Houlton Fair selling ‘Lifetime’ passes for the holidays

12 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer
    HOULTON — Sometimes, finding the right holiday gift for a person is a monumental task. This holiday season, the Houlton Fair Association may be able to help.
    Lifetime passes to Houlton’s fair are now being sold for $240 on the association’s website (www.houltonfair.com) or can be purchased from a fair board member. These non-transferable passes provide entrance and parking for each day of the annual fair, held during Fourth of July festivities.
    Cleary said there are a couple of ways people can pay for the fair passes in a variety of ways. Individuals may pay the full amount at the time of purchase, or they may choose an installment plan.
    “It’s a great Christmas gift,” Cleary said. “You can get in to the fair for all four or five days for the rest of your life. It pays for itself within six years, so after that, you are basically getting into the fair for free.”
    The idea of selling lifetime passes to the fair came innocently enough when the fair awarded its very first lifetime pass this past year.
    “When we gave away prizes at our give-a-way Sunday event, we gave out our first lifetime pass,” Cleary said. “We had quite a few people come up to us and ask if they could buy one. We thought about it, did some research, and decided these passes were something we would like to do. We feel $240 is a real fair price.”
    Advance passes to next year’s fair will also be sold on the fair’s website from now until Christmas. The advance pass booklet sells for $30 with rides or $20 without rides and provides one ticket for each day of the fair.
    “This year, we sold 200 fair passes without rides and another 130 with rides,” Cleary said. “We will do a limited amount now and offer them again in June.”
    The advance booklets will switch to a “photo pass” next summer and only be good for one person, Cleary said.
    By selling lifetime fair passes and the advance pass booklets; Cleary said the fair group is able to generate revenue during its off-season. That money can be used for improvements to next year’s fair, he said. The group recently donated lifetime fair passes for the Houlton Rotary Auction.
    “These will only be sold until Christmas,” Cleary said. “We (the fair) don’t plan on going away anytime soon.”
    The Houlton Fair will celebrate its 25th year as a licensed state fair in the summer of 2012, according to Cleary. The Houlton Agricultural Fair has a very old history dating back to 1848 when the Southern Aroostook Agricultural Society held its first fair in Houlton. Historical data reveals that this fair went on for many years. There were at least three fairgrounds/trotting parks in Houlton, including one where the Houlton Regional Hospital now sits and one in the area of the Congregational Church on High Street. The event eventually found a home in Community Park.
    In the early 1900’s, a group of 10 men, who were involved in the Fair, purchased the land where Community Park is and down all the way to Pleasant Street. This group in turn, sold the property to the Fair Association, who continued to run the fair until the 1920s. From then on, the fair’s history is spotty as there were some years they did not have the fair. In the mid-1940s the fair sold its property to the town of Houlton for a dollar and other valuable considerations.
    When the Houlton Fair “restarted” again, in 1987, it started with a few thousand people attending the exhibits, contests, competitions and entertainment. To become a licensed state Agricultural Fair, a group must apply to the state for fair dates to run their event. The state then gives the group the criteria it will be evaluated on for each of the three provisional years. At the end of the trial period, after meeting all the requirements, the event was awarded a license to operate.
    The original Board of Directors of the Houlton Agricultural Fair was made up of Lona Putnam, Kathie Stubbs, Dr. Patrick Coville, Michael Scott, Lynn York, Lawrence Horten and Scott Austin.