OXFORD — Dr. Lawrence Murch, a Mechanic Falls optometrist, has served lunch with a cowbell in one hand and a smile on his face to thousands of people at the Oxford Fair over the past 25 years.

Murch, one of 10 directors on the Oxford County Agricultural Society board, is the driving force behind the popular and free Community Day luncheon.

“It’s only money,” said Murch, who pays for the luncheon himself, buying most of the food at Future Foods, an independent grocery store in downtown Mechanic Falls.

Murch began the event in 1991, first catering to senior citizens and later to anyone who wanted to come under the big, white tents to enjoy a free meal, usually with offered music and raffle prizes.

“It’s community service, hopefully making a difference,” said Murch, who carries a cowbell with him to ring when he wants to quiet down the lively chatter to say something to the crowd or to announce the winner of a raffle prize. Each director of the Oxford County Agricultural Society is obligated to perform some sort of community service.

Murch provides the same free luncheon for the Waterford World’s Fair each year.

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The menu at the Oxford Fair luncheon is usually ham and beans or potatoes, rolls, soda, water and of course, cake for dessert.

“He tells me the old people love cake,” Donna Yates, manager of Future Foods,said. Murch, of course, is one of those senior citizens, she said.

Yates said her crew was up at 3:30 a.m. Thursday baking 30 packages of rolls for the event. The six blocks of ham, about 30 pounds, is prepared the day before.

“We want to make sure the rolls are fresh,” she said of the early-morning baking.

At 6 a.m. Tim Cote, another member of the Oxford Fair board of directors, was at the store, ready to pick up the food and take it to the Oxford Fairgrounds off Pottle Road.

Despite rain Thursday, a large crowd gathered under two tents to enjoy the food and camaraderie before they headed off to enjoy the exhibits and demonstrations.

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“I want it to be a place where the community can spend quality time at a reasonable price,” Murch said of the fair that has undergone extensive revamping in the past few years to bring it back to its agricultural roots.

The four-day fair will continue Friday with the popular Woodsmen Day and many other events including demolition derbies, harness racing and pig scrambles.

On Saturday, events will continue all day with tractor pulls, beef and heifer shows, the 4-H market lamb show and the popular pig scramble.

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