People line up around noon Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, to get into the Bangor State Fair on its opening day at Bass Park. The annual fair was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been shortened and scaled down this year as cases of the virus are climbing in Maine. Credit: Emily Burnham / BDN

The three-day version of the Bangor State Fair that started on Friday at Bass Park doesn’t look much like any other edition of the fair that has happened in its 170-year history. This year’s fair features only a midway with rides, food and games, and won’t have the demolition derby, animal exhibitions and other entertainment it usually has.

Still, after the fair was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, most fairgoers were glad that there’s at least something happening to entertain families during the summer, even if this year’s version has been scaled down as the number of COVID cases statewide is climbing back up.

“We go just about every year. The kids love it,” Carole Husson, of Hampden, who was waiting in line to get in with her grandchildren, Reya and Jeydon. “My grandson has been looking forward to it all year. I’ve been vaccinated, so that makes me feel better. It’s a summer tradition.”

Tony Vail, director of the Cross Insurance Center, said last week that even though it’s a scaled-back version of the fair this year, he hopes it’ll still be fun for people.

“We just hope it brings some fun and enjoyment to the community, after what has been a really long and difficult year,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can to get back open, safely, and bring events back to the community. And this is just the start of that.”

A steady stream of fair-goers arrived at the fairgrounds around noon on Friday to ride some rides and eat some food. While few people were wearing masks, a number of people in line said they were already vaccinated — though children under the age of 12 are still not allowed to get shots, which worried some parents.

“We usually go every year, and we usually go to the fair in Presque Isle, too, but they’re not having rides this year,” said Kara Ouellette of Caribou, who was at the fair with her family, and who said she was vaccinated, though her son was too young to be.

“We’re not thinking about it too much, but we’ve got hand sanitizer and we’ll be careful,” said Michele Freeman of Holden, who was there with her children and their friends. “It’s like anything else. We’re just here to have fun.”

Northern Light Healthcare set up a vaccination station at the entrance to the fair, where between 2 and 4 p.m. on Friday workers were offering shots to unvaccinated fairgoers.

Though several other fairs around the state have already happened, including the Monmouth Fair in June, the Pittston Fair in July, and the Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle, which started Thursday, fair season is traditionally in August and September.

Other upcoming state fairs around Maine that are happening in full or with condensed schedules include the the Topsham Fair, Aug. 10-15; the Skowhegan State Fair, Aug. 12-21, the Union Fair, Aug. 21-28; the Windsor Fair, Aug. 29-Sept. 6; and the Blue Hill Fair, Sept. 2-6.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.