BLUE HILL, Maine — It was midafternoon on Labor Day, and a steady stream of cars was headed into the Blue Hill Fairgrounds for the final day of the 2010 fair.
Many were timing their arrival so they would be on time for the big show — the performance by country group Restless Heart.
“This is when it starts to build,” said fair president Rob Eaton, seated at the fair headquarters on the midway. “If they’re coming now, they’re going to stay for the show.”
After taking a little hit in attendance from rain brought by Tropical Storm Earl on Friday night and Saturday morning, Eaton said strong crowds Sunday and Monday would help to make the overall fair attendance about normal. The fair usually attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors each year, and Eaton said it looked as if attendance would match that average this year.
“We were down on Saturday, I guess,” Eaton said. “It certainly felt like we were off just a little. We were late getting open and people were late in coming. People listened to the doom-and-gloom forecasts and they made other plans, and you can’t really blame them.”
Sunday, which usually is a strong day when the weather is good, helped balance the slow Saturday, Eaton said. Cars were backed up on Route 172 in both directions during much of the afternoon.
“That’s usually a sign that it’s going to be a good day,” he said. “People came early and stayed late.”
Fair officials won’t have a full tally of the overall attendance until later this week.
The people came for numerous reasons and flocked to different events and attractions this year. According to Eaton, new attractions such as the Frisbee Dogs and the musician who played his banjo with a violin bow were popular, as were older favorites such as the Timber Tina Lumberjack Show and the pig races. The midway stage, which features a variety of acts throughout the day, has become a popular attraction at the fair, and some of the acts had crowds waiting for them to start, Eaton said.
Throughout its 119-year history, the Blue Hill Fair has been an agricultural fair, and the farm animals had a strong showing this year, according to livestock superintendent Mylon Staples. With 160 goats, 65 to 70 sheep, 75 dairy cows and about 60 beef critters from as far away as Fryeburg, the livestock area was packed.
“The barns are chockablock full,” Staples said.
Staples said the fair is popular among the exhibitors who return year after year.
“The exhibitors really like it here,” he said. “They like the way they’re treated. They enjoy it. It’s a relaxing atmosphere for them.”
The fair provides good premiums for the exhibitors, Staples said, and fair organizers added some activities to focus attention on the agriculture area and to provide some entertainment for the exhibitors, including a beef recipe cook-off, a concert and a potluck supper.
“We had 90 exhibitors at the potluck supper,” Staples said.
Fair-goers also like the agricultural exhibits, he said. The 4-H and open shows regularly attract crowds, and people tend to gravitate toward the animals, Staples said.
“We’ve encouraged people to prepare educational displays,” he said. “People have millions of questions. Here, they can ask questions or they can read about the animals or look at pictures about it. The exhibitors are happy here, and if they’re happy, they’re going to communicate with the spectators.”
The fair closed its doors Monday, and after the tear-down is completed and the receipts totaled, organizers will start planning for next year’s fair.