Ushering in autumn, the 145th annual Cumberland Fair showcases a variety of  family entertainment and exhibits besides providing a learning opportunity for 4-H students displaying their skills and animals after their year-long work.

The fair’s packed schedule has numerous shows and exhibits for 4-H kids, who have raised animals like market beef, swine and sheep. “It’s a wonderful experience,” Joan Rolfe of Pownal, leader of the Cumberland County 4-H  Sheep Club, said for students entering animals in the fair. “They learn to be in public.”

The fair, sponsored by the Cumberland Farmers Club, opens Sunday, Sept. 25, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 1, at 197 Blanchard Road, Cumberland. Features include harness racing, bands and a midway with amusement rides, booths and plentiful fair food. Monster truck exhibitions are a new attraction  this year, but there won’t be a rodeo like in the past three years.

Mike Timmons, president of the farmers club, said the grand parade and opening ceremonies officially kick off the fair at 10 a.m. on Sept. 25.

Timmons said the parade theme for this year, the 15th anniversary of the attack on 9/11, is “Our Heroes.” He said the theme honors first responders and he expects a large contingent of them from Cumberland County including municipal fire, police and rescue personnel along with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s a special time to say thank you,” Timmons said.

Timmons is anticipating that Miss Maine Marybeth Noonan, a Windham High School graduate, will lead the parade. Entries include 4-H floats and animals and Rolfe said 4-H students will walk their animals in the parade.

Horses go to starting gate in harness races every day of the fair. This year, Bruce Ranger, a Falmouth native and retired harness driver, will be a special opening day guest. The nationally recognized Ranger has won more than 8,900 career races and $36.4 million in purses.

In addition to horse racing, returning events include draft horse pulling demonstrations, antique tractor pulls, and an annual classic car show. On the main stage in the exhibition hall, Bob Charest and Don Campbell bands will appear along with other favorites like Debbie Meyers,  Brian Wardwell, American Ride, Mark Gentle,  Downeast Barbershop Quartet and Exchange St. Barbershop Quartet.

Fairgoers shouldn’t miss visiting the farm museum with its collection of antique farm equipment. Lyle Merrifield of Gorham, museum superintendent, said special activities at the museum’s barn will include antique hay pressing and sawmill demonstrations.

Merrifield said opening day exhibitions at the farm museum will include the Colby College Woodsman’s Team at 11:30 a.m. Pat Larrabee of Gray, Merrifield’ assistant, has lined up  wool spinners and some old time cuisine will be available.

Multiple 4-H shows are scheduled throughout the week in the show arena. Jenn Grant of Gorham, leader of both the Red & White Faces and Young Farmers 4-H clubs, said last week she has about 30 students readying their animals for showing. “They’ve been washing, combing hair, and leading them areound,” said Grant, president of the county’s 4-H leaders association.

Animals to be exhibited include dairy and beef cattle, sheep,  goats, hogs, rabbits, poultry, dogs, oxen, and horses.

The auction of baby beef, market lambs and market hogs is set for 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Wendy Gallagher of Gray, leader of the Cumberland County 4-H Swiners Club, has 28 students in the club showing market hogs. Gallagher said last week raising animals teaches responsibility and the students learn life skills, caring for their animals all year and exhiting animals at the fair represents more than  a “one-day” experience.

Pig racing has become a popular event in recent years at the fair.  Gallagher said the younger members in her club are training pigs for the daily events.

The fair usually attracts school bus loads of kids.For the students with  animals the fair means missing some time in school. “Most schools understand,” Gallagher said. “It’s a learning experience.”

Fair admission is $10; free under age 12; $3, senior citizens (65 and up) on Tuesday and Thursday; and $50, weekly admission pass. Parking is free.

For a complete schedule of events, visit www.cunberlandfair.com.

Mike Timmons, president of Cumberland Fair, checks the posting at a fair entrance gate.

Mike Timmons, president of Cumberland Fair, is pictured with the marquee announcing the 145th annual fair that opens Sunday, Sept. 25, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 1, at 197 Blanchard Road, Cumberland.

A closer look

The Cumberland County Fair runs Sunday, Sept. 25-Saturday, Oct. 1, with harness racing only on Oct. 2. The fairground is located at 197 Blanchard Road, Cumberland. Admission is $10, $3 seniors Tuesday and Thursday only, $3 Military Monday; free for kids 12 and under. For the full scheduled of events, see www.cumberlandfair.com.