PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The key to a successful fair, Andy LeBlanc, president of the Northern Maine Fair, said Friday afternoon, is infusing new ideas and new events into the festival each year.
Maintaining the strategy that has kept the crowds coming to the event since its inauguration 156 years ago, organizers have penciled in a number of new shows, pageants, contests and activities for this fair which begins on July 30 and wraps up on Aug. 7.
During a media luncheon at the fairground Friday afternoon, the board of trustees unveiled what’s on tap.
“We have a number of new acts and events at the fair this year,” Lynwood Winslow, the fair board’s treasurer, said Friday. “We have kept entertainment coming and worked hard to keep the price as low as possible. I think we have the best entertainment value for your money of any place in Aroostook County.”
A number of trucks hauling midway rides already were at the fairgrounds Friday, and volunteers were busy getting the exhibit halls and fair buildings ready for an event that draws an estimated 30,000 fairgoers, exhibitors and volunteers annually. The event, which has an annual budget of $800,000, is wildly popular and draws visitors from throughout Maine and the rest of the United States.
LeBlanc said that organizers are “not afraid to change things up” and alter the program from year to year, and that this year’s fair features a balance of old and new. The staples of the fete — the midway, truck and tractor pulls, harness racing, demolition derby and horse shows — all are coming back this year.
Some of the new features include Rods, Rides, and Relics, a two-day transportation show that will feature antique cars, trucks, muscle cars, antique snowsleds and more. That show will be held on July 31 and Aug. 1.
The first Northern Maine Fair Pageant, scheduled for Aug. 6, is open to girls ages 5 to 15 who will compete in three age divisions. Participants will be judged on confidence, poise and interview skills, and the winners will represent the fair next year.
There will be at least one cooking contest each day of the fair, with most of them judged by public taste testing. For children there will be Princess and Pirate Parties where children can dress in costumes, a parent-child cookie contest and Olde McDonald’s Farm, which will feature a variety of livestock. The historical pavilion also will be open this year, showcasing local history through exhibits of antique equipment and through demonstrations focusing on weaving, rug braiding, wood burning and more.
This is the sixth year that the Northern Maine Music Festival has been a part of the fair. Each night in the Music Hall on the fairgrounds, a different genre of music will be featured. Genres will include country, gospel, bluegrass and classic rock, among others. Musical groups scheduled to perform this year are the Wednesday Evening Fiddlers, The Katahdin Valley Boys, Celtic Weave and the Tim Humphrey Band.
A “Battle of the Bands” event, in which local young bands play for cash prizes, will take place on Aug. 7. Expanded karaoke programs also are a part of the festival.
Kevin McCartney, vice president of the fair board, said Friday that organizers are working to build the music fete into one of the premiere music festivals in northern Maine and the state.
“The music festival has been building each year,” McCartney said. “We want to showcase the rich culture we have here with a different genre of music each night.”
LeBlanc said Friday that planners are eager to see the fair get under way.
“We are very proud of our fair,” he said. “We really have a lot of great things happening here.”
If you go:
General Admission gets you onto the fairgrounds to take part in all events, watch shows and demonstrations, and visit the exhibit halls, raceway and livestock areas.
General admission: Children 6 and under: free; children 7-12: $2; 13 and older: $7; week pass, 13 and older: $35; week pass, children 7-12: $10; lifetime membership: $200.
Midway by Smokey’s Greater Shows — Smokey’s Special Bracelet Days are Aug. 1, Aug. 3, Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 — pay one price ($20) and ride all the rides
When: July 30-Aug. 7
Where: Fairgrounds are located at 84 Mechanic St. in Presque Isle. Parking is free.
Only service animals permitted on fairgrounds; coolers, backpacks and wagons are welcome on fairgrounds
For information visit www.northernmainefairgrounds.com