Mike Pelletier of M & M Ice Cream power-washes the driveway in front of his ice cream stand near the grandstands Tuesday at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds. Pelletier, who has served ice cream at the fair since 2012, said he was also power-washing and painting his building before the fair opens. The fair runs from Aug. 12-21. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Skowhegan State Fair is on this year, with organizers expecting a large turnout after hosting a smaller-scale event last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Events will be kicking off on Thursday, Aug. 12, with plans to bring the Royal Hanneford Circus to town as a new addition to the longstanding 10-day event.

Mel Blaisdell, an organizer of the fair, said Tuesday that planning is underway, with some new changes and additions to the schedule, including the circus and return of “Dollar Days.” On Aug. 12 and 17, admission into the grounds will be $1. The fair runs through Sunday, Aug. 21.

When asked about COVID-19 precaution measures, such as masking, social distancing, or a vaccine clinic, Blaisdell responded that “everything in our fair is outside mostly, except for exhibition halls, even the circus.

“I don’t think there are any rules yet. We go by the state, who can tell us what we can and can’t do, but most of our stuff is outside,” Blaisdell said.

Additionally, when looking at trends throughout New England so far, Blaisdell said that 50% more people are expected to attend the 2021 fair than those in 2019. Prior reporting indicates a crowd of 100,000 attended throughout the 10-day fair that year.

Heavy equipment is used to move trash dumpsters into place Tuesday at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds. The fair runs from Aug. 12-21. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Every fair in New England so far is running about 40% to 60% more people this year,” Blaisdell said. “People want to get out and do something.”

On Tuesday, Maine reported 255 new coronavirus cases that were detected over the last three days, reflecting a seven-day average of new cases of 93.9, up from 64.7 a week ago. Over the weekend, Somerset County saw substantial levels of transmission, high enough to cause recommendations to change. It is now suggested that people wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of their vaccination status.

Blaisdell added that the fair abides by guidance provided by the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs. Skowhegan State Fair’s website states that the fair “will be following all current Maine CDC guidelines.”

On Tuesday, Maine CDC data reflected that while 60.79% of Maine’s population is currently vaccinated, Somerset County still remains the region with the lowest number of residents with vaccines, at 54.9%.

The Skowhegan State Fair has run without interruption since 1818, making it the nation’s oldest, consecutively running agricultural fair, according to organizers. Due to the pandemic, last year’s event was held in a smaller capacity that only featured agricultural events, with many virtual presentations for those who could not attend.

Mike Pelletier of M & M Ice Cream power-washes the driveway in front of his ice cream stand near the grandstands Tuesday at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds. Pelletier, who has served ice cream at the fair since 2012, said he was also power-washing and painting his building before the fair opens. The fair runs from Aug. 12-21. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Fair season in Maine began in Monmouth in June, where a “record-breaking” crowd convened for the first fair in Maine after the 2020 coronavirus lockdown.

Several circus performances are scheduled throughout the week, including both “Dollar Days.” Traditional fair events, like livestock shows, agricultural exhibits, antique cars, games and harness racing are included in this year’s lineup as well as new additions including magic shows and North Atlantic Wrestling.

Demolition derbies are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 13, 16 and 20. Truck pulls are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14 and 21; both at the grandstand.

Gates open at the grounds daily at 7 a.m., with agricultural activities beginning early in the morning. Ticket prices for each event throughout the week vary, and children 10 and under can enter for free, according to the Skowhegan State Fair website.

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