The days leading up to the start of the Litchfield Fair are always hectic for Charlie Smith and the other volunteers who make the fair, now 161 years old, run.

On Thursday, they were working through a final list of tasks, including putting up signs and finishing off the new office in the pulling ring, before throwing the gates open to the public Friday morning.

“We’re a three-day fair. We have a lot going on at any one time,” said Smith, president of the Litchfield Farmers’ Club, which operates the fair and the fairgrounds.

The events will draw anywhere from 12,000 to 17,000 people to the fairgrounds in southern Kennebec County over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Chances are that some of those visitors will run into someone they know.

“It’s an old home place. You can come back see people you haven’t seen in a long time,” Smith said. “I have memories of that as a young person, coming over here and bumping into people I hadn’t seen in a great deal of time. That’s the focus of a lot of people.”

People value the fair, he said, and that could not have been made clearer in the last year.

In the weeks before the 2018 fair was set to open, organizers were stunned to find that money was missing from fair coffers — a lot of it.

Initial estimates put the missing amount at about $10,000, but Smith said the total amount was closer to $130,000, taken from different accounts. Not only was money missing, it appeared that about $10,000 worth of bills were unpaid. While club members had been receiving reports from the treasurer every month, they did not reflect what was in the fair’s accounts.

Fundraising in the days before the fair brought in at least $20,000. Many fairs across Maine stepped up and helped out financially.

“The support we had from the public last year was amazing and overwhelming,” he said. “A lot of the vendors that supply us with services, products and whatnot, there was no charge. That was one of the ways that helped us immensely.”

In August 2018, the fair’s former treasurer, Ryan A. Beaudette, of West Gardiner, was arrested on a felony theft charge in August 2018. In mid-May, he made his initial appearance in court at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta on the felony theft charge.  He had been treasurer from 2014 to 2018, when he resigned and club officers voted to fire him from the post.

As the criminal case progresses, work at the fairgrounds has continued and this year’s events and exhibitions have been organized.

As time has passed the mix of events has changed to keep up with changing tastes. Smith said the traditional farm-based activities like steer pulling and horse pulling and demonstrations continue. Over time, they have been complemented by crowd-pleasing motorized events, like the Red Neck Truck Pull and the demolition derby.

“This year, we’ve got the Litchfield Backseat Driving School,” he said.

In this event, the driver is blindfolded, and a backseat passenger offers driving directions to navigate through a course. It will be a low-speed event in the demolition derby area.

“Communication will be key, for sure,” he said.

There’s also live music, a midway with rides and games as well as pig scrambles, mutton busting and fair food.

The complete listing of events is on the website, litchfieldfair.com, and information is also available on the fair’s Facebook page. Smith advises making a list ahead of time.

“There’s two things that will knock a fair down,” he said. “Wet weather or extreme heat.”

Neither of those conditions is expected this weekend.


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