The Sun Journal has been generous in its ongoing news coverage about what’s happening with The Big Oxford County Fair. As many people might know, the Oxford Fair is organized and put on each year by the Oxford County Agricultural Society, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is comprised solely of volunteers.
The Oxford Fair has a rich history, going back for several decades. As the recently retired president of the organization, I have watched many changes take place in the last decade and a half, as the board of directors has overseen significant improvements to the fair’s facilities on Route 26 in Oxford.
Quite frankly, the upgrades have been impressive; so impressive that the OCAS won an award in 2006 from the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs as the most improved small fair in the state.
Times have changed, of course, since county fairs in Maine were all the rage. Let’s face it, today county fairs compete for scarce entertainment dollars. And today, a lot of “entertainment” is Internet or technology based. The world is totally different than it was just 20 years ago.
However, in my opinion, the substantial infrastructure upgrades that the board of directors has implemented and supervised during the past 10 years or so have positioned “The Big O” for a very bright future.
The improvements are literally too many to mention; everything from a new entrance to the fairgrounds, several new barns, new parking areas and lighting, a new museum, a roof for the bleachers, a racetrack, a crow’s nest for judges, a grandstand for the entertainment area, comprehensive electrical upgrades, etc. And that’s just scratching the surface. The list literally goes on and on and on.
None of that has been easy. It has taken the vision and determination by the board of directors, determination to make sure that the fair can continue to be one of the jewels of Oxford County for many years to come.
Along with those improvements, the world economy has virtually imploded, as everyone knows. “Discretionary” dollars have been very hard to come by for every American family, and certainly for Maine families. Hopefully that will turn around in the next couple of years. And, when it does, the Oxford Fair will not have neglected the upkeep and maintenance of its impressive facilities. It will be perfectly positioned to adapt to a new marketplace, and to continue its rich traditions.
It is my hope that Maine people who have not visited the fair in recent years will consider returning in 2012, and discovering all over again what fun it can be to attend a traditional Maine county fair. And for those younger folks who have never been to the Oxford Fair, I think visiting us in September could prove to be a very pleasant surprise.
Although I have retired as president of the fair, I salute the continuing leadership and vision of the board of directors, as it makes plans to leverage the completed roster of improvements. As they get ready to plan this year’s fair activities, I am truly excited about what the future holds.
The fair is a volunteer organization. It’s a labor of love. I am not exaggerating when I point out that literally thousands of hours go into planning and producing this quality entertainment experience for Maine families and visitors from away.
Suzanne Grover is a resident of Norway, and served as president of the Oxford County Agricultural Society for more than a decade. She retired in December.