Day 5 of my trip was destined to be a washout. Clouds had covered New England, and as I surveyed the sky from my motel, it looked as if a downpour could come at any moment. I knew my main goal for the day was to make it across Maine to Acadia National Park, but I needed some activities to do along the way — preferably ones that would allow me to hide from downpours. Hiking was ruled out. The drive to the top of Mt. Washington would have probably been ugly (if the road was open at all).
Good thing I just happened to be visiting during the week of the Fryeburg Fair, just a few minutes drive across the state line from North Conway, New Hampshire. Of course, it wasn’t such a good thing when I was booking my motel room — the Fryeburg Fair is a big deal in this area, and rooms fill up, for miles around.
As you walk into the fairgrounds, one of the first things you see is Water Wheel. Plenty of people use it as a meeting place. The midway is right behind it.
Take a left at the water wheel, and there are several expo halls…
… filled with exactly what you’d expect to see at any fair: huge pumpkins…
… and beautiful produce.
There were also some lessons to be learned, like the difference between good hay and bad hay…
… and how to woo a woman. It helps if you speak “The Language of Flowers”, apparently.
There were also a couple of exhibition halls filled with homemade crafts, jams and jellies, and other “Made in Maine” gifts. I picked up a few bars of homemade soap to give as gifts, and a couple of pine-scented pillows. To this day, certain rooms around my house still smell like a Maine forest.
You can also get a lesson maple syrup-making at the Sugar House.
It had been quite a few years since I had been to a fair, and since I don’t live on a farm, I was anxious to see the animals. One barn was filled with big hogs…
… and a few overenthusiastic goats, which creeped me out. This one has better teeth than some members of my family.
I also ended up on the business end of more than a few oxen. These creatures are huge!
Obey the rules!
There were several competitions going on, and I wandered into a few of them.
A sheep show was just wrapping up when I found my way to the sheep barn, but there were plenty more. Sheep shows take place throughout the day, on several days of the fair.
Oxen were yoked up and pulling a pallet of heavy weights in the pulling ring. On the day of my visit, they were competing in two categories: 2,900 pounds and 3,700 pounds.
Early October isn’t too early to think about Christmas trees.
It’s a shame that the blue-ribbon winner would probably be pretty dried out by December.
Of course, there’s much more at the fair — enough events to fill eight days. If you’re especially interested in watching horses race or the skillet throwing competition, you’ll have to check the schedule and plan your visit accordingly. Places like the farm museum and petting zoo are open all the time.
I finished up my visit with a walk through the Midway. The clouds had started to release a light drizzle, that dampened most of the fun there. Rides and games were nearly silent, and employees appeared to be just as bummed out by the weather as me.
But at least the food was good. I enjoyed a Philly cheese steak sandwich and something called a “blueberry crisp”. In my vocabulary, it’s a cobbler with ice cream on top.
I only had a couple of hours at the Fryeburg Fair before I had to hit the road, but I made the most of it, and it turned out to be a good rainy-day stop.
[tmt_info =””]The Fryeburg Fair was first held in 1851, but for its first three decades it moved from town to town. Eventually it settled in Fryeburg, on Route 5 just north of town, where it remains today. About 300,000 people attend the fair each year. If you want to find out this year’s dates, and a schedule of events, check out the fair website.[/tmt_info]
On the way out of town, I took just a minute to admire some of Fryeburg’s other landmarks, like the First Congregational Church on Main Street.
Fryeburg’s downtown has just a few blocks of storefronts and businesses.
[tmt_info =””]If you have a little more time to spend in Fryeburg, and the weather is a little better than it was for my visit, consider taking a short hike up to the top of Jockey Cap. It should take just 15 minutes to the top, and the reward is said to be a 306-degree view of the mountains. More info here.[/tmt_info]
Fryeburg is located on US Hwy. 302, 11 miles east of North Conway. On your way out of town, continue to follow US 302 south/east, all the way to Portland.
Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from North Conway, NH, through Fryeburg, then down US 302 to the outskirts of Portland, Maine:
Portland deserves a lot more time than I devoted to it. After driving for a couple of hours in an ever-increasing downpour to get here from Fryeburg, I didn’t have much ambition to explore. And, I still needed to get all the way to Bar Harbor (hopefully) before nightfall, so I could avoid driving in the dark and the rain. So, I didn’t stop for pictures. You’ll have to make do with the video from the Drivelapse camera.
I took US 302 straight into downtown Portland. It passes under Interstate 95, the Maine Turnpike, then heads through the suburbs. Once you pass under I-295, you’re on the peninsula that holds downtown. I turned onto Portland Street, and eventually ended up on Congress Street and Commercial Street, both of which looked like good places to explore and shop. Commercial Street is near the nicely-developed wharfs.