WATERFORD — The Waterford World’s Fair opens Friday with a special agriculture and conservation day. It is also Senior Citizens Day.

The fairgrounds at 36 (Irving) Green Road, across from Melby’s Market and Eatery in North Waterford, open at 9 a.m. July 18. The fair continues Saturday and Sunday.

The World’s Fair is considered one of the oldest agricultural fairs in the state and has attracted thousands of people each year. It’s advertised as “a wonderful place to sample the simple, traditional essence of agricultural Maine.”

And organizers say it lives up to that billing.

“We have so many new things this year,” said Faylene McKeen, a former member of the board of directors who works on the fair’s publicity.

The popular Old McDonald’s barn allows children can see and touch farm animals. And the award-winning exhibit, Little Hands for Agriculture, will allow children to understand the farm-to-market concept.

The weather forecast calls for sunshine, low humidity and temperatures in the 70s.

“It’s going to be a beautiful weekend,” McKeen said.

On Friday, July 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the fair will hold the family-oriented Back to Basics, devoted to agriculture and conservation.

Jean Federico, administrative assistant of the Oxford County Soil & Water Conservation District, said learning stations will be scattered over the grounds for a 15-minute visit that will teach folks about such diverse subjects as vernal pools, good and bad forest bugs, beekeeping, what Maine produces and decomposition of items.

Fair-goers will be able to talk to experts about draft horses, oxen, bees, blacksmithing, fibers and how to make butter.

The exhibition hall includes displays of fruits, vegetables, knitting and crocheting, quilting, home-baked goods and woodworking. There will be an area for exhibitors under the age of 15.

True to its original agricultural mission, the fair will also have steer and oxen pulls, draft horse pulls, log hauling and other contests throughout the weekend. Live music and food will be available all three days.

Admission is $5. Children 5 years and younger can attend free. Senior Citizens Day is Friday with a special $3 pass.

More information on the fair and its events is available online at http://www.waterfordworldsfair.org/.

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‘World’s Fair’ label stuck

WATERFORD — It’s unclear how the Waterford World’s Fair got its name but most people agree it’s one of two ways: the International signpost at Routes 35 and 5 that points to Maine towns such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Mexico, China and Peru, or as a spinoff to World’s Fairs.

Fair historian Darcy Winslow said an article she read said the name may have been attached around 1900, inspired by the Centennial International Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the first official World’s Fair in the U.S.

The New York World’s Fair in 1939-1940 was apparently the first time the term World’s Fair was used exclusively. Previously, the fairs, which were held all over the world, were known as expositions.

The Waterford fair is believed to have run continuously since 1850 or 1852, except for 1918 when a deadly flu pandemic spread across the country.

It was originally known as Tom Green Fair, because it was held on Tom Green’s land next to Route 35 in North Waterford. Oxen pulls were held on the public street in front of Tut’s General Store, which is now Melby’s Market and Eatery on Route 35.

A fair association was incorporated in 1928 and the fair was moved to the North Waterford fairgrounds. The land was purchased around 1990.

Newspaper accounts show that the name “Waterford World’s Fair” was in use by the public as early as 1904 when fair-goers were overheard saying, “Come on fellows. This is the World’s Fair. Come on. We’re here for a good time.”

At that time, the fair was considered a “fill in” between the Fryeburg and Topsham fairs in the fall, drawing what was considered a larger number of what were called  “fakirs,” the equivalent of carnival people, than any other fair in the state.

The village green became a fakirs’ paradise overnight as the show crowd arrived from the nearby Fryeburg Fair to set up. It drew as many as 10,000 people to the small village.

The village became a midway filled with novelties like a steam-operated merry-go-round, fortune tellers, an Indian mummy, a sword swallower and a 26-inch tall elf. Fair-goers could view a “real live Phillipino” in a tent for 5 cents. Women’s needlework and a “fat man” were exhibited, along with cow and horse exhibitions and oxen pulls.

There was plenty of food, including popcorn and hot dogs. Around dinner time, the women of the Waterford Congregational Church rang the bell to announce the meal, which included bean hole beans.

Before the turn of the 20th century, the fair was called the North Waterford Fair.

A 1940 article in the Lewiston Daily Sun indicates that the “The World’s Fair” was the legal name of the fair in North Waterford and was the name long before its “namesake,” the New York World’s Fair, occurred.

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