In Blue Hill, Maine
We’re at the annual Blue Hill Fair, a tradition in these parts since 1891 and the inspiration for the fair scenes in E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web. The Official Blue Hill Fair Website describes this event as “a true down to earth country fair.” And that it is; the dress code apparently is jeans, T-shirt, and a smile. The day is sunny and warm, but not hot; the sky is glaringly blue. The heavy perfume of carnival food is in the air, occasionally lightly salted by a breeze wafting from nearby Blue Hill Bay.
Our first competitive event is the Horse Pull, one of the more popular contests. The Pull has its origins in tough work that horses did before combustible “horsepower.” Basically, two horses in tandem are driven by a person using the reins while walking behind or beside them; the horses must pull a sled of concrete blocks back and forth between lines in the Pull Ring for a set time.
The team that travels the farthest within that period wins the blue ribbon for its class. The classes are determined by the weights on the sled: 3000, 3200, and 4700 pounds. The straining horses dig in, kick up clumps of dirt and clouds of dust, travel a short distance, and are stopped periodically for rests before continuing. These animals are magnificent, muscular specimens that are as calm as meditating monks a few minutes after their tough workout.
Before our next competition, we take in a high-energy free show by Team Rock, which is self-described as “a martial arts-concrete-breaking-Christian-ministry.” (Yes, you read that right, but they left their gospel home today.) Team Rock spends a lot of time defying gravity with kicking leaps and gymnastic flips.
The next prize event involves massive animals that we don't want to see try to leap or flip. It’s the Oxen Scooting Contest, which is patterned after the historical and difficult work done with oxen in the forests. Two yoked oxen are hitched to a sled and guided through an irregular course with “Gees,” “Haws,” and the occasional tap of an ox rod. The team that is fastest within its poundage class gets the blue ribbon.
We drop by another free event billed as “The Red Trouser Show,” which has nothing to do with selling golfing attire. Two young men wearing red pants juggle flaming batons and steel knives, perform some acrobatics, tell a few jokes, and hang off a ladder as an encore. Then they ask for donations in return for them signing a poster of themselves. We see no takers and move on to the livestock area to view the four-horned “Devil Sheep” and other live attractions.
It's now late afternoon and we're at the shaded Racetrack watching another of the most popular prize events: Antique Tractor Pulling. The tractors pull a mechanized sled that gradually increases its own torqued resistance, thereby increasing the weight of the load and sometimes making the tractors rear up like a horse. The tractors are divided into classes by poundage and the one that goes the farthest within its class gets a blue ribbon.
As the sun goes down, the bright sky is subdued by a royal blue dome that increasingly darkens. The magic moment arrives when the gaudy lights of the Fair’s amusements dominate the scene, flashing bright patterns and casting colorful moving shadows. The rides and midway are now crowded; there’s shrieking coming from lighted contraptions that spin and twist and there’s laughter from the midway, where families and friends are walking and talking in the warm night. This is how summer should end.
You can join us on a virtual tour of the Blue Hill Fair by clicking the link below to see the postcard images, which can viewed in about 90 seconds. We recommend that your initial screening of the images be a full-screen Slideshow. (Click “SLIDESHOW” above the featured image; press Esc on your keyboard to return to the thumbnail gallery.) Here's the link:
Barbara and Dick