It was a chilly day in March of 1851 when a few local farmers and merchants got together and decided to show off their produce, cattle and wares to the community. Since those humble beginnings, Fryeburg Fair has grown to become Maine's largest agricultural fair complete with six days of harness racing, a farm museum second to none, the world's largest steer and oxen show and a reputation known throughout North America.
The 8-day Blue Ribbon Classic has flourished since that first fair when William Walker of Lovell won $3 for the best acre of corn and William Spring of Brownfield earned $1 for the best seed wheat. Today, the early October fair boasts Maine's largest agricultural event held on 185 acres in the Saco River Valley in the foothills of the White Mountains. Fryeburg Fair attracts more than 300,000 people annually.
The fair's growth to eight days has been a gradual one. Trustees voted to expand the fair to four days in 1941 but World War II stalled the expansion until 1945. The fair grew to five days in 1954, seven a few years later and eight in 1981 when the second Sunday was added. While the fair continues to grow in popularity, officials say they are satisfied with keeping the event at eight days.
The 2006 fair proved to be the third best on record, marred only by a damp start on opening Sunday. The 2007 fair saw rain Saturday afternoon and evening but otherwise enjoyed excellent fall weather. For attendance, it was the fourth best on record.
(With thanks to Bill Haynes of Waterford for 33 years of photography - most archival photos were taken by Bill).