From MOFGA to midways, fair season in Maine has something for everyone

Hello from North Haven!

Last weekend Bill and Pen and I made the journey inland for our annual Common Ground Fair trip. We stayed with my parents in Chesterville, and then all got up early to make the first train out of Unity station.

We would have made it, too, except that someone (not me) got carsick and barfed about four miles from the station, and someone (also not me) cleaned her up and changed her on the side of the road. I was busy not looking and also not breathing so that I would not also vomit and have to be changed on the side of the road. We caught the second train though, and found seats outside in the caboose to try to catch a little breeze. It was unseasonably hot, even at 9 in the morning, and we wondered how long we would last at the fair.

We arrived, and at my dad’s urging went straight for the food. We started with fried shiitake mushrooms from Shiitake Farm, a whole wheat egg roll, a falafel, and my non-vegetarian father’s coveted lamb kebab. We watched a parade circle the picnic area, filled with signs urging everyone to compost and farm. Tiny kids dressed as peas and monarchs banged cymbals and a bagpiper kept time while a singing carrot countered with a folk song.

From there we admired giant squash and tiny peppers in the produce judging barn, and hit up the animals. From chickens with mop tops and Seussian angora rabbits to alpacas and giant draft horses, we ooh-ed and aah-ed and patted and baby talked to them all. At noon we found seats in front of the fence at the sheep dog exhibition, but mostly we wanted to drink as many cold beverages as possible. Iced chaga tea, lemonade and cider fit the bill as the sheep dogs made goats and sheep hop on tables and climb ramps with the power of their steely gaze. Sometimes they went on strike and sat in the kiddie pool, there to cool them off, instead.

We were ready to sit in a kiddie pool ourselves, but we rallied with the help of french fries and tofu fries from Heiwa Tofu (and tofu t-shirts, too), eaten in the shade of the Maine vendors tent. After finding the perfect green pocket book for myself, handwoven by Ron King, and a small purple bag for Penrose, we staggered back to the train. Penrose fell asleep as soon as it started moving, but refused to nap in the car on the way back. I did, though.

I didn’t think I’d be up for much that evening, sweaty as it was, but at dinner Bill told me he’d always wanted to go to the Farmington Fair. I’d gone when I was a kid, but as someone who gets a little nervous about a Ferris wheel, let alone the Zipper, hadn’t been back in adulthood. But my parents offered to put Penrose to bed, and it was a relatively cool 77 degrees out, and so we went.

We made a beeline for the main attraction of the night, the demolition derby. Earlier that day, we’d sat pressed close to a fence with a few hundred other people to watch the intricate interactions between humans, predators and prey at the sheep dog demo. Now we stood pressed close to a fence with about 7,000 other spectators, completely filling two sets of stadium seats and standing ten deep behind us, all the way around the racetrack. As the helmeted drivers made their introductory laps to the wild cheers of the crowd, I realized I’d never been to the derby before. I must have been too busy being aggressively uncool in high school. Too bad – this was GREAT.

The hilarious announcer cued the start of the heat and chaos suddenly erupted in the center of the race track as battered, spray-painted cars smashed into each other. Dust rose up in clouds, maybe mixed with smoke from engines one hit away from giving up the ghost. The two men in front of us, with tattooed necks and Harley Davidson t-shirts, made sure that Bill and I could see between them and offered lively commentary on the action. As car after car was obliterated into immobility and the final three sought each other for one more hit, the heat came to an end. We wandered away as the top three were announced.

We did a few laps of the fair. Bill snapped film photos of rides and midway games and we found the Sap House for some of their famous maple cotton candy. I dug deep and got on the Ferris wheel for a tame five laps, each peaking in a view of the fair and the quiet town behind it. I clutched the handle in the center a little less tightly each time, settling in to all that Maine has to offer in fair season.

Penrose and I all tuckered out on the way back to the island. Selfie by William Trevaskis

Courtney Naliboff

About Courtney Naliboff

In addition to this blog, I'm a contributing writer to kveller.com, a Jewish parenting site, a blogger and book reviewer for reformjudaism.org, and the author of Salt Water Cure, a column in Working Waterfront. I report news from North Haven for Working Waterfront and Island Journal, and was a speaker at the Maine Conference for Jewish Life in 2015. Follow Frozen Chosen on facebook or visit my Web site for more writing and free music to download!