HARMONY, Maine — With little money for extras this year, Marie Martin of Garland and her family attended the Harmony Free Fair rather than make their usual trek to the Blue Hill Fair.
It was the first time her family had gone to the Harmony fair, and Martin said it was a good choice. “I think it’s pretty great,” she said Saturday as she watched her son Dominic, 4, attempt to scale the Adventure Climbing wall.
“We didn’t have lots of money this year, so we came here,” Martin said, noting that the family will definitely return to the fair next year.
Sponsored by the Harmony Patriarchs Club, the Harmony Free Fair is the only agricultural fair in the state that has no admission charge.
Organized in 1947, the Patriarchs Club held its first fair in 1948 to raise funds for a school gymnasium. The event was so successful and well-received that the fair has been held ever since. The money raised by the club at certain fair events, raffles and the concession stands allows it to make contributions to a variety of local projects. The club has helped the town purchase firetrucks and ambulances, awarded scholarships, and donated funds for band instruments.
At the same time, the fair has provided people with a fun-filled four days without emptying their wallets. In some cases, fair-goers like the Bagley family of Cambridge can actually make a few bucks.
Barbara Bagley, who was joined at a picnic table Saturday by her children Hannah, 9, Isaiah, 6, and Elizabeth, 10, figured the family had earned about $228 from their garden produce, canned goods, maple syrup, and arts and crafts that they entered in the exhibition hall contests. The family won 11 blue ribbons, nine red ribbons and six yellow ribbons, she said.
While the exhibitions are nice, Barbara and Darrell Arnold of Brewer said they attended the fair Saturday to see the barrel horse racing. When they arrived, however, they learned the event had been canceled because of the rain. They still enjoyed themselves, according to Barbara Arnold. “I like it better than the big fairs,” she said of her first trip to the Harmony fair.
Marshall Burt, 6, of Hudson was having fun Saturday riding down the tubes of a large tiger slide under the watchful eyes of his grandparents Isaac and Laurel Burt of Hudson. “It’s great for the kids,” Laurel Burt said of the fair. She called it a safe fair because there were so many fair organizers patrolling the grounds.
Safe enough for M.J. Flanders, 15, of Athens to maneuver his wheelchair around the fairgrounds. Flanders, who said he broke just about every bone in his foot in a dirt bike accident earlier this year, said he liked the fair.
It’s such comments that keep the fair continuing year after year, say fair organizers.