At The Fair

When you think about a fair, is it the midway and the carnival games that come to mind? Do you go for the fried food and the evening entertainment? Fairs have all of those things, but underneath they retain their original purpose, as educational meeting grounds for rural, agricultural communities. Nowhere is that more evident than in New England’s remaining county fairs. Last weekend, I spent the day at the Fryeburg Fair, which is in the lakes region of Maine.

The day began with the Grand Parade. In the 1800s, yoked oxen powered small farms. Amazingly, there are still families that raise up these animals from birth and dedicate hours to their care and training. Young and old. Boys and girls.



The goal is a matched team. Look at how this one is so perfectly in tune that they are walking in unison.

in stekp


Horses are still used for logging and other tasks in the Maine woods. Some also go to fairs and compete in pulling contests. Here is the grand champion team from this year’s fair.

best team


It is expensive, in both time and money, to keep horses that pull carts. Most people are unaware that there are horses (other than the Budweiser Clydesdales) that do this. The fair is the place to see these animals, and for their owners to socialize with each other. There was much showing off. Driving a team of six Haflingers takes tremendous skill!

haflinger team


There are rows of wooden barns at the  Fryeburg Fair. Inside, there were sheep being readied to be judged. This young woman is cleaning her ewe’s ears with a Q-tip.

sheep grooming


In the barns are hardworking girls in pigtails and jeans. Breaks from showing and grooming are taken with the animals.



The pig showmanship class is always a draw.

curly tails


I’ve a feeling that this old sow has taught many 4-H children.



I love the faces of the fair, like this duck in the poultry barn,



and these Nubians in the goat barn.

Nubian goats


On the wall in the goat barn was this sign. How true.

goat sign


The petting barn was filled with goats and kids (both human and caprine.) Everyone was smiling.

goat petting


In the afternoon, there was harness racing, which has a long history in Maine.

harness racing


It was a full day. Good thing that there was plenty of food to sustain us. I gravitate to the booths run by the church ladies. I had some excellent corn chowder, and having come to this fair before, I knew exactly which fried food to get – these French fries. Made from fresh Maine potatoes, of course.

french fries

Is it fair season in your neck of the woods? What specialities do you have?


  1. We were also at the Fryeburg Fair on the parade day and I do believe we admired some of the same sweet animal faces featured in your photos. How sorry I am that I did not spot you in the crowd and have the chance to say a quick hello and tell you in person how much I admire your blog. Perhaps you and Tonka might enter one of the horsemanship events next year!

  2. The classic country fair is alive and very well here in Wisconsin, however; they are typically occurring during August and early September in this neck of the woods.
    I grew up as a 4-H kid and relish seeing the next generation embracing and enjoying all the same things my brothers and I did as young-ens. With each photo I could feel my smile growing and I laughed aloud when i read the sign in the goat barn! How cute!!! I was a bit disappointed you didn’t post any chicken photos…could they still be coming?

    • It wasn’t chicken day, so there were some birds in the poultry barn, but not a great selection. That duck was the most interesting.

  3. Gotta go next year. I particularly love the oxen walking in step and the Haflingers. But when it comes to goats, our boys have nothing to worry about.

  4. just attended a fair in Idaho while traveling in Sept. It was fun,really enjoyed the rabbits an chickens I sure didnt see anything that like that beautiful duck.

  5. Thank you for sharing. Makes me pine for The Great Danbury State Fair (Connecticut), which closed in 1981 after 113 years. It was replaced with…a mall….

    • Never went to that one; now I’m sad thinking about it. The New England states don’t have individual state fairs anymore. It’s all under the umbrella of the Big E.

      • We still have fairs up here in Vermont, four that I can think of right now. Old time fairs!

        • I remember Durham, CT was nice. Addison, VT too. Went to the Rutland, VT fair too. I live in GA now. The GA Ntl. Fair is going on now. Yes, it has the shows and rides. But a lot of GA is still agricultural and they still have that side too. Additionally, apples and foliage in the north GA mountains could give VT a run for its money in the fall. South Georgia has cotton, veggies and peaches. The irony- GA grows more blueberries than Maine! And South Carolina produces more peaches than “the peach tree state.”

          • My mouth is watering just thinking of the peaches we bought and ate driving through Georgia one year! We just can’t buy anything like them up here. They are harder than rocks and then rot before they ripen. I surely do love those fresh Georgia peaches.

  6. In the Ozarks, where I live, Sept. is the time we have multiple area Fall Festivals, each weekend. We have Cider Days, Apple Butter Days, Black Walnut Festival, Folk Music Days, and Farm Fest, to name a few.

      • I can still see my grandfather dumping buckets of black walnuts on the driveway and just running over them, back and forth, back and forth…and guess who got to help pick them up. ;-)

      • The crows here are brilliant. They drop their stolen walnuts on the street, then wait for a car to drive over them before swooping down to claim their prize. They have been doing this for years.

  7. My daughter shows her goats for 4H every May at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, made famous by Mark Twain in his short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. In addition to all of the goats, cows, lambs, pigs, and chickens, the frog jumping competition is quite a sight!

    • My town has a frog jumping competition as part of its Old Home Day celebrations. Even on our very small scale, it’s so much fun. What type of goats does she show?

      • Boer (unfortunately, the eating kind…don’t tell Pip and Caper!) At first, I had problems with her raising such cute animals for food! But, all animals are cute!!! And unless I want to become a vegetarian, and I don’t, I have learned to come to terms with it. And, through 4H, she has learned that you give them the best possible life while they are here, and a stress-free death, when it comes to that point. Most market animals (and certainly not commercial market animals) aren’t so lucky to have the love and attention she provides to them during their lives!.

  8. The Missouri State Fair is in Sedalia, not very easy to get to from where I live.

    I’ve been to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield numerous time. It probably has been 6 years since I’ve last been.

    Love the fried turkey legs and a roasted ear of corn. The best ear of corn you can get. They roast it with the shuck on, man is it good. They never would tell me their secret.