UNITY, Maine — The 34th annual Common Ground Country Fair will once again bring together farmers, basket weavers, blacksmiths, ecologists, fiddlers and children dressed as vegetables to celebrate Maine’s rural and agricultural traditions this weekend.
“It’s one of the biggest festivals in the Northeast,” said Fair Director Jim Ahearne. “It’s uniquely Maine, celebrating local traditions.”
Last year, about 51,000 people attended the fair.
Nearly 700 vendors and exhibitors will provide Maine-made products as well as demonstrations on agriculture, energy efficiency, health, forestry, Native American arts, livestock, social action and the environment.
“With hundreds of unique things scheduled at the fair over the three days, it’s overwhelming for people to plan what to attend,” said Ahearne.
To help visitors sort it all out, this year the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has launched its first online fair schedule that can be searched by speaker, topic or time. Fairgoers can select favorite events and create customized schedules to print or e-mail. The schedule is available at http://commongroundcountryfair2010.sched.org/.
“While we are firmly rooted in traditions of the past and a lot of what we celebrate at the fair is ‘old school,’ we embrace innovation and what’s out there to help improve things,” said Ahearne.
MOFGA set up the fairgrounds to be an educational center with a working farm, woodlot and orchards in addition to the typical fair tents and stages.
In a new area called the School Zone, more than 20 groups including the Maine School Garden Network and Maine Agriculture in the Classroom will teach parents and teachers about promoting a healthful lifestyle to youths. It will be open all three days of the fair.
Traditional activities include a donkey and mule show, foot race, sheep dog demonstrations and the Harry S. Truman Memorial Manure Toss.
Musical entertainment is scheduled on four stages, and roaming musicians will perform on ministages throughout the grounds.
Returning this year are fair favorites The Toughcats and the Gawler Family Band.
“There are a ton of great Maine artists who grew up in Maine and have family in Maine,” said Ahearne. “[The Portland band] Jacob and the House of Fire are going to come here, and if there was a roof, they’d blow it off.”
Featured speakers are Kerry Hardy, “In Search of the Dawnland Diet”; Woody Tasch, “Slow Money: Investing Because Food, Farms and Fertility Matter”; and Jim Gerritsen, “Observations from 35 Years of Watching the Maine Organic Community Grow.”
More than 2,000 volunteers make the fair possible. For information on volunteering, call 568-4142.
Gates open at 9 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and free for children ages 12 and under, handicapped people and MOFGA members. Tickets can be purchased in advance at many store outlets and at www.mofga.org. Pets are prohibited from the fairgrounds and fair parking lots. Free parking is limited. Bicyclists receive valet parking and, along with train riders, $2 off admission.