I know it sounds crazy, but, growing up, I never went to a fair, not one—at least not that I can remember. We just weren’t that kind of family.
So, when my husband and I moved to Maine and I discovered all the fairs every summer, I was insistent. I had to go to one.
But the first fair we went to—the first fair of my life—didn’t go well. This fair shall remain nameless, as I don’t want my bad experience to bias others, but, yeah, it didn’t go well for me.
I mean, first of all, I’m an introvert, so it would have to be a pretty chill fair on a relaxed, low-turnout day for me to have fun. But the fair was hot, concrete-y, and super crowded. Then, on the first ride I rode with my oldest son, someone vomited right at our feet.
I was done. No more fairs.
So, when my husband discovered the Blue Hill Fair four years ago, I was skeptical. But he is cute and persuasive, so we went anyway.
It was a lovely fair!
The air was that fantastic-almost-fall-and-not-quite-warm-with-a-cool-breeze-on-top kind of air. The crowds were minor. The rides were great for our toddler. And there was just this relaxed atmosphere. It was a country fair, and I was in the right place.
Of course, the animals just made the fair all the better. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend the afternoon looking at pigs, cows, and fancy-pants chickens?
We had so much fun that first year at the Blue Hill Fair that we vowed to go back every year. It would be our family’s way to say goodbye to the beautiful Maine summer and to welcome the magnificent Maine fall.
But, then, the Blue Hill Fair got even better—they invited James McMurtry to perform, and he has been coming back now for three years in a row. I think it’s pretty much a Blue Hill Fair tradition now.
About three years prior to McMurty’s first Blue Hill performance, my husband had introduced me to James McMurtry’s music. McMurtry is famed novelist Larry McMurtry’s son, but James MacMurtry is critically acclaimed all on his own.
He is from Texas, my home state, and sings about my people, though the more you listen to him, you realize he’s singing about Mainers, New Yorkers, mid-westerners—all of us. The everyday person with everyday struggles. His music is folk, rock, country, political, and, well, just original.
Take some lyrics from one of his most famous songs, “Choctaw Bingo.”
“We’re going to Oklahoma to the family reunion for the first time in years
It’s up at uncle Slayton’s cause he’s getting on in years
You know he no longer travels but he’s still pretty spry
He’s not much on talking and he’s just too mean to die”
I mean, how fun is that? And these are not even the most fun lyrics. You’ll have to check out the song for yourself.
But he writes some powerful political lyrics as well and is very good at reminding us how our daily struggles are sometimes connected to bigger policies that are being made for us but not on truly on our behalf.
McMurtry is a treat to see live. At one point in his first concert at Blue Hill, the fans were chanting that they wanted to hear “Choctaw Bingo.”
“You know what you wanna hear,” he said. “But you don’t know what you’re gonna hear.”
Due in large part to my introverted nature, we get to the concert site early to get good seats, so we are not on the front floor with the bigger crowd. Part of the treat of getting there that early is that you get to see McMurtry and his band warm up. We sit in the stands and eat Blue Hill Fair food, which is pretty good for fair food.
If you’ve never been to the Blue Hill Fair and have never seen McMurtry in concert, you simply have to check it out this weekend.
The fair opens this week on Thursday, September 1, and runs through Sunday. You can check out the daily schedule here. McMurty and his band perform Friday night at 7:30 PM.
And, if you live far away or just can’t make it to the fair this year, then I hope you and your family can find another way to celebrate the end of summer and to welcome the fall.
We’re certainly not the perfect family when it comes to getting out the house and doing things together, as my husband and I both tend to be homebodies and it’s hard to leave the chickens, but we’ve learned that these things are important and that traditions are important. Make some with your family. It’s the good stuff.
And, if you can make to the fair and the McMurtry concert, we’ll see you there—and we’ll “have us a time.”