The fair: building on a good thing
Fair time. Hot, humid and fun arrive in the middle of summer. This year was no exception.
Fair is a time for gathering with friends old and new and celebrating the joys of simple pleasures, simple food and old memories. Some thought had been given to how the layout and materials of the fair would be laid out. Gone were the confusing array of disorganized chaos. One could easily walk the whole event and know that they had covered all the highlights. Gone, too, were the signs of an old tart throwing on a new coat of paint. Thanks to a dedicated staff, the trash and flotsam of crowds was gone.
Finally the charm of a simple fair came through. If the commitment continues the fair is going to grow in stature.
With each section identified and linked to the next, it was exciting to explore. Keeping people interested in finding what’s around the corner keeps boredom away. The result: success.
Now to build on the audience. Yes, The County has lost a lot. However, a fair is about optimism. By building on that optimism, foundations are laid for other great ideas. This is a good beginning.
With the number of cooking programs and schools in The County, it is very surprising that there is not a contest for the best. There is no food truck contest. Who is the best cook in the County? What is the best menu? Who can make a meal the fastest? Great contests for The County and certainly a worthy part of any fair. We grow it; we may as well show how it can be used.
A tour of the food court at this moment in time is a tour through predictability. There is only so much cotton candy, polish sausage and fresh squeezed lemonade that can be sold. Challenge: High school fundraisers. Which high school can offer a new event snack? How about a sliced watermelon or pineapple booth? Who can make a trout taco? Salmon steaks? Put forth the challenge and give people a reason to come from downstate.
Potato County, we brag. Yet, the french fries come from downstate farms — a clear sign that the outside vendors will not pay homage to our products.
Green Thumb Farms and Bell Farms of Lewiston provided the spuds for fries at the Northern Maine Fair. Where are the Aroostook County farm products? There is not even a McCain’s fried spud to challenge the stranglehold of southern Maine on the mind of the fairgoer. Why? No beef, no chicken and definitely no barbecue ribs.
The fair is a destination event. People will come, and with luck they will spend the day leaving with great memories and ideas for the next event.
Celebrate the summer and showcase what we can do. Surprise is the better part of pleasure.
Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.