Story by Bonnie Washuk  •  Photos by Ben McCanna

CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland Fair opened Sunday for its 150th year complete with many of the attractions that have kept it going for so long, from giant pumpkin contests to farm animals and rides, all set amid the scent of seemingly every junk food ever invented.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” fair President Lyle Merrifield of Gorham said Sunday of the fair’s milestone. As he spoke, people of all ages started streaming through the gate.

The heart of the fair, as always, is agriculture, Merrifield said, adding that is why it has endured.

Ray and Beth Leavitt of Grasshopper Farm in Center Conway, New Hampshire, patiently await the start of the Nubian goat contest, which they entered Sunday.

“We’ve been promoting agriculture for 150 years, and we haven’t swayed from that,” he said. “If you come to this fair, you’re going to see the roots of this entire fair is agriculture.”

The first Cumberland Fair (called the Cumberland Town Fair), was held in 1869, 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 current grounds in West Cumberland, which includes a fenced-in trotting park of half a mile. The fair returned last year after being canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.


Maine agriculture fairs started becoming popular in the latter half of the 19th century, according to the Maine Historical Society’s online Maine Memory Network. One reason is that farmers can be so competitive, Merrifield said.

Sawyer Comeau, 2, of Limerick is surrounded by livestock as he puts a quarter into a feed vending machine at the petting zoo on Sunday at the 150th Cumberland County Fair.

“With the horse pulling and the ox pulling, people were saying, ‘My horse can pull more than yours,’ and ‘My ox can pull more,’ maybe with a glass of rum,”  Merrifield said with a laugh.

People then and now want to show off the animals, food and produce they’ve raised.

Like pumpkins. Big pumpkins. Near the entrance gate, trucks backed in Sunday with pumpkin-contest entries weighing more than half a ton.

The winning cream-colored pumpkin, weighing 1,677 pounds, was raised by Edwin Pierpont of Jefferson.

Edwin Pierpont of Jefferson smiles after learning that his Atlantic Giant pumpkin weighed in at a fair record 1,677 pounds in the giant pumpkin contest on Sunday at the 150th Cumberland County Fair.

Second and third went to orange pumpkins weighing 1,179 pounds, raised by Gradeigh Cameron of Cumberland; and 1,116 pounds, raised by Charlie Lopresti of Buxton, a meteorologist at WGME.


Pierpont’s pumpkin set a new record for the Cumberland Fair. The old record was 1,130 pounds, said official Heidi Palmer.

But Pierpont called his winning pumpkin “a little one. I have a state record of one that was 2,121 pounds,” he said. He showed off that pumpkin in 2021 at a pumpkin contest in Damariscotta.

Growing a mammoth pumpkin takes a lot of skill, work and luck.

Charlie Lopresti, chief meteorologist for WGME, prepares to attach his 1,116 pound pumpkin to a crane during the giant pumpkin contest on Sunday.

Pierpont starts early, prepping the soil in the fall with cow manure. He plants pumpkins around April 15, as long as the frost is out of the ground. Then, there’s a lot of tending.

“There’s a lot to it,” he said. “You’ve got to be out there working on it every day.” Pumpkin vines need to be “trained” – they can’t be allowed to grow every which way. Excess flowers must be removed to ensure the potential prize pumpkin gets lots of nutrients. “You’ve got to leave a few to pollinate it,” but beyond that everything is trimmed off, he said.

Huge pumpkins also need a lot of space, he said.


Getting a pumpkin to the fair is also a challenge. They’re fragile and can’t be bumped – a jolt crossing train tracks could break a pumpkin, leaving it ineligible for the contest after all that work.

After contests, giant pumpkins are often sold to restaurants or hotels for fall decorating. Some are carved, said master pumpkin carver Moe Auger of Alfred, a former art school teacher.

Nearby were stables holding all kinds of livestock. One particularly comical goat with floppy ears stood out in the crowd, continually bleating an almost human, “MA! MA!”

Chloe Worden, 3, of Limington smiles as she rides the carousel on Sunday at the 150th Cumberland County Fair.  

Goat raiser Stacey Collins of Haymaker Farm in Cumberland said it is a young Nubian goat. “They’re very mouthy,” she said. The goats are also friendly and sociable.

The Nubian goat got Mike Lane’s children laughing. His daughter Tillie, 8, wants a goat, said Lane of Damariscotta.

But after listening to it, Tillie said she didn’t think she’d want one that noisy. After a while, “that would be annoying,” she said.


Gemma Googins, 3, of Scarborough pets a goat at the 150th Cumberland County Fair.

Billi Lamb of Lewiston was working Sunday at the MacDonald’s Farm, which includes a petting zoo.

“It’s very popular. Usually there are lines out the door,” Lamb said. Inside are sheep, baby goats, rabbits and potbelly pigs, but no waterfowl or chickens this year because of the bird flu outbreak. Outside were miniature horses and two donkeys. The animals are friendly and because they travel to different fairs, they are used to being in petting zoos, Lamb said.

The Cumberland Fair continues daily through Oct. 2.

In addition to exhibits, rides, demonstrations and contests, from rodeos to pig scrambles to harness racing, the fair offers bands and a fireworks display Saturday night.

About 65,000 are expected to visit the fair before it closes, said fair president Merrifield.

Adelyn, 3, left, and Ryan, 2, look at a pig while being held by their mother Lindsay Fitzgerald of Scarborough on Sunday.

Carys Martin-Punsky, 7, of Falmouth rides atop her father Zack Punsky’s shoulders on Sunday during the opening day of the 150th Cumberland County Fair.

Josh Mattei of Breezy Knoll Farm in Gorham blow dries Qruella, a Belted Galloway, after she was washed on Sunday.

Members of the Cumberland County 4-H Swiners club entice their pigs with food during the pig races on Sunday at the 150th Cumberland County Fair.  

Fairgoers ride the chair swings on Sunday.

Ada McCarthy, left, Jocelyn Taxter and Wallace Taxter stand on a fence while awaiting the parade on the race track on Sunday.

Emily Dibiase, left, and Vanessa Dougherty ride the Twist on Sunday.

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