Learn about farm animals, close up, at a Maine fair, including the upcoming Farmington Fair. File photo by David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

How does one clip the coat of a belted galloway? What’s the best the way to hold an ax, when throwing for distance? How many times can a car be smashed by other cars before it stops working?

These are just some of the things you can learn at one of Maine’s fall fairs. It is back-to-school season, so just consider the agricultural fair of your choice an open-air classroom. The Common Ground Country Fair in Unity is well-known for lessons and demonstrations on all sorts of farming and sustainability techniques. But at other fairs you can learn about animals, forestry, tools, antiques, race horses, canning vegetables, maple sugaring and, of course, how to win a prize at a carnival game.

Here then is a sampling of some of the things you might learn, if you pay close attention, at one of Maine’s upcoming fairs.

OXFORD COUNTY FAIR: Wednesday through Saturday, Sept. 11-14

You get a living history lesson at the Oxford Fair Museum, where folks from the past (or maybe just dressed like it) demonstrate old-time skills like spinning wool, hand quilting, wood carving, beekeeping and more. Members of the Maine Antique Engine Club will be on hand to talk about the earliest gas engines used to power Maine farm machinery. You can also learn about the skills firefighters need when handling a hose, at the Fireman’s Muster. Firefighters team up to show how accurate and powerful a stream of water can be. This event is a staple of many Maine fairs.

FARMINGTON FAIR: Sunday, Sept. 15, through Sept. 21

You can learn a lot about your own skill with a motor vehicle at the Farmington Fair. There’s the “Drag Your Neighbor” competition on Monday, where you can race your own car, van or pickup against other would-be hot rodders from the area. Or you could enter the Truck and Tractor Pull contest later in the week, or the Demolition Derby on Sept. 21. There are fairly lengthy rules for each, including the mandatory use of helmets, no passengers allowed and, most important, proceed at your own risk. Of course, you can learn a lot by watching, too, so maybe you can take notes about the various motor competitions from the safety of the grandstand.

Basket making is just one of the skills that’s been demonstrated over the years at the Common Ground Country Fair. File photo by David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

COMMON GROUND COUNTRY FAIR: Sept. 20 to 22

You can start learning right away at the Common Ground Country Fair, as the demonstration about how to trim belted galloways begins at 9 a.m. Sept. 20, shortly after the fair opens. Dan Costain of Ferry Ridge Farms in Plymouth will lead this cattle-care lesson on how to trim and clip the coat of your cows, specifically belted galloways, which are primarily beef cows. There are also campfire cooking demos for kids, as well as blacksmithing and stone-work demonstrations, and a session on how to build a fairy house. There is even a class on how to teach your horse to be patient and to hold still. Other lessons and demos at the fair include sheep sheering, pig breeding, organic beekeeping, working dogs and dowsing for water. To see the dozens of others, with specific times, check the fair’s website.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY FAIR: Sept. 22 to Sept. 28

This fair is practically a graduate course in the mysterious subject of giant pumpkins. Every year the fair hosts the Maine State Pumpkin and Squash Weigh-In. This year the weigh-in begins at 10 a.m. Sept. 22. Some years the winner has been more than 1,000 pounds. Lots of pumpkin growers will be on hand, talking about what works. Each one is hoisted on a scale and judged for cracks, holes, rot or any other imperfections. But there is a prize for ugliest pumpkin, so it doesn’t have to be that perfect.

A team of volunteers lowers a giant, 555-pound pumpkin onto a scale at the Cumberland County Fair. File photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

FRYEBURG FAIR: Sept. 29 to Oct. 6

Learn how to throw a skillet from the world’s best skillet throwers at noon Sept. 30 at the Fryeburg Fair. The competition is open only to women, though it’s not clear if this evolved as a way to slow wandering husbands or if it made for easier cooking. Either way, throwers are judged for distance. So you can watch each one’s technique, stance, wind-up, etc., and then go home and practice long-distance skillet tossing yourself.

Sept. 30 is Woodsmen’s Field Day at the fair, and there are more practical skills to be learned, including how to throw an ax.  There are also various sawing and chopping competitions, so you can see how woodsmen worked in the old days or you can gain skills to do yard work around your house without the aid of power tools.

See how people used to cut down trees, during the Woodsmen’s Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair. File photo by Jack Milton/Staff Photographer

 

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