Children chase down piglets during the pig scramble at the Skowhegan State Fair in 2018. The 10-day fair this year opens Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

My former colleague Doug Harlow used to say the arrival of the Skowhegan State Fair in August means the end of summer is nigh.

Harlow, who passed away in 2019 at 70, was a dogged reporter who could be tough and relentless when pursuing a hard news story, but when the fair came, I swear his inner child took hold.

He loved covering the fair, which offers everything from Ferris wheel rides to oxen pulling competitions to 4-H exhibits. Doug was game for writing about all of it. He was the first to lay claim to a story about the fair.

I can hear his annual chant at news meetings in an effort to pitch coverage: “It’s the oldest continuously running agricultural fair in the country!”

The animals, exhibits, live music and grandstand events weren’t the only draw for Doug. He couldn’t wait to partake of fair food — grilled sausage on a bun loaded with onions and peppers, greasy french fries sizzling and salted, and of course, an occasional hot dog, slathered with mustard.

Doug was the sort of guy who was careful with a buck but when opportunity presented itself, he didn’t hesitate to indulge. He knew an event such as the fair came around only once a year.


He enjoyed life. He knew it didn’t last forever.

As the midway opens Thursday for its 10-day run, I’ll think of Doug and his enthusiasm for the fair, one of the few things that has remained a tradition while so much of the world has changed.

The first fair in Skowhegan was hosted in 1819 by the Somerset Central Agricultural Society, drawing the largest crowds ever to assemble in Somerset County, according to the fair’s website. One of the fair’s purposes was to improve breeds of horses and cattle, an objective that has always been maintained by fair management, it says.

The website contains a compelling history of the fair, where farmers and homemakers in the early 1800s would come to learn about the latest farm equipment and best methods for farming and homemaking.

“Like present day fair-goers, those attending the early fairs were interested in harness horse racing and the pulling of draft horses and oxen as well as entertainment of a different nature, including games of skill and chance, and the viewing of dancing girls in what were known as the HOOCHY-KOOCHY SHOWS, which seem to prove that human nature basically doesn’t change too much with the passage of time,” it says.

Now 204 years old, the fair continues to offer horse, steer and poultry shows, tractor pulls, a demolition derby, live bands in the grandstand, 4-H exhibits, harness racing, and of course, lots of midway rides and fair food, including cotton candy.


Gate admission on opening day Thursday is only $1.

Typically during the fair we have hot days and cool nights. By the time it ends on the 19th, we will be mid-way through August, kids will turn their focus to school preparations, and Labor Day weekend will be within shouting distance.

Now is our chance to dive in and do all the activities we didn’t get a chance to in June, when all it did was rain. We got a late launch into summer this year and must make the best of what’s left.

The first stanza of Robert Herrick’s poem, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” echoes in my head as I ponder having attended some 50 Skowhegan State Fairs in my lifetime:

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Old Time is still a-flying;

And the same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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