HOULTON — Have comedy shows experienced their last hurrah in Houlton?
For the second straight year, an appearance by a national comedian has been canceled. Paul Cleary, president and superintendent of entertainment for the Houlton Fair Association, confirmed Friday that the scheduled appearance of Ralphie May would not go on as planned.
May was scheduled to perform two shows in Houlton on Saturday, April 23, but due to poor ticket sales, the appearance in northern Maine has been canceled.
“The sales just weren’t there,” Cleary said. “We do these shows as fundraisers, and we were hoping to raise some money for the fair, but we were looking at taking a really big hit [financially] that would have put in jeopardy our ability to put on the fair this year.”
Cleary said the decision was made to cancel the comedy show and cut the group’s losses.
“We decided the best thing to do would be to get out while we still could and refund the money to everyone,” Cleary said.
Last year, comedian Jon Reep’s show was canceled. Both Reep and May have impressive comedy resumes, including appearances on the television show “The Last Comic Standing.”
“A lot of performers don’t want to come when you have 5,000 tickets and only 500 are sold,” Cleary said. “That’s embarrassing to them and doesn’t look good on their resume.”
A number of exceptional comedians have appeared in Houlton over the years. Daniel Lawrence Whitney, better known as “Larry the Cable Guy,” was the first to appear in the Shiretown, followed by Bill Engvall, Ron White and Jeff Dunham. The performances by White and Dunham were both sold-out shows.
A total of 5,000 tickets were available for the May show, split between two performances.
A poor economy is part of the reason for lack of interest, according to Cleary. Another reason, he said, is that there are now more offerings in terms of concerts, particularly in Bangor and Portland, to draw people to.
“It used to be that April vacation was our time,” he said. “There typically was not much going on in late February, March, April or May in terms of concerts. Over the last two years, we have seen artists come to Maine during this time period, and that has hurt.”
Will there ever be another comedy show in Houlton? Perhaps, but not anytime soon.
“As long as I am here, I don’t think so,” Cleary said. “If something falls in our lap, we’d do it. But these shows have become very expensive, with very little return. You never want to say never.”
Those who want to be reimbursed for purchased tickets should contact the fair association at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the fair office, located in Community Park, 5-7 p.m. Friday or 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
For information about the fair, which is scheduled to be held July 1-4 this year, visit www.houltonfair.com.