Maine has a rich history of fairs and festivals celebrating agriculture. The state’s fair season kicks off in July, and wraps up in October. The grand finale of yearly agricultural fairs happens to be the Fryeburg Fair—fitting, since it’s the state’s largest, and the one many consider to be the showcase Ag fair—it runs the first full week in October.
I know that for many, their fair experience favors the heat of mid-summer. For me, I’ve always liked the crispness associated with fall’s arrival. As a result, my fair-going is oriented towards the latter end of the fair calendar. On Saturday, Mary and I were off to the fair.
Now in its 39th year, the three-day Common Ground Country Fair in Unity is considered the state’s pre-eminent fair celebrating organic farming, and a self-reliant rural lifestyle. In many ways, the fair, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)—the fair’s sponsoring organization—were seeded by back-to-landers who descended on the state in the early-1970s.
The Common Ground Fair began with the intent of bringing back the old-time country fair. That means no midway for rides that you’ll find at many other Maine fairs. Also, there’s no horseracing, alcohol sales, and a dearth of booths selling mass-produced trinkets.
Founders began the fair at the Litchfield Fairgrounds with a goal of drawing 10,000 people and finishing with a net of $10,000. They accomplished both goals that first year, back in 1977. Much of that original vision continues, nearly four decades later.
Of course, times change and nothing stays the same. There are those who grouse about the fair having “sold out.” Now, upwards of 60,000 people descend on tiny Unity, Maine over three days. While rural life and local agriculture are still celebrated, the fair is now more of an “event” than ever before. The “hippy,” or counter-cultural flavor, while still present, isn’t as prevalent.
The “official” MOFGA vehicle (note the WERU bumper sticker).