Ryan Pelletier was minutes away from his run at the Fryeburg Fair’s truck-pulling contest, the engine of his 1,000-horsepower pickup roaring as he prepared to drag 60,000 pounds. The stage was set for one of the most romantic moments of his life.

Pelletier stepped out of his truck and was handed a microphone by the event’s emcee. In front of thousands of people gathered at the fair’s grandstand, Pelletier got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She had been his partner in trucks, and he was now asking her to be his partner in life.

“Candace and I had built the truck together, and that season we had just dominated the events we were in,” said Pelletier, 32. “Fryeburg is the biggest one of the year. We were excited, and it just felt like the right place to do it.”

The proposal was in 2019, and Ryan and Candace Pelletier were married about a year later. They live in Benton, near Waterville, and are expecting their first child in December.

Most people are drawn to the Fryeburg Fair by its two dozen barns filled with farm animals, or its pig scrambles, fireman’s muster, deep-fried fair food and dizzying carnival rides. But over the years, some imaginative souls have thought of the fair – Maine’s largest and the last of the season – as the ideal setting for romance. The 172nd edition of the fair runs Sunday through Oct. 9.

Besides the truck-pulling track, would-be grooms have popped the question on the carnival midway, during a helicopter ride and on the Ferris wheel. Held in a small town on the New Hampshire border with spectacular views of the nearby White Mountains, the fair is certainly a pretty place to get engaged in October.



Popping the question during the fair involves some significant risks. There are thousands of people packed into the place for one thing, as the fair draws about 170,000 paying customers during its eight-day run. There are giant oxen, tractors, trucks, carnival rides and other moving objects to contend with. And there are literally thousands of places to lose a ring.

The upside, of course, is the element of surprise. Even people who love the Fryeburg Fair don’t expect to get a proposal along with their apple crisp and fried dough. Candace Pelletier, 30, said she was “stunned” when her now-husband got out of his truck just before his run in 2019. She thought at first the truck was broken. When he got down on a knee and she saw he had a ring, she got “excited and nervous” as thousands of people began to cheer.

Keagon Leighton, on his knees, proposing to Brittney Caron at the 2021 Fryeburg Fair. Photo by Emma Gail Photography

Surprising someone at the Fryeburg Fair, with so much else going on, takes careful planning. Keagon Leighton left no detail to chance when he proposed to Brittney Caron last year at the fair. Leighton hired a professional photographer to come to the fair and pretend she was just taking pictures of happy fairgoers at random. Then he invited more than a dozen friends and family to come to the fair secretly. Some of Caron’s family drove over from Vermont and stayed overnight in Maine, without her knowing.

On the day of the fair, Leighton and Caron were near the Ferris wheel, the appointed place known to everyone but Caron, when the photographer asked Caron if she could take her picture. Caron turned toward the photographer, Leighton dropped to his knee, and friends and family came out of hiding. The precious moments were all captured by the photographer’s camera.

“I got down on one knee and there was this adrenalin rush and I just sort of blocked everything else out,” said Leighton, 22, an architectural and civil engineer from Bridgton who now lives with Caron in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. “Everyone started applauding and we have pictures of all of it.”


Leighton said he picked the fair as his proposal spot because he and Caron had met there several years earlier, through friends, and they had gone back together every year. Caron said she noticed a few differences in Leighton’s behavior on the day he proposed. He seemed nervous and was looking at his phone a lot, which he doesn’t normally do. When she asked him to play some games, he said no immediately, which again was unlike him. The thought of him proposing there and then, however, did not cross her mind.

The couple set a wedding date of Oct. 7, 2023 in Vermont. They plan to drive from their wedding directly to the Fryeburg Fair, which ends Oct. 8 next year. At some point, they hope to take a longer honeymoon somewhere farther away. But they say the fair is the perfect place to celebrate their vows.

“We plan to go every year unless there’s some emergency,” said Caron, 21, who works as a toddler teacher.


Branden Viens also had an elaborate plan in place when he proposed to Courtney Miniutti at last year’s fair. The couple had met a few years earlier while working at Fryeburg House of Pizza – he’s from Fryeburg, she’s from Hiram. One of their first dates was at the fair, taking one of the short helicopter rides that let folks see the fair from the air.

Viens, 27, decided he’d ask Miniutti during another helicopter ride. He talked to the pilot in advance about his plan. They would fly over his mother’s house, across the street from the fairgrounds, where there would be a large sheet spread out with the words “Courtney Will U Marry Me?” and some colorful images of the fair on it.


Branden Viens proposed to Courtney Miniutti during a helicopter ride at Fryeburg Fair last year. Photo courtesy of Branden Viens

Miniutti said some of her friends heard about the helicopter ride and said, “What if he proposes?” but she didn’t really think seriously about it. Once they were up in the air and over Viens’ mother’s house, Viens pointed down and said, “What does that sign say?”

“I saw a sheet with my name on it, and I was just in shock. I don’t think I read the sheet but as soon as I saw my name I knew what it was,” said Minuitti, 26. “Then I looked over and saw the ring.”

The couple has not set a date for the wedding yet.

During a 1999 trip to the fair, Amy Morrissey didn’t really feel like going on the Ferris wheel. But her boyfriend at the time and now husband, Patrick Morrissey, was insistent.

“I’m not big on rides anyway. He asked me if I wanted to go on a helicopter ride first. It probably took him three hours of asking before I said OK,” said Morrissey, 49. When the Ferris wheel got to its highest point, Patrick Morrissey pulled out the ring and proposed. “I was a little stunned, then I got very nervous that he was going to drop the ring.”

Patrick and Amy Morrissey got engaged on the Fryeburg Fair Ferris wheel in 1999. Photo courtesy of Amy Morrissey

Patrick Morrissey, 54, said he picked the fair because he had been going to it since he was kid, during visits to a family home on Long Lake in Naples. Plus family members would be nearby to share in the news after he proposed. He thought about getting a carnival worker to help him stage a win at one of the midway games, with the ring hidden in the prize. But he decided he didn’t have time to arrange something so elaborate.


The couple got married and have four kids. They live in Clinton, Connecticut, where Amy runs a home bakery and Patrick works in finance. Most years they try to come to the Fryeburg Fair and always take their photo in front of the Ferris wheel.


Wedding gowns and floral arrangements have also graced the fairgrounds from time to time, though not necessarily during the fair. The fairgrounds are rented out for about 70 events a year, including reunions, funerals, parties and maybe 10 or so weddings, says David Andrews, the fair’s general superintendent. Andrews’ family has been involved with the fair for generations, and he and his wife, Jean, got married at  the fairgrounds – in the 1835 Little Red Schoolhouse – 26 years ago. Often people who hold their wedding there have some connection to the fair, he said.

Jim and Heidi Palmer started dating after taking part in an oxen-pulling event at Fryeburg Fair about seven years ago. They both raise and show oxen, so they knew each other already. At that particular event, some friends of Heidi’s wanted to make a former boyfriend of hers jealous, so they asked Jim to put his arm around her and act very friendly. He did. Soon after, they started talking on the phone, then dating long distance because Jim was living in Connecticut while Heidi was in Maine.

Heidi and Jim Palmer started dating after an oxen-pulling contest at Fryeburg Fair, so they had their wedding on the fairgrounds the following May. Photo courtesy of Heidi Palmer

They figured the fair would be the perfect place for their wedding, in May of 2016. They held the ceremony in the spacious, new dairy barn, with an oxen yolk behind them. They took pictures of the wedding party standing on a wooden play structure meant for goats. Friends and family camped on the fairgrounds.

The couple now lives in Gorham. Jim, 52, works as public works supervisor for the town of Sebago, while Heidi, 59, works for the University of Maine cooperative extension. Both will be showing their oxen at the fair this year, in a barn right next to the one they got married in.


“We spent so much time there over the years, that’s where we got together, so that’s where we wanted to get married,” Jim said. “It was a blast having it there.”

While the Palmers bond over their oxen, the Pelletiers share a passion for trucks. They compete at truck-pulling events all over Maine, like the one at Fryeburg Fair. The truck is hooked up to a metal sled holding a box filled with weight that is mechanically winched forward as the sled moves along the marked course, making it harder to pull as it moves. The object is to pull the sled as far as you can. The sled used at Fryeburg weighs 60,000 pounds, according to the fair’s website.

The Pelletiers each have their own customized truck. Ryan’s is black and called Black Diamond, and Candace’s is white and named High Maintenance. Ryan runs his own automotive business, Black Diamond Performance Sales and Service, while Candace is an office supervisor for an orthopedic clinic.

The Pelletiers will be back at the fair this year, competing in the truck pulling. Last year, Candace came in second at Fryeburg. She’d definitely like to win, but that’s not the only thing on her mind anymore.

“I got second, but it was still special,” Candace said. “Pulling there just means more now.”

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