Storm barely dampens fair official

17 years ago

 PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Despite periods of strong winds and heavy rain during the latter part of the 153rd Northern Maine Fair, officials say gate attendance was actually higher than it was a year ago.     “The gate was a little bit higher than our highest year in the last eight. We had a good, solid gate,” said Lynwood Winslow, fair president. “Gate attendance was probably 20 percent better than a year ago, and at least 4 or 5 percent better than our best year in the last eight years.
“People came back in their normal fashion and the community really stuck with us through the troubles we had last year,” he said. “We certainly can’t make up the troubles of last year in one year, but I think we’re off to a good start.”
The torrential rains did cause some problems for the Northern Maine Fair Association.
“We sold one ticket on Friday, Aug. 3,” said Winslow. “Because of that, we closed at about suppertime and decided we would let people in for free that night. There were one or two food booths open, we played music in the music hall, and we had the bicycle stunt show in The Forum. We also had our band night, and they pulled out three sections of bleachers and they were all full, so people did come.
“At about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, we asked people to take shelter and let the storm pass and luckily it did and we were able to get our events in. It held us up an hour for the truck pulls … getting the track back into condition, but we really didn’t lose anything that day. When the sun came out, the crowd started coming.”
Harness racing that was scheduled for Friday was cancelled, and some vendors experienced damage to their booths.
“Our bingo tent and one of the sausage booths went down, but Smokey’s Greater Shows had a second sausage booth there, so we didn’t really lose anything other than it bent some of the wood,” said Winslow. “A couple of the game tents were lost, but they kept the games going on tables. Our wooden, portable stage was destroyed. It has an aluminum frame and the storm crushed that like a tin can, and the storm bent a couple pieces of aluminum on the rides, but all in all, things were fine.
“The biggest thing was the garbage that was blowing around,” he said. “When we got the garbage picked up we were surprised and said, ‘We can keep this going’ because we were nervous there for a while.”
Even with the severe weather, Winslow said the best word to describe the 153rd Northern Maine Fair was “awesome.”
“There’s no other word to describe it,” he said. “We had a very positive fair. We had a lot of local support, and good, good crowds. Having Smokey’s return definitely helped bring the people to the fair.
“Also our Family Fun Night (July 31) was a huge hit … nearly as big as our weekend crowds. You couldn’t even walk on the fairgrounds … it was shoulder to shoulder. For the first time, I noticed it wasn’t a group of teenagers and it wasn’t a group of adults, it was people with three or four kids around them. It felt like a family fair this year, and we owe a lot to our community for sticking with us.”
This year’s Family Fun Night featured the traditional pig scramble, a Boost Mobile Freestyle MX show, a performance by “Fireman Fred,” and a fireworks display.
New to the fair was the B&C Ranch, which featured an elephant act, and a horse and camel review.
“That was a huge hit,” said Winslow. “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get with those outside acts, but they were a quality, clean, family show … great for little kids. It was really fun and entertaining. People came back time and time again to see that.”
Organizers introduced the advent of a Cultural Day, which was equally successful. On Sunday, July 29, the fair hosted St. John Valley Day featuring music and displays representing Acadian culture.
“We had a really good, strong Sunday,” said Winslow. “I think we’ll step back and take a look at it, but for it being a first year, there sure seemed like there were a lot of people from the St. John Valley there. It also gave them a lot of publicity, so I think everything worked out well.”
With the hope of attracting more women to the fair, directors added a Ladies Pavilion, which was located in the commercial exhibition building and featured more than 20 independent consultants from direct selling companies, home-based businesses and local businesses of interest to women.
Among those businesses featured included Creative Memories, Pampered Chef, Tupperware, Discovery Toys, Jafra, Noah’ Ark Bear and Stamp’n Up.
“We had positive feedback all the way around,” Winslow said. “For the first time in several years, that building was completely full. We had a steady stream of people constantly going through the commercial exhibition building.
“It was probably 75 percent Ladies Pavilion and 25 percent commercial exhibits,” he said, “but everybody who came up to me said, ‘I’m glad your building is full this year.’ The exhibitors were very interested in coming back.”
Winslow said he is appreciative of the community’s support, and is excited about what the 154th Northern Maine Fair will be like next year.