FRYEBURG — Katie Gibson beamed as she accepted the first-place ribbon for her cornbread-crusted blueberry tart at the Fryeburg Fair on Tuesday.

With bright sun and temperatures heading into the 80s, thousands flocked to the fairground on Route 5 for the third day of Maine’s Blue Ribbon Classic.

Many seniors took advantage of the gorgeous weather and free admission on Senior Citizens Day to take in the blueberry dessert contest, as well as dozens of other events and demonstrations and hundreds of vendors at the sprawling fairground.

Gibson, a California transplant who lives in Portland, said it was the first time she’d put a recipe into a competition like this. 

“I’ve always wanted to enter something into the fair,” she said, after judges Dick Murray of from the Fryeburg Police Department and Neil Henry of the Redstone (N.H.) Fire Department had retreated to a private back room to make their decision. 

“I just looked up the best fair in the state I could find and put something in,” she said.

Gibson was impressed by the level of dedication the volunteer judges put into their deliberation, noting they even tasted individual berries from her tart for freshness and flavor. 

Beneath a banner extolling wild blueberries as “Maine’s official state berry,” volunteers sliced up Gibson’s prize-winning tart, as well as the other cakes and muffins.They were sold to eager onlookers, with the proceeds going to charity. 

Anne Michelle Williams, the Agricultural Exhibition supervisor, said the eight entries this year were double the number brought in 2012.

Only amateurs from Maine and New Hampshire are allowed to enter the contest. The recipes, which contestants provide along with the dish, cannot be repeats from years before, she said. 

The blueberry dessert contest is one of six cooking competitions during the eight-day fair. Many more entries are expected for the apple pie contest Wednesday, which is followed by the homemade candy contest on Thursday and the decorated cake contest on Friday. 

A 32-year veteran of the baking competition, Williams said the styles and recipes are always changing and the fair has included updated contest sections such as a “specialty” category for low-fat and gluten-free entries. 

The number of young people entering the contest this year suggested that traditional skills like baking were still being cultivated in Maine and New Hampshire, she said.

In addition to the baking contest, sun-soaked fair-goers took in harness racing, horse and tractor pulling, wreath-making demonstrations, and shows of draft horses, sheep, oxen and cattle. 

People thronged the midways, indulging in traditional fair food such as french fries, fried dough and Italian sausages and trying their luck at numerous carnival games. Shrieks of excitement rang out from the amusement rides. 

Fair officials at the main office estimated the number of people attending the fair would probably surpass the nearly 20,000 paying entrants who came through the gates last year. 

The fairground’s new Exhibit Center, built to replace two aging exhibition halls that were torn down last year, has been well-received by exhibitors and fair-goers, said Jean Andrews, the hall supervisor. 

Organizers hope the blue skies and warm weather will hold out for the rest of the fair. A full slate of events is scheduled every day until the fair ends Sunday. 


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