BLUE HILL — Planning a wedding for 200 guests usually takes a year, said new Blue Hill Fair General Manager Erik Fitch. This year, fair organizers have less than three months left to plan a five-day party for 40,000.
But rest assured, acts and entertainment will be booked, food vendors lined up and ribbons and prizes ordered in time for this year’s fair, which will run Thursday, Sept. 2, through Monday, Sept. 6.
Fitch replaces Rob Eaton, who has retired after 30 years of organizing and managing the fair. The fair began in 1891 and has run continuously except for in 1943, when the U.S. was at war, and last year, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Two years is a long time to wait for fried dough or a lime fizz, but the countdown is on now,” Fitch said.
“We did not know up until four weeks ago that we were even going to be able to have the fair,” said Fitch. “When the state opened up large gatherings and outdoor events, that gave us the green light to have the fair. What normally takes a year to plan is now down to basically three and a half months. So that has created challenges as far as booking acts and schedules, things like that. As far as our schedule and what’s going to be there, that is not 100 percent finalized yet.”
Saturday night’s acts are lined up with the local Emily Young Band as well as Namely Country.
There is one time change. The fair will close at 7 p.m. on Monday, a couple hours earlier than tradition. Fitch explained that most of the vendors have run out of food by that point and children have school Tuesday morning.
The fair will be bringing on a new carnival vendor.
Cushing Amusements from Massachusetts replaces Smokey’s.
“It was time for a change,” said Fitch. “We were hearing from people it was the same rides they were on as children and now their grandchildren were riding those same rides. It was time to spice things up.”
Cushing Amusements isn’t new to Maine, just new to Blue Hill. Cushing runs the carnivals at the Acton Fair and Clinton Fair, among others.
“They pretty much have all the favorites,” said Fitch. “They travel with many more game trailers than what we’ve had in Blue Hill in the past couple years, including more games for kids, which Smokey’s had kind of gotten away from.”
New this year is a permanent Blue Hill Fair Museum to display artifacts from fairs past, dating back to 1892, Fitch said. If you know of any memorabilia or objects from Blue Hill Fairs past that could be loaned or donated to the museum, please call 374-3701.
Now for everyone’s favorite topic: the food vendors.
“COVID has affected our vendors,” Fitch said. “Some of our vendors had to sell to make ends meet during the pandemic. We had many booths that are no longer in business. Some of them had been with us 50-plus years.”
But, rest assured, there are vendors lined up and more are being sought. Any interested prospective vendors should go online to bluehillfair.com for applications.
Entry prices are expected to be the same, Fitch said. Thursdays there will be the usual dollar admission as well as dollar mechanical rides.
Animals are a-go.
“We are expecting our livestock to be 100 percent full,” Fitch said. “We expect big crowds for our agricultural events.”
The Bangor State Fair announced on its website that it was no longer doing agricultural events.
New contests include a whoopie pie baking contest. Whoopie pies replace the fudge contest.
“How many years can you make the same tray of fudge?” Fitch asked. “We’ve got to start mixing it up here.”
The blueberry pie eating contest is back after a several-year hiatus. This year, it’s going to be up close and personal.
Instead of putting pie-eating contestants on stage, Fitch is moving them to a table right in front of the grandstand.
Cornhole tournaments are replacing the horseshoe tournaments.
The Grand will be back with its talent competition for local performers.
All in all, Fitch expects a solid turnout.
“People are excited to get out and breathe the fresh air,” said Fitch. “We expect we’re going to have a good crowd.”
No masks will be required.
“Really, it’s going to look quite normal,” the manager said.