibit in some way. About 50% exhibit in the hall. Approximately 40% show livestock, with about 15% showing multiple commodities.”

Mason Rowe of New Vineyard has been a 4-H member for seven years, his brother Nicholas for five. They are members of the Franklin County 4-H Dairy and Supper on the Table 4-H clubs. They, their sister and cousins always raise pigs, lambs, meat birds and turkeys to show at the Farmington Fair.

With the Farmington Fair cancellation, 4-H members have had to find other ways to market their animals. Mason Rowe at right is seen with the Reserve Grand Champion market hog he showed last year. Also seen is show judge Mitchell White. Submitted photo

According to an email, the Rowe extended family exhibits at Skowhegan Fair, Windsor Fair, Farmington Fair ( just for the 4-H auction) and the Fryeburg Fair. They show dairy cattle and Khathadin sheep.

Not having the fairs “really stinks because not only do we not get to see all our friends, but we don’t get to show off all of our work in raising these animals,” Mason said.

“We put a lot of work and time into them to be the best and to not be able to take them to see how good we have done is disappointing,” Nicholas said.

“Fairs are fun, we probably have more friends at the fairs than anywhere. Every year we look forward to going so we can all talk about who had the best animals and who is going to win,” Mason said. “We are all like a big family.”

 

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