UNION, Maine — Tradition and wild Maine blueberries jockeyed for prominence Thursday at the 140th annual Union Fair, one of the state’s classic agricultural fairs which continues through Saturday.
Kids and grown-ups swarmed through the midway rides and laughed at youth-friendly events such as the rooster crowing contest.
“I grew up around here and I always enjoy the fair,” said Maurice Martin of Farmington, who came with his family. “It’s a class act.”
The fair has a strong blue tint — courtesy of the Maine Wild Blueberry Festival, which takes place at the same time — but black-and-white also was well-represented by the registered Holstein dairy cows of Faithful Venture Farm in Searsmont.
Farm herdsman Brandon Peasley of Morrill sounded a little like a throwback to a simpler time as he described his lodging arrangements. Peasley is bedding down with the hay bales in the stock trailer tent, for the sake of convenience.
“It’s something else,” he said. “Last night there were a bunch of horses that came in, and we had to deal with them.”
At the Union Fair, the late nights can be followed by early mornings. Angel Mehuren, who also is with Faithful Venture Farm, said she was up at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and folks were already washing their cows.
Her daughter, Emma Mehuren, said that she likes the cow wash.
“Every time, you get soaked,” she said with a smile.
By Thursday afternoon, organizers estimated they had around 14,000 paying visitors —down from last year’s numbers. The rain Sunday night and Monday put a damper on the festivities, but fair vice president Jan MacDonald of Warren said things started drying out and looking up later in the week.
“It seems to be going pretty well,” she said. “Everybody seems to be pretty happy.”
She said she was looking forward to the themed events of today and Saturday. Today is Maine Wild Blueberry Festival Day and features a pancake breakfast, 3,250 free individual blueberry pies baked by volunteers at the fair and a blueberry spitting contest. Saturday is children’s day, with a pedal tractor pull for kids, a children’s cooking contest and a bubble gum blowing contest. The fair is free for children under age 12.
“There are all kinds of fun things,” MacDonald said.
Visitors to the fair might have the chance to take a photo with Lakeisha Allen of Penobscot, the new Maine Wild Blueberry Festival queen. Allen, 22, is the granddaughter of Kermit Allen, the owner of the G.M. Allen and Son wild blueberry processing company in Penobscot.
She said that her grandfather was very excited when she donned the sparkly blue-and-silver crown, as it was her last year of eligibility. As the Maine Wild Blueberry queen, Allen will attend other agricultural fairs, including next week’s coronation of the apple queen in Windsor.
“I grew up on 200 acres of blueberry fields,” the 2005 George Stevens Academy graduate said. “I am a fifth-generation wild blueberry grower and processor … and I’m really enjoying the fair.”
So were Connie and Clifford Palmer of Northboro, Mass., who travel around to agricultural fairs every summer and fall.
“This is one of our favorites,” said Clifford Palmer, 81. “It’s a great representation of a country fair.”
For more information about the Union Fair, which is open through Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Union Fairgrounds, visit www.unionfair.org.