There might be numerous issues longtime attendees of the Bangor State Truthful gained’t see when the gates open on the venerable summer time occasion this Thursday, except for halfway rides and video games and meals stands providing traditional truthful treats.
Agricultural exhibitions, for one, gained’t occur this 12 months after town tore down the animal barns over the spring. Conventional truthful occasions like pie-eating contests and craft exhibits aren’t on the docket, and neither is leisure from acts like timber sports activities athletes, BMX bike riders, skate boarders and canine agility teams which have carried out up to now 10 years.
The truthful itself this 12 months is simply 4 days lengthy — lower than half its conventional size of 9 days — and the one dwell leisure throughout the truthful’s run will come from tractor pulls, a demolition derby and 5 native bands.
What’s clear is that the Bangor State Truthful isn’t returning at its conventional scale. And going ahead, its organizers haven’t determined what its future will appear like.
After two pandemic years that lowered the Cross Insurance coverage Middle’s workers from 30 full-time staff to only three, the group that now organizes the Bangor truthful is rebuilding every thing, from staffing ranges to the lineup of occasions it affords, stated Chris McGrail, the sector’s director.
That features the truthful, which has seen lagging attendance over the previous decade — even earlier than the pandemic halt in 2020 — and a condensed occasion in 2021 at which solely halfway rides and video games had been arrange.
“We’re nonetheless within the rebuilding section. We’re attempting to determine what works and what doesn’t,” McGrail stated. “The truthful was profitable final 12 months with the condensed model, so we’re beginning with that and slowly including issues again in. This is a chance for us to reimagine what the truthful will be.”
Whether or not that may embody the return of agricultural displays from native 4-H golf equipment stays to be seen, although McGrail stated final month that his group would work with these teams to see how they may convey again livestock shows to future festivals.
Regardless, it appears unlikely that the truthful of the previous — an occasion that at its peak within the mid-Twentieth century may entice greater than 100,000 individuals — will ever actually return. Mike Dyer, who ran the Bangor State Truthful for greater than 30 years between 1988 and 2019 and is now retired, stated that every 12 months, it’s gotten tougher and tougher to hold out.
“The truthful is a singular factor that basically requires year-round consideration and planning with a view to pull off,” Dyer stated. “And in earlier a long time, we’d have a giant group of people that all knew how one can do it, and we had a variety of neighborhood funding by way of volunteers and distributors. And we simply don’t have that anymore. Issues simply aren’t the way in which they was once.”
Within the first half of the Twentieth century, when Bangor nonetheless had passenger rail service, individuals would take the practice from factors north to attend the truthful. And even into the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s, whereas the agricultural ingredient was definitely a part of it, the larger points of interest for many fair-goers had been the rides, the meals and the seemingly limitless quantities of leisure, procuring and spectacle. You might experience the Ferris wheel, see a sideshow, eat one thing scrumptious, participate in a contest, and purchase every thing from clothes to kitchen home equipment to a sizzling tub, all in at some point.
“Again then, it was an opportunity to see individuals you hadn’t seen all 12 months,” Dyer stated. “That’s simply not one thing individuals want anymore, with social media. There are such a lot of different issues to do. One thing just like the truthful simply can’t compete.”
Bangor — and New England generally — additionally doesn’t have the identical type of state truthful custom that states out west have. The place Maine festivals are usually homegrown affairs which can be commensurate in dimension with the extent of neighborhood help, states resembling Texas, Minnesota and Iowa characteristic festivals which can be large, multi-million greenback extravaganzas pushed by an agricultural business that dwarfs Maine’s.
“It’s a completely completely different type of expertise on the market. What they can do is unbelievable. However we additionally haven’t had that type of large-scale farming that you just see within the Midwest or Texas for most likely 100 years. It’s simply not the identical,” Dyer stated.
Whereas Maine festivals like those in Fryeburg, Skowhegan and Blue Hill proceed to attract good crowds and revel in neighborhood help, the Bangor State Truthful is at a crossroads. McGrail, who grew up in Skowhegan and has lived within the Bangor space since 2007, is aware of how essential traditions like festivals, which stretch again greater than a century all through Maine, are.
“It’s a giant a part of Bangor in the summertime. We undoubtedly respect the historical past and the custom,” McGrail stated. “I believe the query is, how can we construct it again up and make it higher? What does the long run maintain? That’s what we’re attempting to determine. And it’s going to take a while.”