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Common Ground Country Fair
Articles about the Fair

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Wdnesday Spinners
Working with wool while singing, at the Wednesday Spinners’ area. Jean English photo for the Winter 2010-2011 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Articles

Last year we had a guest at Common Ground from The New York Times who wrote of her experience at the Fair, "This felt like what has gone missing from America." At that particular moment she was commenting on the accordions and washboard of the Maine Squeeze momentarily drowning out John Bunker as he was holding court and identifying apples brought to him by fairgoers. But the writer's observation captures a lot about the Common Ground Country Fair.

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2012 Fair StaffMany of the questions I get about the Common Ground Country Fair begin with, “How many.”

“How many people were at the Fair this year?” 59,067.

“How many vendors and exhibitors were there?” 726.

“How many people rode the train?” 2,670.

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MOFGA Exhibition Hall in 2011Back in 1976 when Chaitanya York persuaded, enlisted and inspired an entourage of MOFGA members and friends to put on the first Common Ground Country Fair, not all expected a strong turnout. Not that they thought the Fair wouldn’t be a success, but it opened many eyes when upward of 10,000 people made the trip to the Litchfield Fairgrounds for MOFGA’s inaugural celebration of rural living.

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To help with the seasonal wave of administrative work on the Fair, we hire a part-time seasonal assistant in the MOFGA office.

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Start Planning For The Fair! Here are some things you can do now to start planning for the 2012 Common Ground Country Fair.

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Wanted: Farm and garden innovations and inventors, free thinkers and crackpots. Do you think outside the cold frame? Have you ever improved or invented a piece of equipment to make work easier? Bring it to the new Ingenuity Area at the Common Ground Fair.

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Would you like to be a vendor, exhibitor or demonstrator at the 2012 Common Ground Country Fair? Do you know of a presenter, artisan or Maine enterprise that would be a good fit for Common Ground? The application process for vendors, exhibitors and speakers for the 2012 Fair is under way.

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2011 Fair SceneThe forecast was dreary but the weather was marvelous, as is often the case in Maine, for the 35th Common Ground Country Fair. More than 59,000 fairgoers, vendors, exhibitors and volunteers enjoyed three warmer-than-usual late September days for MOFGA's big event.

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Vernon LeCount, my colleague at MOFGA, has a small sign taped above his desk that reads, “All good ideas degenerate into hard work!” He should know. As our facilities director, Vernon is responsible for keeping all of MOFGA's buildings and grounds in good shape. I think of that little sign often when working on the Common Ground Country Fair. For 35 years, a multitude of ideas – some crazy, some brilliant, some simple, some tricky – have been planted, and with work, many have come to life as the Common Ground Country Fair.

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Goats, with their big eyes, hearts and humor, are great at making people fall in love with them, attests Janice Spaulding in the opening chapter of Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking (Down East Books, 2011). And Janice and her husband Ken are great at making sure goat owners, from the considering to the already committed, know how to provide excellent care for these “amazing creatures.”

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Under skies that ranged from fall wet to summer hot, cool and overcast to clear and blue, close to 60,000 people gathered at the 34th Common Ground Country Fair to celebrate, share, learn and experience the abundance of rural Maine.

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About a week after this year’s Fair, I met a couple who recently moved to Maine from Seattle. They had attended the Fair for the first time the previous Saturday with their 12-year-old son and were eager to share with me how much they enjoyed and appreciated the Common Ground Country Fair.

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For most of the history of the Common Ground Country Fair, coffee sales were prohibited for a variety of reasons, including the fact that in 1977 no reliable sources of organically grown and processed coffee existed. Another strong consideration was the Fair's focus on Maine foods.

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This year you can share your seed with the rest of the MOFGA community. Let some of those onions, hollyhocks, echinacea and other seed-bearing plants stay in the garden after they flower and make seed heads.

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Not long ago, packing a canteen or water bottle was standard practice when planning an outing for a day. In recent years, as bottled water became ubiquitous at events, including the Common Ground Country Fair, habits changed and people commonly purchased bottled water instead of bringing their own.

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Jim AhearneThe Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has hired Jim Ahearne, a MOFGA member and Freeport resident, as director of its annual Common Ground Country Fair – Maine's renowned celebration of the organic harvest and of vibrant, local economies.



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Each year, a representative of the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs (MAAF) observes and evaluates our Common Ground Fair against pre-determined agricultural fairs standards. We certainly seem to be doing lots of things right: We earned a “Very Good” overall rating – the best a Fair can get.

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Weather for the Common Ground Country Fair was gorgeous and helped draw roughly 50,000 people who enjoyed the Fair this year. If the number of congratulatory notes, e-mails and letters saying 2004 was the “best Fair ever” is any indication of the future, 2005 should be another banner year.

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Forrest Hooper JrForrest L. Hooper Jr. meant something different to all of us. Forrest was a husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, friend, business owner, licensed poultry judge, Poultry Superintendent for the Union and Common Ground Country Fairs, a State of Maine Poultry Pullorum-Typhoid tester, one of the founding members and secretary of the Central Maine Bird Fancier’s poultry club for 19 years, and a member of several other clubs and organizations.

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Barbara LuceWe are creatures of habit; most people like predictability. Like the title to a self-help book on the dynamics of change, we tend to resist changes and automatically think negatively when faced with the prospects of change. Well, one of the few constants in the world is change. This is good: Change keeps us on our toes and keeps our lives dynamic!

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The Common Ground Country Fair is more than a Maine tradition; it is a yearly trip to a vision of the world as it could be, and certainly as many who attend the Fair – myself included – would like it to be.

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Barbara LuceAbout 30 areas of the Fair are visible, and another 15 or so behind-the-scenes “areas” are essential to the Fair. The “Planning Team” includes supervisors of areas and those who outline and coordinate everything necessary for the brief three days of the Fair that you see!

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Barbara and Mort MatherI settle into the seat of the old green Chevy pickup with a sigh – my first deep breath of the week; well, of the day, at least. The seat, held together by a Sears seat cover, feels wonderful. I couldn’t feel more relaxed if I were settling into the seat of a limousine that someone else was going to drive.

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Many thanks to all of the businesses that sold Advance Tickets to the 2002 Common Ground Country Fair.

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We had a great Fair once again this year and the volunteers who pulled it all together deserve tremendous thanks. We had a record year in attendance since we relocated the Fair to our home in Unity. Roughly 51,000 people came through the gates.

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Hello once again everyone and welcome to the 26th Common Ground Country Fair. It’s been another tremendously rewarding year working with all of the folks who make this fair happen.

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2001 Fair volunteersWorld events preceding this year’s Fair were horrifying, challenging and disquieting to say the least. But, once again, the Common Ground community, backed by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), rallied to make this a very special celebration. This was the 25th year of the Fair, and MOFGA’s 30th year. We were ready to celebrate the many accomplishments we have made and look forward to new programs and developments.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been rummaging around in old MOFGA file-boxes, researching some of the correspondence and articles written about the early years of the Common Ground Country Fair. It’s been a fascinating experience, and one that rounds out my deep respect for the folks who conceived of the event back in January 1977, and worked their tails off to make it happen by the following September. I’ve been working on the Fair for five years and have had many great conversations with some of the fair founders.

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Can you believe it? It’s been 25 years since a group of hippies, back-to-the-landers and organic zealots gathered in Litchfield to welcome 2,000 fairgoers and got 10,000 instead!

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For many years when the Common Ground Country Fair took place in Windsor, we had a popular program called Country Kitchen Demonstrations. We want to revive this popular offering, but we need some folks to coordinate it.

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Face painting at Common Ground Country FairOnce again, the Common Ground Country Fair received highest praise in its annual evaluation by the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs. Deb Nisbett, who serves on the Association’s team of Fair Evaluators and helps coordinate the Houlton Fair, conducted our evaluation and expressed great enthusiasm and admiration for what our volunteers have accomplished in just three years. This was Deb’s first visit to our new home in Unity.

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The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and two Maine-based farm and garden supply companies have selected winners of the Common Ground Country Fair Information Quest contest, a program designed to provide a more fulfilling and educational experience for school groups attending the Fair.

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Many thanks to all of the businesses that sold Advance Tickets to the 2000 Common Ground Country Fair. Selling tickets in advance is a great service to fairgoers who can walk right to the front of the line and spend all of their time at the Fair, rather than waiting to buy tickets. We hope that by selling Advance Tickets you got some new customers who have become regular customers.

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Each year, a representative of the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs (MAAF) visits Common Ground to see what kind of show we are putting on, and to make sure we are living up to certain standards. It certainly seems that we're doing lots of things right.

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We solved lots of big problems for our second Fair in Unity, but there still is room for improvement. One of the challenges that we have highlighted for this year is providing lots more seating and eating facilities.

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The Common Ground Dedicated Tree Planting program will continue its tree planting activities at the Second Annual Common Ground Spring Thing on May 20 & 21, 2000, at Common Ground in Unity. The Common Ground Landscape Committee sponsors this program.

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Many folks have attended the Common Ground Country Fair for years and years. Those of us who are repeat enthusiasts tend to schedule vacations or family gatherings around the dates of the Fair. I have attended ever since it was held in Litchfield. This year the Fair held special significance for me, however, because Friday the 24th was my son Gabriel’s 17th birthday.

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We are sorry to report that the Homebrewing and Winemaking Competitions will not take place at the Common Ground Country Fair any longer. The main reason for letting go of these festive, exciting, educational and unique contests is that we simply do not have adequate accommodations.

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Heather SpaldingThis has been quite an exciting year for me. After celebrating our first Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, I had a couple of months to prepare for the birth of my son, Rusty. He arrived on a Thursday evening, while the Fair Steering Committee met in Unity to discuss plans for the coming year. I try not to miss any important meetings, but that one I just couldn’t make!

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In addition to the physical location of the Fair office changing, coordination of the Fair has changed hands. Susan Pierce, who directed the Fair for more than 10 years, has taken on a new position with MOFGA – developing programming and other special events at the Common Ground Education Center in Unity. I am now coordinating the Fair with the help of Kit Whited.

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MOFGA’s big, beautiful building in Unity is ready for full-time occupancy. Now that the Common Ground dust has settled (cough, cough), we’ll be moving the Fair computers, files, equipment and furniture from the old office on Water Street in Augusta to the Common Ground Education Center.

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• Thanks for the Permanent Site!
• Thanks To All Fair Volunteers
• Pedal to Fair & Valet Bike Parking Smashing Success
• Unjamming the Traffic
• Contest Winners at the 1998 Common Ground Country Fair
• Donations to the Common Kitchen
• Thanks to the Advance Sale Ticket and Poster Outlets

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MOFGA timberframe building in 1998• Common Ground: Looking to the Past for Future Inspiration
• Keynote Speaker Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm
• Brian Tokar: Battle the Biotech Agenda
• Special Thanks
• Timber Frame Exhibition Hall
• Summer Interns
• Common Ground Will Miss Leila Stockwell
• 1998 Volunteer Area Coordinators

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