The Northern Maine Fair Association announced Friday it has canceled the 2020 fair due to the high level of uncertainty about the next few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Northern Maine Fair Association

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Northern Maine Fair Association announced Friday it has canceled the 2020 fair due to the high level of uncertainty about the next few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the first of Maine’s agricultural fairs to cancel because of the virus. The fair was scheduled to occur July 31-Aug. 8.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the fair’s regular activities during this time of year — including landing entertainment, hiring staff, and program decisions — unfeasible while the community was under such “intense strain,” the Fair Association said.

Lynwood Winslow, president of the association, said the decision to cancel the fair was an extremely difficult one, especially because of the nearly 170-year-long history of the event. He said the ultimate decision came because of potential health ramifications that could arise with going through with the event.

“The health and safety of our community is our top priority,” Winslow said. “We look forward to bringing you a fantastic fair in 2021.”

Additionally, the association felt that low attendance from the public because of COVID-19 fears could adversely affect nonprofits and local small businesses, many of whom rely on the fair to fundraise and sell their products, respectively.

While the fair won’t come to Presque Isle again until 2021, the association said that — if permitted by local conditions — they would like to plan an event celebrating the “people and heritage of Northern Maine” sometime in the late summer or early fall.

The Northern Maine Fair has an annual attendance of 22,000 and a yearly budget of $750,000, according to the fair association. The first Northern Maine Fair was held in 1851.

In southern Aroostook County, the Houlton Agricultural Fair is still a go as of Friday, the fair’s new President Nick Crane said. The Houlton event is slated to run July 3-5.

“We are currently monitoring the situation,” Crane said. “We are moving forward in hopes that the restrictions will be lifted. I have been in contact with [Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs] leaders and other state of Maine presidents. As a board we take the health of the community, fair goers, vendors and volunteers very seriously. We will continue to monitor the situation daily. But as of today yes the Houlton Fair is still planning to run.”

Staff writer Joseph Cyr contributed to this report.