One story is that women began tossing skillets competitively during the days of the pioneers as a way to kill time when man were off roping steers and whatnot.

Another story goes that women’s skillet tossing contests grew out of the fact that a woman who could throw a skillet with accuracy had a certain amount of power and control over a misbehaving husband.

But the only thing we know for sure is that women’s skillet tossing competitions are big. Go to any Maine fair this fall, and you’re likely to see a skillet being flung, by a woman, in a contest.

And maybe nowhere are skillet tossing contests bigger than at the Blue Hill Fair. At least, it’s hard to find a skillet toss with a bigger name: The Blue Hill Fair Intercontinental & Greater Hancock County Championship Women’s Skillet Toss, scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday.

Wow, they must take their skillet tossing pretty seriously up in Blue Hill.

“Well, we’re a little off the beaten path up here, so we sort of march down a different path,” said Rob Eaton, president of the Blue Hill Fair. “We want to do things a little differently.”

So that accounts, somewhat, for the oversized name as well as the divisions contestants compete in. (Don’t get mad at me; I didn’t make up the following stuff.)

There are two “kittens” divisions, for women ages 18 to 29 and 30 to 45. Then there are two “cougar” divisions, for women 46 to 64 and 65 and older.

“When we started the event, we were playing it kind of straight,” Eaton said. “Then we decided to have some fun with the divisions. It’s just in good fun.”

And good fun, at least in the form of a women’s skillet toss, is a big draw. Since the fair started staging a skillet toss about five or six years ago, the event has drawn up to 90 contestants each year, and regularly fills the fair’s grandstands.

In tiny Blue Hill, that’s a substantial crowd.

“You can tell the women are having fun, and each year they goad each other into taking part,” said Eaton.

But to match the serious name, there have to be rules to this competition. A free-form skillet toss might be a little too haphazard, not to mention a little too dangerous.

So the fair’s organizers have borrowed rules from other fairs. They even have their skillets made by a shop in Fryeburg that makes skillets tossed at the Fryeburg Fair. With a regular skillet, the handles can break off, said Eaton, so only competition-grade skillets are used.

Each contestant gets two throws, and no practice tosses. They have to use the fair’s skillets — no specially rigged skillets from home.

There is an official throwing line. If a women steps over that line while throwing — underhand or overhand — the official line judge will sound an air horn so everyone knows of the infraction. Then there is a center line, right down the middle of the throwing alley. Throwers have to get as close to the center line as possible, because they are scored for both accuracy and distance.

The final rule is that the contest is open only to women. The winners in each bracket — kitten or cougar — get $50.

What about the men? Can’t they fling a frying pan as well as anyone?

“We do think the guys ought to have something, too,” said Eaton. “Maybe a keg toss.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]