BLUE HILL, Maine – The Blue Hill Fair is hoping a new nod to a favorite classic will bring kids back year after year to see one of literature’s most famous pigs.
With the blessing of E.B. White’s family, the fair, which starts Thursday, has built a new permanent exhibit that recreates a barnyard scene out of Charlotte’s Web, White’s beloved 1952 children’s book that was partially inspired by the fair.
“We’re the only ones that have this and the only ones that will ever have this,” Erik Fitch, the fair’s general manager, said Wednesday as he put the final touches on the exhibit. “We’re forever grateful that they allowed us to do this.”
The display is an homage to the book and an effort to replicate the earlier days of the self-proclaimed “down-to-earth” country fair that started in 1891.
Tucked in a building toward the back of the fairgrounds, Fitch, contractor David Gray and others have been working since May to build the replica barn and pigpen. Gray erected the pen and adjacent stalls using reclaimed wood from local 1800s-era homes. Antique farming tools hang from the walls.
The result is a barn that looks like it’s been there since E.B. White, who lived in nearby Brooklin, walked the fair more than 70 years ago.
“It’s a permanent display,” Gray said. “I wasn’t going to half-ass it.”
The star of the show is obviously “Wilbur,” a live pig from Windy Ridge Farm in Troy who, like White’s main character, is the runt of his spring litter. His pen is adorned with a “Zuckerman’s famous pig” sign. Along the rafters is a custom made metal wire “web” that reads “some pig,” the message spun by the spider Charlotte that led to Wilbur’s life being spared from the butcher’s knife.
A “special pig” award, the one Wilbur wins at the fair in the book, hangs from one of the pen’s posts. A live “Templeton” rat, another one of Wilbur’s barnyard pals from the children’s tale, will also be on hand in an enclosure.
“We tried to hit every single detail that we could in the story,” Fitch said, who has extensively researched the book for months.
He hopes the new display becomes an annual attraction for kids and honors a bit of local history at the town’s biggest event.
“What we’re trying to create here at the Blue Hill Fair is experiences for families,” Fitch said. “It’s similar to going to Santa’s Village and seeing the reindeer every year, but you’re going to be able to come to the Blue Hill Fair, see the most famous pig of all Wilbur and some of his friends.”