People walk past rides at the Blue Hill Fairgrounds on Sept. 2, 2018. The fair runs every year for a few days during Labor Day weekend. Credit: Bill Trotter | BDN

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BLUE HILL, Maine — It took a world war to cancel the Blue Hill Fair in 1943 and a worldwide pandemic to cancel it in 2020, but canceled it is.

The fair’s board of directors voted 13-0 on Monday to postpone the five-day event scheduled over Labor Day weekend until next year. Social distancing requirements meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 would thin the crowd to the point where running the fair would be financially irresponsible, event President David Gray said Tuesday.

The restriction “allows no more than 50 people in a crowd. Even if they jumped that up to 1,000 or 5,000 it wouldn’t do us any good,” Gray said. “There is no way we could stay within those guidelines.

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You can’t run half a fair. It’s got to be all or nothing. It was too big a financial risk.”

The cancellation follows a similar end to the Northern Maine Fair, whose operators announced in April that they also felt that running their fair posed too much of a risk due to COVID-19. A slew of other, similar events have been canceled by the pandemic.

“We just can’t roll the dice on it,” Gray said.

Usually drawing tens of thousands of attendees, the Blue Hill Fair has been around since the 1800s. It was last canceled in 1943 due to World War II, Gray said. Board members opted to hold the vote Monday because they were almost at the point where they would have to start signing contracts with entertainers and fair suppliers.

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The board wasn’t implicitly criticizing the restrictions with its decision, although, Gray said, he would have preferred that the state leaders “be the bad guy” by cancelling summer fairs directly.

“It was a decision that had to be made, and we made it,” Gray said. “That doesn’t mean we like the decision.”

Fair organizers will use the time created by the cancellation to improve the fair grounds off Route 172. It will also print a 2020 fair poster to keep a tradition going. The fliers might be collector’s items, given the unique situation, Gray said.

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