FARMINGTON — The 180th Farmington Fair opened Sunday to sunny skies and drew crowds anxious to eat fair food, watch horse races, ride carnival rides and see agricultural shows after the fair was canceled last year because the coronavirus pandemic.

Standing outside his office near the Ferris wheel, fair Secretary Neal Yeaton said things were going well on opening day of the fair, which continues through Saturday.

“I’m going to say there’s probably 3,000 people and it’s early,” he said.

With him was Larry Cushing, owner of Cushing Amusements, who returned with his midway rides after first coming to the fair in 2019.

Amie Desjardins, left, and step-daughter Arianna Burnell, three, of Livermore Falls share a candy apple Sunday during the Farmington Fair. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We’re very happy to be back here working with the fair board members, who are all fantastic,” Cushing said. “We have a good working relationship.”

Based in Wilmington, Massachusetts, Cushing Amusements is a family-owned business founded in 1915 which primarily does fairs throughout the New England region.

“I like coming into Maine, personally, but this is just such a nice, relaxed fair,” Cushing said.

Prominent near the horse racetrack and grandstand was the Franklin Community Health Network moblie health unit which will offer COVID-19 vaccinations as well as flu shots from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those who are 18 and older are eligible and no appointment is necessary, according to Barb Sergio, chief operating officer for Franklin Memorial Hospital.

“They can just walk right right up and they’ll be taken care of,” Sergio said.

Information is shared Sunday about upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Health Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County’s booth during the Farmington Fair. Vaccination clinics are planned for Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. at the booth while is located next to the grand stands. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The shots will be administered by staff from NorthStar EMS and Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County. No vaccinations were being given Sunday but health officials were handing out information and said they also will be giving away doses of Narcan to people during the week. Ashley McCarthy, program coordinator for the Healthy Community Coalition, said Narcan is easy to use, like a nasal spray. Narcan is a prescription medicine used for an opioid overdose emergency.

At the heart of the midway, many sat at picnic tables and listened to the Rich Ric Band, with singer Arizona Rose belting out “Please release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore…”

“I like her,” said Steve Pierce, who was sitting at a table with a friend, sipping lemonade. He said he lives on Sugarloaf Mountain.

“I think it’s great,” Pierce said of the fair. “This is about as country as you can get.”

The exhibition halls were busy, with 4-H and grange displays, art and photography shows, quilts, crafts, knitted goods and lots of canned vegetables and jars of jams and jellies.

At the Vienna Historical Society and Mill Stream Grange booth, a queen-sized quilt with a lavender backing hung from a wall and historical society Secretary Judy Dunn was selling drawing tickets for the quilt. She also was selling historical books written by local authors including Carole J. O’Connell.

Mikey Raffalo drizzles melted cheese over fries Sunday while serving food from his booth at the Farmington Fair. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“The quilt was made by the members of the Mill Stream Grange,” Dunn said. “It and the historical society are side-by-side in the village and a lot of the members belong to both associations.”

Dunn said the organizations have set up at the fair for 54 years and they missed doing so last year because of the pandemic.

“Oh, we’re so happy to be back,” she said. “It’s been a long year.”

Jodi Fitch and her daughter, Charlotte, 3, of Farmington, had just arrived at the fair and were looking at toys in a booth on the midway.

“She loves the rides,” Jodi Fitch said. “She wants to go on the Merry-G-Round and we’ll probably go on the Ferris wheel.”

Jodi Fitch said she has been coming to the fair for many years.

“I love it. It has changed over the years but I love it. I get to see people I don’t see for a long time.”

In the giant Harrison Starbird Building, people were buying everything from jewelry to fudge. Elsewhere on the grounds, fairgoers watched oxen-pulling and horse competitions, strolled through barns of sheep, cows and poultry and watched youths bathe calves.

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