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'The community needed it.' | Agricultural fairs in Maine see big crowds with 2021 return

The Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs has 25 fairs scheduled statewide from June to October of 2021, after the pandemic caused cancellations last year.

WATERFORD, Maine — In Maine, one of the best places to spend time during the summer is outside in general. After a year-long break because of the pandemic, a classic tradition is back in our state, and it's giving families and friends an opportunity to get out and see each other while learning a little bit about agriculture.

On Friday, July 16, the fourth agricultural fair of the season in Maine is kicking off for the weekend. This is the Waterford World's Fair's 171st running season, and organizers are hoping to see a big turnout. Expected highlights for the weekend include events like the pig scramble; draft horse, steer, and ox shows; dessert judging; and live music. The fair is somewhat unique as one of the only "world's" fairs still left in the world, meaning people from anywhere in the world could technically take part in the competitions. 

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One goal of the Waterford World's Fair (and other agricultural fairs) is to teach families about where their food is coming from. This is, in part, to address food insecurity in our state. Jeff Winslow, a volunteer who has been working at this fair for almost two decades, says it's a good opportunity for children and adults to see local agriculture with old-fashioned events that help to maintain traditions in the state. 

"The people that you see at the fairs you don't run into as often the rest of the year. They might be a volunteer who's organizing and running an event, or they might be an exhibitor here with animals," said Winslow. "If it's 10 or 15 minutes just to catch up and ask how they've been, or talk about the next fair that's coming up -- just getting together with the people is what keeps me doing it."

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Three other agricultural fairs have already taken place in our state this summer: The Monmouth Fair, Houlton Agricultural Fair, and Ossipee Valley Fair. 

Organizers with the Monmouth and Ossipee Valley Fairs say they saw the best crowds they've ever had. Workers at the Ossipee Valley Fair even had to come up with new parking spaces after running out of room.

Organizers say the fairs have been a great opportunity to bring people together again. 

"A lot of people still hadn't been out yet because things are opening up slowly, and it's still kind of new, like going out and seeing people without having a mask on -- so we were thrilled to be able to offer that," said Diana Morgan, president of the Monmouth Fair Association. 

"The community needed it. We needed it, as a fair -- and people are showing their animals, pulling horses. They needed the fair to go on, and by God we came through in flying colors," Bill Jones, president of the Ossipee Valley Fair, said. 

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The Waterford World's Fair is happening from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 16, and Saturday, July 17, and from 9 a.m. to around 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 18. Winslow recommends people arrive early to get a parking spot.