Clinton puts on ‘true country fair’

Posted Sept. 06, 2008, at 2:58 p.m.

CLINTON, Maine — From the oxen-pulling to the hand crocheted dish cloths, to the poultry exhibit to the antique tractor show, the annual Clinton Agricultural Fair has its roots in farming, family and community.

“This is a true country fair,” Lions Club President Jane Bolduc said Saturday. That doesn’t surprise anyone in Clinton, the dairy belt of Maine, where cows outnumber people.

Yet, Bolduc said, the fair is still cutting edge.

Alongside the beef, hog and rabbit exhibits, visitors can get their picture taken with an eight-foot boa constrictor. Just a few feet from the cotton candy and fresh roasted peanuts, Thai food and lobster is offered. And the midway was packed during Saturday’s sunny afternoon.

“This is like falling back into my childhood,” Leeda Stanley, 79, of Farmington said. Stanley was visiting the fair with a group of senior citizens. “This is the way fairs always used to be, the children running around laughing, the smells of the good food, the animals. What a walk down memory lane.”

“We won’t leave our agricultural roots behind,” Bolduc promised, “but we have lots of plans for expansion.” As rich as the Clinton Fair is in offerings, Bolduc wants more. She has spent her summer traveling around to other regional fairs and hopes to bring the best ideas back to Clinton.

“We want lots more vendors, lots more animals, lots more family shows,” she said.

The Lions Club recently purchased 6.4 acres to expand the already packed fairgrounds.

Bolduc said it takes an army of volunteers to put on the four-day fair and that preparations began months ago.

“And it’s not just Lions that put this on,” she said. “We get everyone — family and friends — involved. They’ve been working their jobs during the day and then coming here to the fairgrounds and working until dark. I’ve never seen anyone say no.”

On Saturday, blue ribbons adorned six canned offerings by Tracy Knowlton: salsa, spaghetti sauce, jelly, jam, pickled beets and relish. Jean Violette got Best In Show for a giant scarecrow, wearing brown corduroy overalls and a crown of dried hydrangeas.

The craft tents were full of John Deere fleece blankets, hand knit mittens and booties, American flag pillows, homemade yeast rolls and aprons.

One little boy in the petting zoo, provided by Linda Hartkopf of Albion, carefully reached out and touched each animal. “I don’t have any chickens at home,” he told Hartkopf, twirling a rooster’s feather. “I like the chickens.”

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