The 135th edition of the Cumberland County Fair is about to open, putting thousands of people in touch with Maine’s rural roots and traditions.

Rebecca Strout and Sonja Barker of Cape Elizabeth and Nancy Ann Blodgett of South Portland are among the people who wait all year for the fair. Strout and Barker, both 13, are trimming their sheep for a best-in-show competition, while Blodgett, 68, is volunteering to sign in crafts for the exhibition tent and is displaying her own handiwork at the fair, something she has done for more than 15 years.

“It’s a community event,” said Blodgett, who lives on Highland Avenue.

The fair runs Sunday, Sept. 24, to Saturday, Sept. 30, at the fairgrounds in Cumberland.

Blodgett said she is volunteering at the crafts tent with her husband, Donald. Her crafts include knitting, sewing, crocheting and hand-smocking pieces.

“I strive to only display my finer pieces,” said Blodgett. “It’s inspiring to see what other people have done.”

The crafts are not for sale, but are showcased and judged within a range of categories. dBlodgett said this year she will submit a hand-smocked dress. She described hand smocking as putting stitching on top of an already finished dress to add style and flair. She said in years past she did demonstrations at the fair with the Smocking Guild of America.

“It’s a New England tradition,” said Blodgett of the fair and exhibition halls. “It’s a community thing and it’s kind of exciting to see kids get into arts and crafts,” she said.

Blodgett said she enjoys going back year after year. “You see the same people involved in what you’re doing,” she said. “It is a tremendous volunteer effort with cheerful and fun people,” she said.

The exhibition hall entries will be judged on Sept. 24, and will be on display throughout the week of the fair.

Strout and Barker belong to a 4-H Club. Strout lives at Shady Oak Farm on Fowler Road, where she and her family rais sheep, horses, goats and a llama. Barker comes to the farm often to take care of the sheep and learn to trim their wool.

The girls are showing lambs in the competition. They introduced two of their lambs last Friday as they placed the animals on a groom stand that held their heads in place, keeping the lambs still. Strout’s lamb, Laurel, was born in February, and Barker’s lamb, Lavender, was born in March.

Strout said she has been going to the Cumberland County Fair with the 4-H Club since she was 7.

“It’s something to do, like playing a sport,” she said. “We learn responsibility and how to take care of something.”

She said that vital to showing sheep is training them on a bridle and learning to clip and sheer the wool so it looks nice. Strout said she first tried trimming wool when she was 7, and has been improving her self-taught method ever since.

Barker said this will be her third time at the fair showing sheep. She said through practice and Strout’s guidance, she is learning to trim sheep’s wool.

The 4-H sheep show is Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. Their sheep will be judged on skill of preparation, color – the sheep are supposed to be completely white – and on wool trimming.

The two girls said they would be at the fairgrounds after school throughout the week taking care of their lambs. They said they were looking forward to Sept. 27, when they can enjoy rides all day for $10.

Traditions are hallmark of county fairTraditions are hallmark of county fair


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