A former NASCAR racing champion and a new treehouse for little lumberjacks are on tap for this year’s Northern Maine Fair.
The event takes place Thursday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 7, at the Presque Isle fairgrounds.
The fair debuted in 1851 and still draws thousands of residents and visitors. Though it no longer has carnival rides and harness racing, organizers have added more family-friendly activities to make up the difference. Fairgoers will see more tractor pulling and kids will find more to explore in the successful Lil’ Lumberjacks exhibit, said Fair President Lynwood Winslow.
And of course, there will be plenty of farm animals.
“We know some people associate fun with carnival rides, but a lot of people never rode those rides. We’re trying to give families a good reason to come to the fair,” Winslow said. “And the No. 1 reason kids go to fairs is animals.”
Last year, kids found another reason to attend when Lil’ Lumberjacks at the Fair opened. In a woods-like setting among trees and small cabins, youngsters met forest rangers and Smokey Bear, made S’mores, tossed beanbags and other fun activities, all while learning about types of trees and forestry practices.
A newly built treehouse that will contain books and a maple sugar house to show how syrup is made now complete the arrangement. Designed as a two-year project, the interactive exhibit is modeled after the popular Lil’ Farmers at the Fair, which lets kids learn about farming.
The reaction has been continually positive from the community and forestry companies, who like many other industries struggle to attract new workers, Winslow said.
“They’re just pleased to see a presentation of their industry that can excite young people about it, and at the same time give them a realistic, hands-on experience to touch and see and feel,” he said.
Though targeted to elementary school-aged kids, the exhibit has been just as popular with adults, he said.
Truck and tractor pulling events always draw crowds, and this year will include a new session of stock farm tractor pulling on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 5, Winslow said.
Former NASCAR racer Andy Santerre of North Yarmouth will be on site with the Maine Vintage Race Car Association’s Traveling Museum, part of the fair’s Rods, Rides and Relics Transportation Show at The Forum Aug. 5 and 6.
Santerre was NASCAR’s Busch North Series champion 2002-2005 and is on the vintage car association’s board.
The 4-H Baby Beef Auction will return at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, where local youth present their cattle for sale.
Other attractions will include free monster truck rides for the kids, the annual lumberjack roundup, cooking contests, live music, carnival-type games hosted by local teens, horse shows and a motorcycle stunt show — and, of course, popular fair treats.
In keeping with the agriculture theme, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension will give talks on crops, potato pests, soil health and food preservation. Displays will feature blacksmithing, forestry, crops and farm equipment.
Many teens now need to complete volunteer hours before they graduate, and fair officials invite local teens to join the large group of fair volunteers, Winslow said.
Though it’s a lot different now since the fair can no longer get carnival rides, continual community support keeps the fair going, he said. It’s one of the few things in the area that’s been going for more than 150 years.
“We know it’s a challenge and we know people have a lot of options, but we’re just thankful for the community that believes in what we’re doing,” he said. “We hope people will bring their families and create a new generation of people who love the fair.”
For a complete schedule of activities, visit the fair’s website or Facebook page at facebook.com/northernmainefairgrounds.