Jaxson Harrison of Brunswick enjoys the carousel at the Topsham Fair in this 2019 file photo. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

The Topsham Fair, which was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is set to return in August.

“It may not be a full-blown fair, but it will be a fair,” Topsham Fair President Leon Brillant said.

The state is still developing guidelines for fairs to open, according to Melissa Jordan, the agriculture promotions coordinator for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Brillant said he expects to know more about what the Topsham Fair will look like this summer following a meeting between Topsham Fair officials and the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs and the department of agriculture, which was scheduled for Monday.

The return of agricultural fairs and other events is a sign Maine has begun emerging from under the shadow of a pandemic that canceled annual gatherings and delayed celebrations marking the state’s bicentennial. The annual Maine Maple Sunday Weekend, for example, made a comeback this year after being canceled last year.

Other notable events, however, are not occurring this year.

Bath Heritage Days, a five-day summer festival that draws thousands into downtown Bath, was canceled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic. Organizers agreed it would be difficult to enforce COVID-19 guidelines during that festival. Yarmouth Clam Festival and Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland were also canceled this year.

Unlike street festivals, however, fairgrounds are often surrounded by fencing, allowing organizers to control how many people enter allowing fairs to conform to COVID-19 guidelines.

The week-long Topsham Fair typically draws between 20,000 and 26,000 people. Brillant said he doesn’t yet know if the fair will be able to hold a demolition derby or other events that draw large crowds.

The Maine Association of Agriculture Fairs lists 26 fairs that occur between June 17 and Oct. 10.

“At this time all fairs are planning to open,” said Barry Norris, the executive director of Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs, on Monday. “Because things are so fluid right now, it’s difficult to answer a lot of things,” Norris said.

Masks and social distancing requirements are required under a mandate by Gov. Janet Mills. Although Mills is relaxing restrictions to allow 100% of capacity at outdoor gatherings starting May 24, the social distancing requirements will reduce the capacity at fairs according to Jordan.

“We need fairs,” Jordan said, pointing to small businesses and vendors, as well as companies that advertise their agricultural products there. “We need to be safe at them, but they are important.”
Topsham Fair starts Aug. 10 at the Topsham Fairgrounds, located between Elm Street and the Route 196 Coastal Connector.


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