FRYEBURG — The 168th annual Fryeburg Fair kicked off its third day Tuesday with gray skies, cool temperatures and light rain, but spirits remained high among fairgoers.

Just six weeks earlier, on the evening of July 10, fair officials faced a crisis when fire destroyed the fairgrounds’ sheep and cattle barns, two of its oldest buildings, and left six other buildings with melted fronts.

The Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal said the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction in a subpanel next to a bank of light switches.

While no one was injured in the fire, officials were left wondering whether they could rebuild the barns for the start of the fair Sept. 30.

David Andrews, the general superintendent of the Fryeburg Fair, said Tuesday morning that he and the fair officials were unable to rebuild the barns in time, but they were able to rent a 100- by 150-foot industrial tent from Mahaffey Event and Tent Rentals in Memphis, Tennessee, allowing the sheep and cattle shows to proceed as usual.

“We really wanted to get new buildings put up, but the timing required us to resort to a tent,” Andrews said. “It cost us about $114,000, but it was paid for by the fairgrounds’ insurance. We figured this type of tent was safer than just throwing up a big tent with a few pins holding it in place.”


Jamie Towne, a sheep farmer at Towne House Farm in Lempster, New Hampshire, said Tuesday afternoon she and the other sheep farmers who attend the Fryeburg Fair every year “had no doubts that the show would go on.”

“I’ve been coming here since I was about 12 years old,” Towne said. “All of us are like family here. We have each other on speed dial. When the fire started, we all found out about it very quickly due to social media.

“I don’t think any of us thought the sheep show wouldn’t happen. I think it was just a matter of whether they would let us bring the usual amount of sheep, or if we would have to cut down.”

Elsewhere at the fairgrounds, crowds filled the Swine and Goat Grandstand to watch the tractor pull.

During the mini-modified class, 7-year-old Armand Jusseaume, driving a 1964 Cub Cadet tractor, took home the third-place prize.

Mark Coelho of Rhode Island said Jusseaume, his grandson, has been tractor-pulling since he was 4 years old, the same age as Coelho’s daughter when she began pulling tractors.


“Last year was the first year he pulled at the Fryeburg Fair, and he came in second that year,” Coelho said.

George Tessier of New Hampshire took home the first-place prize by using his Gravely 8199-KT tractor to pull 2,230 pounds of concrete blocks a length of 65 inches.

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Sixth-grader Ally Boucherd, left, and eighth-grader Avery Haskins of Gray-New Gloucester Middle School pet a goat Tuesday morning at the Fryeburg Fair, while Phil Denison, 89, of Harrison watches. (Matthew Daigle/Sun Journal)

George Tessier of New Hampshire looks backward Tuesday morning as he attempts to pull 2,230 pounds of concrete blocks with his Gravely 8199-KT tractor at the Fryeburg Fair. Tessier took first place at the fair’s mini-modified tractor pull at the Goat and Swine Grandstand. (Matthew Daigle/Sun Journal)

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