BLUE HILL — It’s the last hurrah of summer. Time to splurge on a snow cone, doughboy, funnel cake, giant pretzel or whatever’s your pleasure and throw dietary cares to the wind. Time to ride the Ferris wheel or hold tight, close your eyes and scream while being spun at triple G-force in the Gravitron. Or kick back and take in the demolition derby or the farmers ox pull.
With COVID-19 forcing its cancellation, the 2020 Blue Hill Fair was sorely missed by Hancock County residents of all ages. So much so that the Parker Ridge Retirement Community’s residents and staff staged their own fair, complete with a dunk tank, baby animals, cotton candy, slushies, pie and produce contests and much more over Labor Day weekend.
Parker Ridge’s staff and nearly 70 residents and many of their relatives from Hancock County and beyond had a hand in the end-of-summer festivities spread over Friday-Saturday, Sept. 4-5.
Just like the Blue Hill Fair, the Parker Ridge Fair’s organizers turned the Parker Inn’s carport into an exhibit hall, where residents and staff displayed their homemade creations ranging from fine quilts and knit and crocheted garments to flowers and oil paintings.
Eighty-nine-year-old Parker Ridge cottager Bob Crosen cleaned up in a few of the crafts competition’s categories, capturing a first for his handcrafted “marching band” whirlygig and a second for his pecan pie. He also placed for his sizable, home-grown cucumber. He and Claire Shaw also helped promote the fair with their hand-drawn colorful posters and display signs.
For Crosen, a high point was watching Parker Ridge’s Executive Director Tim Chandler being dunked in a big tank brought in on a trailer. In the caged booth, Chandler abruptly shot down into the tank as the balls sailed by striking the target. Some folks missed, but the good sport ejected himself anyway.
“We all got a chance to throw balls at the target,” said Crosen, who like others got to go for a chauffeured spin around Blue Hill in a staff member’s 1935 midnight blue Ford Phaeton.
Parker Ridge’s Activities Director Alma Mote says news of the 2020 Blue Hill Fair’s cancellation inspired the senior living community’s chef Alexan
dria Kay and kitchen staffer Lisa Lockhart to pitch doing their own fair. The idea proved contagious and staffers and residents all got involved. What really made the two-day extravaganza happen, Mote added, were funds donated in memory of the late Gladys “Gigi” Merrick Cutler. A former resident, Gigi is remembered as one of Parker Ridge’s “biggest ambassadors.”
“It was such a great time. These past six months have been tough for everyone,” Mote said. “This was just a way to bring something fun to lift everyone’s spirits.”
On opening day, Parker Ridge residents got to tour the various cottages’ kitchen and flower gardens. They also threw darts at a balloon board, watched the 1945 movie “State Fair” and celebrated resident Marianne New’s 100th birthday with a Princess Pillow Cake from Pugnuts ice cream emporium in Surry.
The second day kicked off early with coffee and warm blueberry muffins. Entertainment included a viewing of live ducklings and a visit from Curtis and Nikki Jaffrey, who drove their team of Belgian draft horses from a wagon around the grounds. A potato bar, sausage subs, freshly squeezed lemonade and strawberry and blueberry shortcake were among the “fair” food items served up.
The Parker Ridge Fair’s most memorable moment, perhaps, was a car parade in which residents’ relatives, staffers and other well-wishers driving decorated vehicles toured the grounds. Crosen’s daughter Jane and her husband, Richard Washburn, pulled up in their Subaru topped with a sea kayak complete with simulated water. A passing pickup truck, with a “Squash COVID” sign and real squashes hanging from a clothesline, passed by too.
“That was tremendously emotional and exciting to see our families,” he described.
The day wound down with famed singer-songwriter Noel Paul Stookey playing “Puff the Magic Dragon” and other familiar folksongs live.
“It was a fantastic success,” said Mote, who says the staff and residents’ minds are already looking forward to the 2021 Parker Ridge Fair.