Northern Maine Fair closes 74-year-old grandstand due to safety concerns

3 weeks ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An iconic structure in Aroostook County is in the process of being retired.

The 74-year-old grandstand on the Northern Maine Fairgrounds is closed effective immediately by order of the fair’s trustees, according to Lynwood Winslow, president of the nonprofit Northern Maine Fair Association.

The grandstand will be replaced with $200,000 aluminum bleachers that will be located in front of the old structure a little closer to the racetrack at this year’s fair, which will be held from July 31 to August 4. The new bleachers will seat 1,444 people.

“It’s a terrible loss for the fair [and] the grandstand has so much history in our community,” Winslow said Monday.

The old wooden bleachers do not meet the latest requirements to pass state inspection in 2024 and were deemed unsafe. The new bleachers will have handicap spaces for wheelchairs and electric mobility vehicles.

The Northern Maine Fair Association took out a loan for $200,000 to cover the cost of the bleachers that will be paid off through fundraising donations. Around $45,000 has been raised so far.

A large portion of the $75,000 annually to maintain the utilities, code compliance, and labor costs of the fairgrounds go toward maintaining the grandstand.

“Our first priority was to have a plan for this year’s fair, so our phase one would be to build these aluminum bleachers and phase two will be figuring out what to do with the old grandstand,” Winslow said.

A plan to demolish the wooden grandstand hasn’t been put in place by the Northern Maine Fair Association due to funding and planning for this year’s fair.

The order for the new aluminum bleachers was placed this week, Winslow said.

City councilors at their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 7, voted 7-0 to have the city partner with the Northern Maine Fair Association and help them look for other funding options to upgrade the grandstand to better meet the city’s code.