I was a real indoors kid growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane. I was perfectly content to spend my spare time reading, writing and playing the odd video game.
When I got to high school, after an unfortunate instance of being mugged for my fundraising chocolates at the train station, I befriended the biggest guy in my grade, a kid from the country named Wayne.
Wayne and I were polar opposites but we soon became good mates, and he brought me a little ways out of my “stay inside, don’t get dirty” shell.
Wayne lived in a more rural area, one which hosted a yearly fair called the Dayboro Show. It had everything you might expect: agricultural exhibits, a car show-and-shine, baking, craft and preserves competitions, fried foods (some on sticks!), people of all ages in jeans and boots that looked not like fashion statements, but like they’d been born in them.
The last Dayboro Show I went to was in 2009, when I took my ex from New Hampshire to see what I’d seen when I was a kid. But today, I took a step back into my adolescence at the Pittston Fair.
According to this handy list, we’re pretty early in this year’s fair season, which appears to run from July through late October, which makes sense given the range of relatively accommodating weather in this corner of the country.
So the Pittston Fair – billed as “Maine’s Friendliest Fair” – is one of the first of the year, and it’s certainly the first one in this area, which is good, given my reluctance to drive for more than an hour. Pittston is about 15 minutes south-ish of Augusta so, given the proximity and my utter lack of plans for Sunday, it seemed perfect.
My partner in Maine-exploring crime Bonnie was on call this weekend for work, so she was stuck waiting by the phone in case she need to save someone’s life. Can’t fault her for that. I set off just after noon, knowing that the schedule still had a handful of things left entertainment-wise.
Remarkably I found Route 194 just fine without the help of Google Maps (maybe I’m learning how to read road numbers?), but since even the world’s biggest search engine wasn’t able to tell me where the fairgrounds were, I was still going on a wing and a prayer.
As 194 wound towards Whitefield, without any discernible sign that there was going to be anything resembling an entertainment venue coming up alongside the road, I caught myself marveling at the countryside. As I wrote a few months ago, when I went to Oak Pond Brewing up in Skowhegan, sometimes I really feel like I’m seeing parts of America that no other Australian – especially tourists – have never set eyes upon.
Since I couldn’t see any indication that there was a fair on anywhere in the vicinity, and there were storm clouds rolling in, I consulted the map and figured that if I got to Whitefield without finding the fairgrounds, I’d turn around and head back home, or maybe up to Waterville for lunch at Mainely Brews. Not such a bad consolation prize, right?
And as soon as the thought left my mouth (so I talk to myself sometimes, so what), lo and behold: there was the fair.
I pulled up at the gate, paid my $6 entry fee – lucky I had the foresight to stop at an ATM before I left Augusta, for once – and found a spot to park. Immediately I could hear announcers on the PA system, calling out results from the barrel racing competition in the ring, which took me way back to the aforementioned Dayboro Show.
I watched the riders compete for awhile before taking a wander through the midway (that’s Sideshow Alley, for my Aussies reading), the food stands and the handful of T-shirt, bumper sticker and leather stalls that you can always find at an event like this.
After doing a lap of the fairgrounds, I stopped for awhile to watch the talent quest. I caught a kid of about 7 karaoke-singing a country song (third place), an older chap from Dresden telling jokes (solid, but not a podium finisher), a 13-year-old girl named Alexis with a killer country voice who I wouldn’t be surprised to see on American Idol or one of those shows, if I actually watched them. She ended up winning it all, which was the right decision in my expert opinion.
While I was waiting for the judgment, I opted to take a light lunch and headed to a sausage stand, where I got a 17-foot-long kielbasa with sweet peppers and onions, inside a four-inch bun. Because that wasn’t messy enough for me, I dumped a bunch of mustard on there too.
Once I’d worked myself into a nice encased-meats coma, I caught the talent quest award ceremony then decided to get some fried clams before I took off. The clam truck was slightly overwhelmed, so I killed time waiting by trying to snap a photo of the pirate flag hanging by the window that read “Surrender the Booty”. INDEED.
Of course, minutes before my clams arrived fresh from the fryer, the heavens opened and it began to rain steadily. I escaped under shelter to eat my seafood before hedging my bets and hitting the road. It poured down all the way back to Hallowell, where I had to seek temporary shelter from the rain at the Liberal Cup. In a throwback to the cooler months, I opted for a stout to warm me up before heading back home.
Even though the weather turned on me quickly, I’m glad I got out there for some wholesome Mainer fun.
I probably didn’t expect it to be as agricultural as it was, a la the Dayboro Shows of my youth, but it was a pleasant surprise to find that it wasn’t just a few rides, some overpriced carnival games and whatnot.
Had the weather been better, I’d have stuck around longer for the Strawberry Pageant Coronation (!) and the PIG SCRAMBLE (!!), but there’s always the next festival.