PITTSTON — It was a rainy weekend at the annual Pittston Fair.

But for a few hours Sunday, between morning downpours and thunderstorms expected in the late afternoon, the smells of fried foods and livestock filled the air, operators fired up rides on the midway and families slowly trickled into the fairgrounds off Route 194.

Jessica Benner, treasurer of the Pittston Fair Association, estimated at midday Sunday that 1,500 people attended the three-day fair, which began Friday. A weekend in a typical year, without “crazy rain,” would draw up to 3,000, Benner said.

The fair was held in June this year, instead of late July, as it had been for years. Several years ago, organizers moved the fair from June to late July to avoid rainy weather. The change back to June was due to the availability of rides and midway attractions, organizers said ahead of the fair weekend.

Sunday was Children’s Day at the self-dubbed “Maine’s Friendliest Fair.” Scheduled activities included a demolition derby, pig scrambles and the coronation of the fair’s strawberry queen, princess and blossom.

Kaelyn Brillant, 16, directs a sheep Sunday while competing in the sheep obstacle course at the Pittston Fair. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Rain led fair organizers Sunday to cancel some of Sunday morning’s program, including a baby contest and kiddie tractor pulls.


“Rain makes it hard,” said Liz Jensen of Pittston, who said she spent much of the weekend working inside the exhibition hall.

But the wet weather made a new event — the sheep obstacle course — a bit more exciting for the children and adults who competed.

About 20 people signed up to lead a sheep or lamb, tied with a halter, through the timed course, consisting of an obstacle to go over, one to go under and several cones to go around. To finish, competitors had to scoop sawdust into a bucket to simulate feeding the sheep and then shut themselves in a pen with the sheep.

At stake: Cash prizes of up to $15.

“We really like to do it because it gives kids who don’t have animals a chance to interact with them,” Taylor Benner, 11, who was in charge of keeping track of competitors’ times, said.

Most finished in under a minute.


Three of the sheep — Fred, Snoopy and Boomerang — live on the West Gardiner farm of Benner’s grandfather, Steve McGee, the fair association’s president. They were born this year.

The two smaller, 2-month-old lambs used by the younger competitors belong to Jensen, who owns Morton Brook Ranch in Pittston.

Jonathen Hatch of Industry competes Sunday in the demolition derby at the Pittston Fair. Hatch is driving a Toyota Matrix. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The lambs, crosses of St. Croix and Katahdin breeds, are being raised not for competing in obstacle courses, but rather for meat, Jensen said. The two were “bottle lambs,” meaning that their mother was not able to feed them.

The obstacle course replaced the fair’s goat show this year. The farmer who used to bring the goats was not available for this year’s fair, organizers said.

“We figured, ‘Why don’t we use sheep?'” Benner said.

The rain made for a muddy course, but for the most part, the sheep behaved and trotted behind their leaders.


“They love attention,” Benner said.

The Pittston Fair is part of the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs, which includes 24 fairs across the state that run through the summer.

See a full listing of summer fairs and festivals in Maine at www.centralmaine.com/things-to-do/guides.

Spectators watch the action Sunday during in the sheep obstacle course at the Pittston Fair. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel


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