PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Maine Fair will teach kids how to be lumberjacks this summer.
For 11 years now, the Northern Maine Fair has seen droves of young people participate in “Li’l Farmers at the Fair,” an exhibit that encourages kids to explore and try different aspects of farming and agriculture, including planting seeds, picking vegetables and learning about farm animals.
The fair’s new program “Li’l Lumberjacks” will be based on that concept.
Li’l Farmers at the Fair has drawn thousands of children and adults alike since it began. The exhibit has been modeled and recognized around the state and even the country for its educational yet fun focus on agriculture and farming, said Northern Maine Fair President Lynwood Winslow.
But forestry is another of Maine’s top industries, and the fair association is carving out a new attraction that will introduce participants to trees and the goods that are produced from them. “Li’l Lumberjacks” is a two-year project, targeted for completion in 2023, that will include interactive stations where kids can discover aspects of growing trees, logging and forest products.
“The forest industry is a big part of the northern Maine economy,” said Shawn Bugbee, a fair association member and the lead on the Lumberjacks project. “We’ve had a forestry building for 20 years and we wanted to shed light on what an important role the forestry industry plays in Maine’s economy and jobs.”
The aim is to educate children and adults about the benefits of a well-managed forest, how trees grow to become usable products and the variety of forestry products Maine produces, while letting them have fun at the same time.
“Maine has the largest contiguous, privately owned working forest in the United States and is an 8.5-billion-dollar industry [that] provides many valuable products and offers multiple opportunities that many folks in our communities may not be aware of,” Bugbee said.
Fair members have been gathering sponsorships for the exhibit, which will start out this year with four small buildings arranged around the Forest Resource Education Center. The fair will add more buildings and items next year. Like Li’l Farmers, it will all be free.
Other interactive exhibits will be set up outside the buildings, Bugbee said. Plans are to include a logging equipment playground with some safe, kid-friendly toys that represent machines used in the logging industry, perhaps even a pedal-tractor version of a skidder, he said.
To top things off, Maine’s ever-vigilant forest mascot, Smokey Bear, will be there, too.
“Li’l Farmers has become one of our most popular attractions. It’s a basic level of education that all people understand, and we believe [Li’l Lumberjacks] will be as big a success for people to come and see the forestry industry,” Winslow said.
The association is working with forestry industry sponsors, who are helping with development of the new exhibit.
This year’s Northern Maine Fair is slated for Thursday, Aug. 4, through Sunday, Aug. 7. Among the events on tap are tractor pulls, a demolition derby, the annual 4-H Baby Beef Auction, monster truck rides, the Lumberjack Roundup and traditional craft displays, children’s games and fair food.