DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Since it’s inception in 1887, the Piscataquis Valley Fair, one of the state’s oldest agricultural fairs, has been organized and produced by volunteers.
This year’s fair, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is no different. Volunteers such as Don Merrill of Milo have spent countless hours planning, fundraising and expanding the fairgrounds to ensure that fair-goers have expanded offerings each year.
Merrill, who is this year’s fair president, recalled that he made his first visit to the Piscataquis Valley Fair about 30 years ago and was hooked.
“I liked what I saw and the guys working there then, I liked them right off quick,” he said of the volunteer fair association members. He said he started helping the volunteers on weekends and never quit. “That’s how I got involved.”
It’s the volunteers that make it happen, Merrill said, and their efforts help the local economy.
“All the money that we make goes back into the community one way or the other,” he said.
Products and services are purchased locally when possible and scholarships are provided to students in the region, Merrill said.
“We always pride ourselves in having a good family fair, you can bring your kids in and let them go and feel perfectly fine,” Merrill said. That’s because the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department has an office on the fairgrounds during the four-day event and the Dover-Foxcroft Fire Department is on scene. Their presence adds dozens of sets of eyes to ensure fair-goers are safe, he said.
This year’s fair will feature musical entertainment all four days. At 7 p.m. Thursday, the Doughty Hill Band will perform. Crooner Jose Duddy will perform at 1 p.m. Friday and Prospect Hill will perform at 8 p.m. The Don Campbell Band will play at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and New Realm will perform at 11 a.m. Sunday. Local banjo man Ron Coates will perform throughout Saturday and Sunday.
Fair-goers will see some improvements, including a new milking parlor, to the facility this year. The parlor is set up so visitors can better view the milking process.
Merrill said there is something for everyone — from the frog-jumping contest to the produce and floral exhibitions to the livestock. Events include bingo games, magic and balloon shows, marionette shows, truck pulls, wrist wrestling, a pig scramble, skillet throw, pedal tractor pull, a demolition derby, a horse show and a game horse show. Fireworks are scheduled for about 9 p.m. Thursday.
Smokey’s Greater Shows, which will provide the midway, has lowered its wristband price from $18 to $15 this year. The purchase of a wristband will allow rides all day.
When the fair is over and the cleanup begins, Merrill said the volunteers will start planning next year’s event. “A lot of people think that you could run a fair in a month, but you can’t,” he said.