FRYEBURG, Maine — The 169th Fryeburg Fair ended under cloudy skies Sunday, but it was a week that overall got rave reviews, fair officials said.
Weather diminished overall attendance slightly for the eight-day fair, according to fair publicist Rachel Andrews Damon, while adding that nonetheless there were many high points at "Maine's Fall Blue Ribbon Classic."
“We welcomed 161,476 people through the gates, not including our exhibitors, vendors, farmers, volunteers or employees," she reported.
"Attendance was up 10 percent after the first five days, but down in total 2.4 percent (from 2018's 165,392) by fair’s end. The weather dictates almost everything for us, and attendance numbers are directly in line with conditions,” said Damon.
Saturday saw sunny skies, but the final Sunday was cloudy and cool with threatening skies that ended with showers.
The following are daily paid attendance figures for the fair:
• Opening Sunday, Sept. 29: 25,498, compared with 25,550 last year and the record of 29,995 in 2001.
• Monday, Woodsmen’s Field Day, Sept. 30: 22,528, compared with 13,967 last year and the all-time record of 26,017 in 2004.
• Tuesday, Senior Citizens’ Day, Oct. 1: 8,375, compared with 4,067 in 2018 and the all-time record of 17,014 set in 2006.
• Wednesday, Oct. 2: 14,560, compared with last year’s all-time record of 21,010.
• Thursday, Oct. 3, 16,055 compared with last year’s 14,499 and the all-time record of 20,483 set in 2009.
• Friday, Oct. 4: 17,459, compared with 2018’s 25,908,
• Saturday, Oct. 5: 36,209, compared with last year’s 34,613 and the all-time record of 46,834 set in 2000, the fair’s 150th anniversary year.
• Sunday, Oct. 6: 20,792, compared with 25,778 last year and down from the 28,011 set in 2011.
The overall paid attendance record was set in 2004, when 199,276 attended.
The overall highest one-day paid attendance record of 46,834 was set on Saturday in 2001.
Among the highlights was the annual Grand Livestock Parade that took place Saturday and lasted about an hour and a half, Damon said.
"No idea how many animals were in it, but we have over 3,000 on the fairgrounds and most participate. We even had a 10-horse hitch in for the first time," she said.
The 10-horse hitch is owned by Maple Lane Acres of Hillgrove, New Brunswick.
In other highlights. receiving the award for "Best Fair Display" was the replica of the Kearsarge Fire Tower, with retired White Mountain National Forest worker Howard Hatch of Albany receiving the award with fellow display staffers Ken Corrock of Bartlett and Charlie Birch of Conway.
The fire tower display has been part of the fair since 2008.
Hatch is the grandson of one of the original Kearsarge North fire tower stewards who staffed the tower through the 1960s. He worked there himself from 1963-66, according to Corrock.
“We were very happy to receive the ‘Best Display at the Fair’ award,” said Corrock. “Many people shared their stories about their connections with fire towers and the Kearsarge tower specifically, and others said they had never been to a tower before so they were happy to experience ours along with the displays, which included information about the great Brownfield fire of 1947.”
The 4-H Expo Hall had its usual display of crafts and agricultural displays, including quilts. Young quilter Chris Beal, 8, of Saco, Maine, won a blue ribbon for her geometric patterned quilt against a floral background.
Taking top honors in the great pumpkin contest was Pete Fuleo of North Conway, who grew a 435-pound orb of pure pumpkin pulchritude.
The Farm Museum and the Old Schoolhouse were also popular with fairgoers, with the abutting blacksmith shop and country kitchen drawing big crowds as well in the southeast corner of the fairgrounds.
There, patrons could watch the art of making hay bales as worked by an old-fashioned baler.
The Specialty Foods Pavilion was also popular, with visitors able to sample sea salt, homemade jams and spreads and various kinds of barbecue sauces.
New this year at the fair was a craft beers tent run by Rustic Taps Catering, owned by Dave and Jessica Golden of Gorham, Maine.
Also new was the Mountain View Pavilion, built to replace the sheep and cattle barns that burned in July 2018.
According to Fair Supt. Roy Andrews, it is the biggest building at the fair, able to house about 400 sheep and 80 or more cattle. It measures 120 by 240 feet.
The fair featured entertainment throughout the week, including night shows at the Grandstand, Monday through Saturday, highlighted by a well-attended tribute to the music of Johnny Cash on Tuesday, “Church of Cash.”
Fireworks were featured Friday after a performance by Billy Joel soundalike “Billy DelGuidice and Big Shot.”
The Fryeburg Fair will be celebrating its 170th birthday next year as well as the 200th birthday of the state of Maine.”
Next year’s fair is set for Oct. 4-11.
As for Damon (whose family has run the fair for what seems like forever), she's exhausted but happy. “Every last Sunday night of Fryeburg Fair, I am reminded of that disappointed childhood feeling of the fair being over for another year," she said.
"Horse pulling was outstanding this year, breaking a record for the number of participants and pulling teams," she added, noting that "157 men and women participated in Woodsmen’s Field Day. It was a sunny and beautiful Monday with the smell of wood everywhere.
"I thought the Night Shows were a highlight, especially Friday’s Michael DelGuidice & Big Shot. The band members all play with Billy Joel. Incredible musical talent to behold right in our own backyard," she continued.
"DelGuidice referred to Fryeburg as 'Freezeburg' during his show because of the frigid temperature and high winds during his band’s performance.
“Thank you to everyone who came to Fryeburg Fair and supported our mission of agriculture and history. You are very appreciated,” said Damon.
Police said other than the expected delays on the roads from fair traffic, things went smoothly.
“It was another successful fair year with minimal incidents," said Fryeburg Chief of Police Josh Potvin. "I have received compliments on the traffic this year."
While "Saturday was a extremely busy, and traffic delays were extended by several hours," Potvin said that "my officers did an outstanding job managing fair traffic and maintaining uninterrupted police services to our residents and those visiting.”
For more information, go to fryeburgfair.org or call (207) 935-3268.
Next up, the Sandwich Fair returns to Center Sandwich, Oct. 12-14. For more nformation, go to thesandwichfair.com or call (603) 284-7062.