HARMONY, Maine — With no admission or parking fee, the Harmony Free Fair is one-of-a-kind in Maine for more reasons than what it’ll cost you.
The fair, which runs Friday through Monday, has been free since its inception 63 years ago, but it still manages to generate enough revenue for a variety of efforts by the Patriarchs Club, a community-betterment organization that has funded everything from a $40,000 donation to start a music program at Harmony Elementary School to a collection of books on bereavement after the death of a beloved teacher last year.
“We wanted to be different and let people come and have a little money to spend on the fairgrounds,” said Jeffrey Chadbourne, president of the Patriarchs Club and chief organizer among some 30 dedicated fair volunteers. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘You mean I have to pay for my food?’ Yes, you have to pay for your food and we do charge admission for some of the events.”
In some respects, the fair is not unlike the many fairs going on throughout the summer in Maine. On the other hand, according to Chadbourne, there are plenty of unique events that would be difficult to find anywhere else, such as the “Gross Games,” which include the popular egg toss.
“A lot of places boil their eggs for the egg toss,” said Chadbourne. “We don’t. We just let them fly.”
If that isn’t messy enough, kids can try their hands — and faces — at a sticky version of bobbing for apples. In this contest, which takes place Monday, chocolate pudding and gummy worms take the places of water and apples.
The fair also features numerous agriculture-themed exhibits and events, from an antique tractor show to animal shearing to leather carving and blacksmithing demonstrations.
The fair also features a midway full of rides — with single-fee ride bracelets every day — including the Harmony Free Fair debut of a mechanical bull.
“There have been a few bets made already in town about who will stay on the longest and the consequences for the loser,” said Chadbourne.
The fair begins at 3 p.m. Friday. Truck pulls begin at 7 p.m. with a $3 admission fee. Cribbage lovers can try their hands, literally, in a singles tournament at 7 p.m. Friday and a doubles tournament at the same time Saturday. For those who prefer beano, three days of noontime games kick off Saturday.
The demolition derby, which is usually one of the more popular events at any fair, begins at noon Saturday with an admission fee of $5. There is a range of activities for children scheduled throughout Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Draft horse pulling and a children’s craft area open at 10 a.m. Sunday, which is also the deadline for entries in a Department of Agriculture-sponsored Two-Crusted Apple Pie Contest. The top three finalists will be invited to compete in a statewide contest later this year.
A two-day Woodsman Competition begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, and live entertainment will be offered for the duration of the fair, ranging from David Gill and the Old Blues Cats to the Half Moon Jug Band.
Perhaps the most spectacular moments of the fair will be during the fireworks show at dark Sunday.
Monday features a magician named Conjuring Carroll at 12:30 p.m., and a balloon-twisting team called Maine-ly Balloons performs at 2:30 p.m. The fair wraps up at 7 p.m. Monday with the awarding of the winning bids in a raffle that features prizes from more than 50 organizations.
For information about the fair, including a complete schedule, visit the fair’s website at www.harmonyfreefair.org or call Chadbourne at 683-5873.