Molly and Lyle Merrifield are ready for the Cumberland Fair’s opening day Sunday, Sept. 25. Rachel Vitello / For The Forecaster

Volunteering for next week’s Cumberland Fair is a natural for the Merrifield family of Gorham.

As president of the Cumberland Farmers Club, Lyle Merrifield is responsible for “orchestrating and organizing” all the moving parts of the annual weeklong fair, which this year is celebrating its 150th year from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 at the Cumberland Fairgrounds.

Merrifield’s daughter Molly runs the fair’s museum, which features agricultural antiques and demonstrations. Molly’s older sister Lexi is the superintendent for the steer and oxen horse show, and their mother Jo-Ann is also involved.

“My wife does everything for all three of us. She’s the glue that makes everything work,” Merrifield said. “I’m very proud of (volunteering as a family), and I’m proud of both my daughters and my wife. It’s natural for us and doing things together is just the way it works with us.”

Molly Merrifield has been a regular fair participant since she was a child. Here she is with her father, Lyle Merrifield, during a fair in years past. Contributed /Molly Merrifield

Molly Merrifield, who has been a part of the fair each year since she was 4, said one of her favorite memories is how her parents, despite being heavily involved with running the fair, attended all of her 4H shows there when she was growing up.

“I would have shows or something to do with animals almost every day,” she said. “No matter what part of the fair my parents were working in at that time, they never missed a show no matter what. As a kid, that meant the most to me. It really shows that what’s important to one of our family members is important to all of us.”


Keeping the fair’s history and traditions alive and educating visitors about it is important to Merrifield, he said, especially in this 150th anniversary year. His daughter, in her second year of running the museum, agrees.

“I’m not sure what role I might take with the fair in the future, but I absolutely want to stay involved,” Molly said. “I want to keep trying to improve it and get other young people to be interested in the fair, especially the history and the agriculture side.”

The first Cumberland Fair (called the Cumberland Town Fair), was held Oct. 7-8, 1869, in the center of town in back of what is now Greely High School, according to a history of the fair posted on Admission was 10 cents. The Cumberland Farmer’s Club moved the fair in 1874 to its newly purchased grounds in West Cumberland, which included a fenced-in trotting park of half a mile. In 1952, the fair was officially renamed the Cumberland County Fair.

At the museum this year, visitors can expect daily kitchen demonstrations with samples of food made on the museum’s old cookstove, along with blacksmithing demonstrations. Displays will include agricultural and kitchen antiques, ice harvesting tools and logging equipment. On opening day, Colby College is hosting a logging demonstration competition.

The Cumberland Farmers Club is always looking for suggestions on how the fair can be improved, Merrifield said. He encourages people who attend to submit feedback through the contact form on the fair’s website.

“I just hope people come and enjoy our fair,”  he said. “If they have suggestions, we’re always listening for other ideas and we’re always trying to improve the fair every year. We’ve made a lot of grounds improvements this year as well that people don’t always notice, but it takes a lot of effort and infrastructure work.”

The Cumberland Fair runs from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The fair includes rides, food vendors, harness racing, 4H shows and more. Admission is $12 and free for children 12 and younger.

Rachel Vitello is a freelance writer and a resident of Portland.  

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