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Blue Hill, Maine

“the charm of its situation, its sparkling bay..."

A Real Downeast County Fair

Collaboratively written by The Bay School's eighth grade: Noah Cimeno, Aphelion Crampton, Alexander Heilner, Loriman Looke, Finn McMahon-Allwine, Charlotte Reiter, Oliver Scott, Nicholas Steenberg, and their class teacher, Scott Springer

Blue Hill Agricultural Fair, ca. 1875
Blue Hill Agricultural Fair, ca. 1875

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Historical Society

In the 1870’s, the grand finale of the fall Farmer’s Club was a parade of oxen. One time, it is remembered, the finale was fifty-seven yokes long. It went up Union Street, past Merrill & Hinckley’s store (which is still there), across High Street and back down Main Street. There were oxen-pulling contests, agricultural exhibits, and local domestic and manufactured crafts. The fields in front of Tucker’s Farm were bustling with visiting farmers and their animals from throughout Hancock County. There were cisterns (remains of which can still be found in the woods), sheds and stables.

Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1895
Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1895

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

In 1892, the newly organized Hancock County Agricultural Society formed and bought the current location. Blue Hill was ready to expand the Fair and a newly-built park for harness racing was perfect. Horse racing has a long history in the State and Blue Hill is still known for its traditional rules. Owners and drivers come from around the country, though the purse is smaller than some, because of its relaxed, authentic atmosphere. The picture to the left shows a race in progress during the third year of the Fair.

Postcard of the trotting park in Blue Hill ca. 1910
Postcard of the trotting park in Blue Hill ca. 1910

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

Once you step through the ticket booth, in front of you is the heart and soul of the fair: The Midway. There are many vendors selling deep fried food, cotton candy, and homemade and international foods. People with amazing musical talents play on the sound stages. There are many frustrating games that are fun and for a minimal price you can keep playing and finally win! Though there are people of all ages, there is at least one ride for everyone. And there is much more to be found. The Midway makes you feel like you've entered heaven and it begins your journey into the Hancock County Agricultural Society's Blue Hill Fair, as it has for over a hundred years.

Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1910
Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1910

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library
Hot Air Balloon launching at the Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1909
Hot Air Balloon launching at the Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1909

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

Rides have been commonplace at the Fair for decades. Early entertainment included the Ferris Wheel, which is still popular, and an assortment of rides ranging from the sedate (animals rides) to the horrifying (the Gravitron). In recent years, Smokey’s Greater Shows has managed the Fair's entire stock of rides, as it does for other Maine fairs. The photo on the left is of a hot air balloon that got away as it was being filled and sailed over Blue Hill Mountain. Fortunately, it came down in the nearby town of Orland and was retrieved. Fairgoers were treated to the highest ride ever. The boy on the right looks like he needs some cheering up. Over the years, the Agricultural Society has worked to help the Fair evolve and change, to keep it fresh and inviting to visitors and exhibiters, and still maintain its charm.

Photograph of cattle competition at the Blue Hill Fair, 1957
Photograph of cattle competition at the Blue Hill Fair, 1957

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

Today, with the work of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust's Farmland Forever program, and a renewed interest in locally grown foods, farmer's markets and co-ops, new farms are beginning to appear in Hancock and Washington Counties. The sheepdog trials are still a major attraction known throughout the U.S. though there are not as many local shepherds as there used to be (just think of all those "sheep islands" up and down the coast). 4H groups are still strong in surrounding communities, and there is an obvious pride in the displays to be found in the exhibit halls. Adult and student 4H exhibiters from both Hancock and Washington Counties bring crafts, prepared foods, produce, handiwork of all types and more to show and share with the community, and to compete and win ribbons and prizes. The cattle, sheep, goats, work horses, hogs and poultry on display range from magnificent to humble and show that animal husbandry is not gone from Downeast.

Postcard of the Blue Hill Fair, 1965
Postcard of the Blue Hill Fair, 1965

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

At the Fair, there is a variety of food. It ranges from carameled apples to great French Fries from Maine potatoes to a lobster dinner. There is something for everyone. In the Exhibition Hall, there are many vegetable displays, and competitions where produce is judged by size, color and shape. There are baked goods, eating contests and crafts that help maintain Maine's heritage. The exhibit halls are a big part of the Blue Hill Fair for everyone young and old alike.

Blue Hill Fair, 1937
Blue Hill Fair, 1937

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

In Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White writes about a fair from the different characters' points of view. What most people don’t know is that the fair described in the book is the Blue Hill Fair! E.B White lived just down the road in Brooklin. Even today, E.B. White’s classic story is honored by a Charlotte's Web Tent that has all the animals from the story. Wilbur, Charlotte, even Templeton, can be seen there, or, at least, their relatives can. White writes, "When they pulled into the Fair Grounds, they could hear music and see the Ferris wheel turning in the sky. They could smell the dust of the race track where the sprinkling cart had moistened it; and they could smell hamburgers frying and see balloons aloft. They could hear sheep blatting in their pens." And so it is still.

Aerial oblique view of Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1915
Aerial oblique view of Blue Hill Fair, ca. 1915

Item Contributed by
Blue Hill Public Library

The Blue Hill Fair is many things to many people: entertainment and community, the culmination of hard work and training, the beginning of school. It is an opportunity for well over 40,000 people to come together each year and celebrate harvest time, the end of summer, and a way of life that is as important now as ever.