Don’t let fall pass you by without a bite of fried dough, a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl or a gander at draft horses in action. Where can you find such a random assortment of delights? At one of the state’s agricultural fairs, of course.

Maine is home to more than two dozen fairs, but there are only three major ones left before the Ferris wheels are trucked out of state, the prize-winning pumpkins go under the knife and the blue ribbon dairy cows hang up their awards and head home to their milking stalls.

Fortunately, the final three — the Common Ground Country Fair, the Cumberland County Fair and the Fryeburg Fair — are three of the best, each attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Fairs, by their very nature, present a sensory overload of sights, sounds and smells. The challenge comes in figuring out what to take in during your visit. To help you make the most of your fair-going experience, we’ve put together this handy user guide.

COMMON GROUND COUNTRY FAIR

Most fairs in Maine follow the same formula, but not the Common Ground. The fair, hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, sprang from the counterculture movement of the 1970s and continues to highlight self-sufficiency, sustainable agriculture, natural healing and green living even as many of these things have gone mainstream.

Don’t look for midway rides or cotton candy here. Instead, attend for the more than 700 educational events, hundreds of vendors, seven barns of livestock displays and more than 50 food vendors serving organic and locally grown fare.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Common Ground Country Fairgrounds, Unity

HOW MUCH: $10; $8 for ages 65 and older. Free for MOFGA members and children ages 12 and under. Valet bike parking for $8 for those who bicycle to the fair.

INFO: mofga.org, where there is a searchable directory of the more than 700 fair events

WHAT TO SEE: Sheep dog demos (10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. daily), bike parade (10 a.m. daily), manure toss (10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday), eight-mule hitch (11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday), kids’ vegetable garden parade (10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily), Youth Enterprise Zone (Friday), 350.org Moving Planet Rally and photo (3:50 p.m. Saturday) and Fiddlers’ Showcase (10 a.m. Sunday)

WHAT TO EAT: Pie Cones, Roast Beef Sundae (mashed potatoes, roast beef and gravy with a cherry tomato on top), wood-fired pizza, smoothies, tacos, burritos, Thai stir fries, crab rolls, gyros and organic fried dough. Vegan and gluten-free options.

HOW TO SAVE $: Bike to the fair and save $2 off the admission price. Purchase vegetarian food, which tends to be less expensive. Create a picnic by buying fresh bread, cheese, meats and vegetables from vendors or by bringing your own food from home.

WHAT ELSE: Bottled water will not be sold at the fair. Instead, be sure to bring a water bottle, which you can fill at free stations throughout the fairgrounds.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY FAIR

The biggest agricultural event in Cumberland County kicks off its 140th year Sunday and runs through Oct. 1. Harness racing remains a staple of the fair, as do the carnival rides, livestock events and exhibition hall. The local 4-H clubs play a big role in the fair, with shows, contests, demonstrations and auctions.

The Don Campbell Band will give three shows, Maine comedian Bob Marley hits the stage at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the Irish Dancers perform at 2 p.m. Monday, and country musician Debbie Myers belts out the tunes at 5 p.m. Sept. 30.

New this year are lawnmower races, Maine Maple Day on Sept. 30 and the Antique Tractor Pull, which returns to the fair after a five-year hiatus.

WHEN: Sunday to Oct. 1, times vary

WHERE: Cumberland County Fair, 197 Blanchard Road, Cumberland

HOW MUCH: $9 adults weekends; $7 adults weekdays; free for ages 12 and under; $35 weekly pass; $3 for parking

INFO: cumberlandfair.com

WHAT TO SEE: Miniature horse show (9 a.m. Sunday), pumpkin contest (10 a.m. Sunday), draft horse wagon obstacle course (3 p.m. Wednesday), Rave X Free Style Jumping (6 p.m. Wednesday), apple pie contest (11 a.m. Sept. 29), lawnmower racing (6:30 p.m. Sept. 29), Antique Tractor Pull (noon Sept. 30), maple candy demonstration (2 p.m. Sept. 30), pig scramble (9 a.m. Oct. 1), calf scramble (9:30 a.m. Oct. 1), Grand Parade (10 a.m. Oct. 1), pig races (daily, times vary) and World of Horses Show (7 p.m. Oct. 1)

WHAT TO EAT: Apple crisp, crabmeat rolls, beanhole beans, broccoli soup in bread bowl at Cole Farm’s Restaurant, breakfast sandwiches at the 4-H booth, and the affordable eats at the Lion’s Club booth and the Gray Methodist Church Restaurant.

HOW TO SAVE $: Get $2 off the ticket price Monday through Thursday. Ride passes for $15 are good for all day Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. There are free tastings daily in the exhibition hall and museum.

WHAT ELSE: Check out the night harness racing at 7 p.m. Monday and Friday.

FRYEBURG FAIR

This weeklong fair, which traces its roots back to 1851, serves up plenty of livestock pulls, carnival rides, midway games, horse racing and pig scrambles.

One thing that distinguishes this fair is the caliber of its musical entertainment, which puts a heavy emphasis on country. A few years ago, the fair played host to Lady Antebellum before the country supergroup hit it big. This year, the Stealing Angels show on Wednesday night is shaping up to be a big draw.

Other acts include the musical “Always, Patsy Cline” on Monday night, Randy Houser on Thursday night and David Foster & The Monhegan Sun All Stars on Friday night, which will conclude with a fireworks show.

New this year are dedicated barns for hogs, goats and oxen, and an expanded garden center.

WHEN: Oct. 2-9, times vary

WHERE: Fryeburg Fairground, 1154 Main St.

HOW MUCH: $10 adults; free for children under 12; $65 weekly pass; $5 for parking

INFO: fryeburgfair.org

WHAT TO SEE: 4-H Riding Horse Show (8:30 a.m. Oct. 2), Woodmen’s Field Day (9:30 a.m. Oct. 3), Skillet Throw (noon Oct. 3), Whoopie Pie Contest (1 p.m. Oct. 3), Blueberry Dessert Contest (1 p.m. Oct. 4), Two Crusted Apple Pie Contest (1 p.m. Oct. 6), Calf Scramble (10 a.m. Oct. 7), Decorated Cake Contest (1 p.m. Oct. 7), Grand Parade (10 a.m. Oct. 8) and pig scrambles (11:30 a.m. Oct. 2; 1 p.m. Oct. 5; 10 a.m. Oct. 7 and 10:30 a.m. Oct. 9)

WHAT TO EAT: Tom’s Jumbo Donuts, fried Maine seafood, Sunflower Pizza, beanhole beans, lobster rolls, and fish chowder and beef stew at the Lion’s Club booth.

HOW TO SAVE $: Tuesday is Senior Citizen Day, when folks ages 65 and older get in free. Ride passes for $20 are available on select days from 2 to 9 p.m. Bring your own picnic from home.

WHAT ELSE: Buzz into the sky with Scabelli’s Helicopter Rides. The cost is $50 per person and the rides take place all day, every day, weather permitting.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila