Attendees at the Bangor State Fair this year will notice a big change to the fair’s layout, most notably an expanded midway and kiddie area, and a new indoor area in the Cross Insurance Center.
The fair, the 170th edition of which kicks off Thursday, will feature most of the things fairgoers have come to expect, such as rides, fair food, an agricultural area and demonstrations, live music, and a demolition derby and tractor pull.
But the new elements — including an antique and classic car show on the Cross Insurance Center floor, an array of vendors inside the arena, and full access to the arena facilities for the duration of the fair’s 10 days — are part of a long-term plan to modernize many of the fair attractions.
Attendance for the 170-year-old fair has lagged in recent years, but Fair Director Mike Dyer says that each year he and his staff try to add something new, and he specifically hopes to add an indoor marketplace in the arena for the 2020 fair, featuring local and regional vendors. Specific, year-by-year attendance numbers were not available, though the fair website says it draws between 40,000 and 50,000 attendees each year.
“Every year we are trying to add something new and different, and to diversify some of the things the fair offers,” Dyer said. “We’re always going to appeal to families, but we think there’s a lot we can do to appeal to a broader array of adults that might not want to ride rides and play games.”
In addition to a headlining show from comedian Ron White set for 8 p.m. Friday night, the arena will host the annual photography competition all week, an antique and classic car show on Sunday, and local vendors along the arena’s upper levels.
“We haven’t had access to an air-conditioned indoor area since the old auditorium was here, so this is a big improvement for folks that want to get out of the sun for a bit, use the bathrooms, check out the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame,” Dyer said.
Also new this year will be special discounts for active military, veterans and first responders, with an all-inclusive $12 admission and ride wristband package for active military July 29 and first responders Aug. 1, and two-for-one admission for veterans and a guest July 31. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on site for the duration of the fair, with information on veterans’ benefits and free sign-ups for health care and other programs.
For those who do love all the rides from Fiesta Shows, the fair’s longtime Midway provider, there are plenty of old favorites and new rides to be ridden, from classics such as the Zipper and a Ferris wheel, to the first large-scale rollercoaster at the Bangor State Fair in 10 years: the Super Cyclone, an Italian-made, steel-frame coaster that took more than a week to set up.
A new area for kiddie rides has been set up directly outside the Cross Insurance Center, as has the music tent, which will feature local bands performing every night, all week long. For a full schedule of events, visit bangorstatefair.com.