Harness racers hit the track during the Cumberland Fair in this undated photo. Contributed / Stephen D. Thompson

Organizers looking to bring harness racing back to the Cumberland fairgrounds have only a minor hurdle to overcome, along with addressing concerns from some neighbors about noise.

Town councilors said this week that a permit application from organizers might not even be needed, and that it is possible to work out a solution with neighbors that makes everyone happy.

“It will probably end up working out all right if (organizers) are willing to work on those concerns,” said Councilor George Turner.

Michael Cianchette, who grew up in Cumberland, is proposing a 56-day racing schedule for May, June, July, November and December. The council is holding a public hearing on April 12, officially to address an application for a mass gathering permit by the Cumberland Farmers Club, which owns the fairgrounds. But Councilor Shirley Storey-King said she didn’t think the permit will be necessary. She said the proposal included an expected crowd size of 200-500 people, and mass gathering permits are only required for groups over 500.

“I don’t think we’re even going to need to make a decision,” she said.

There might be some concerns raised at the hearing about loudspeaker noise on race days, however. Turner said he has received some calls from neighbors. Although he couldn’t recall how many, he said there were fewer than five. Storey-King said she had also received a handful of calls from neighbors. Councilor Robert Vail said he had not received any complaints, and only knew what his fellow councilors had told him.


Overall, public response appears to have been favorable. Town Manager William Shane said responses he’s seen showed “overwhelming support” for the proposal, and Storey-King said complaints were far outnumbered by positive responses.

“The support has been favorable,” she said.

All three councilors, however, said they wanted neighbors’ concerns about noise to be addressed. Storey-King said she believed that Cianchette has already reached out to those neighbors personally. Cianchette did not respond to multiple requests for comment before The Forecaster’s deadline.

Lyle Merrifield, interim president of the Farmers Club, said he also understood the public’s concerns and wanted to make sure racing does not bother the fairgrounds’ neighbors.

“No matter what we have to do to make people comfortable, we’re going to do,” he said.

Merrifield said he was confident that when racing began, people would see noise would not be a problem. The fairgrounds has offered harness racing in years past during the annual Cumberland Fair, and on those days, he said, the speakers are louder than usual, so they may be heard over the fairgrounds. During the proposed racing days, he said, the speakers won’t need to be so loud, and it’s unlikely the sound will carry far enough to bother anyone.

“I think everybody should be pleased at the end of the line,” he said.

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