A $20 bracelet gets unlimited rides on certain days of the Cumberland County Fair. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

It’s not often that Mainers get to see a world-class professional rodeo with all that bull riding, cattle roping, trick riding and a taste of the cowboy mystique on which this country was built. But the Rawhide Rodeo is back in town for two nights after a five-year hiatus.

A professional company that puts on nearly 100 shows in the United States and Canada each year, Rawhide Rodeo is expected to wow the audience at the Cumberland County Fair on Sept. 25 and 26, starting at 7 p.m. in the racetrack infield.

“We are thrilled to have this event back at the fair,” said Elizabeth Tarantino, director of entertainment. “We are also featuring a great mix of local musical entertainment daily, with many popular groups performing at the Cumberland Fair for the first time.”

New acts in the lineup include the Downeast Soul Coalition, Davidson County Line and the Jerks of Grass. Among the returning favorites are Don Campbell, Tricky Britches and the Exchange Street Barbershop Quartet.

The pumpkin weigh-in is a highlight of the Cumberland County Fair. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

At its roots, the Cumberland Fair, held Sept. 22-28 this year, is a true agricultural exhibition, with a giant pumpkin and squash weigh-in, a scarecrow contest, a woodsmen’s show, harness racing and dairy goat demonstrations.

Cumberland Fair President Mike Timmons, 77, has been hooked on the fair since he chased pigs in the pig scramble when he was 11. He loves everything about the fair: the 4-H events and the farm museum, the wide range of live music, the midway and the Maine potato french fries and fresh-made apple crisp.

But Timmons’ favorite thing is seeing 4-H students go home with a young steer, swine or sheep and come back a year later, ready for the animal to be shown, weighed and sold at auction (happening this year on Sept. 25).

Members of 4-H clubs make decent dough auctioning off their animals. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“If a student is in 4-H for three years and sells a steer each year, that could be $12,000 to $15,000 they earn,” Timmons said. “And they do the same thing with sheep and swine.”

Not to be left out, 4-Hers who raise rabbits and chickens can also show their animals in hopes of receiving a judges’ ribbon. The petting zoo, called Old MacDonald’s Farm, is a favorite stop with the little ones.

Meanwhile, thousands of homemade items, from afghans to wood carvings, are judged in the exhibit hall, and there’s a Farm Museum that harkens back to earlier days of the fair, which began in 1868. There’s an apple pie contest on Sept. 26, and Sept. 27 is Maine Maple Day, with demonstrations and sweet samples all day.

Motorized events throughout the week include a demolition derby (6:30 p.m. Sept. 22), the RaveX Outerlimits Freeport Motocross show (7 p.m. Sept. 23), classic car and antique shows (throughout the day Tuesday), and truck pulls featuring modified big rigs (7 p.m. Sept. 27).

Midway ride lovers can get a deal with an unlimited access bracelet for $20 on Sept. 23, 25 or 26, good for all 26 rides.

Multiple live musical acts each day cover a wide range of styles, including ’80s hard rock cover band Twice Shy on Sept. 22, funky Downeast Soul Coalition on Sept. 23 and country-and-’90s rock band Blacktop Gone on Sept. 25. The final day of the fair, Sept. 28, features Cooper County and old-timey bluegrass favorite Tricky Britches, followed by a fireworks show by Central Maine Pyrotechnics.

Last year, an estimated 75,000 people attended the weeklong fair.

Admission is $12 a day, free for kids 12 and under. Tuesday and Thursday are senior citizens days, and those 65 and over pay just $5. The Cumberland Fairgrounds are at 197 Blanchard Road, Cumberland. Parking is free. For details, including a PDF of the eight-page schedule, go to cumberlandfair.com.

Amy Paradysz is a freelancer writer and photographer living in Scarborough.


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