Blue Hill Fair
High Gas Prices Hurt Turnout,  But the Skillet Toss Was Hot

By James Straub

BLUE HILL — Though attendance was off slightly this year, not all vendors at the Blue Hill Fair were hurt by the lower numbers.

Bud Gilmore, owner of Smokey’s Greatest Show, said sales for the rides he provides on the midway were up a bit this year. The fair’s traditional and new attractions also scored a big hit with the thousands of people who made their way to Blue Hill.

Daniel Hughes of Orland shows off one of his Highland Cattle.

PHOTO BY steve pappas

Fair director Rob Eaton said overall attendance for the five-day fair was about 3,000 fewer than last year’s mark of about 30,000.

He said reports he’s getting from food vendors suggest that sales were down this year, though some vendors said sales were up slightly.

“There’s really no rhyme or reason to that,” Eaton said, adding that food sales likely would be affected by lower attendance.

The weather was just about perfect every day.

But Eaton said the consensus among parking attendants and other fair workers is that gas prices contributed to the decline in attendance.

“Everybody’s been yakking about the price of gas going over $3 over the weekend,” Eaton said. “A lot of people that travel distances still came to the fair, but not as many days.”

He said that fair-goers who in the past would travel to the fair on two or three days came only once this year.

Though they were at the fair less, they likely spent the same amount of money they would have spent in three days, which could explain why Smokey’s enjoyed an increase in sales, he said.

The 800-seat grandstand was nearly filled and a crowd of spectators gathered at each end of the “tossing” course for the fair’s first installment of the Intercontinental and Greater Hancock County Championship Women’s Skillet Toss.

Nearly 100 women entered the contest, setting up a contagious spirit of fun between participants and audience.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Eaton said. “I knew there was a little buzz about it around Blue Hill. I thought it would be a success if it drew 40 participants.

“It kind of blew me away, the number that watched it and enjoyed it. I can’t remember having any more fun with a fair event. It was the best bang we’ve gotten for a buck in a long time.”

Eaton was also pleased by the turnout for the Bellamy Brothers, the country music duo who closed the fair Monday night.

“They were fantastic and drew really well,” Eaton said. “They were well received by a real good crowd. We got a lot of bang for our buck out of them, too.”

Eaton said fair officials were pleased with a new parking scheme that eliminated traffic backups as workers “put a lot of cars and a lot of people” inside the fairgrounds quickly.

The fair accomplished its ultimate goal.

“Overall, everybody seemed to enjoy themselves,” Eaton said. “That’s why we do it. Now, I’m just looking forward to getting ready to do another one.”  

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