The sun was shining and the weather was comfortably crisp this weekend at the Common Ground Fair. Held annually in Unity, Maine, the fair is hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and attracts roughly 60,000 people every year (and about three-quarters of Bates College). Located on a huge field with tents spanning across acres, there are hundreds of vendors with numerous items to keep people busy for hours.
Once the car is parked, and you have waited in the long line to purchase your ticket, the fun begins. The fair is somewhat organized, with areas to purchase food for later – like cheeses and wild blueberries – another area to buy food that you will eat immediately – such as fish tacos and chai tea – an animal section, and many smaller sections filled with merchandise.
By far, the food areas were my favorite: I sampled and purchased an assortment of cheeses, yogurts, and fruit that were organically grown and produced by local farmers – something I really like to support. When I ventured to ready-to-eat foods, I found myself at the restaurant Harvest Moon’s tent, where I happily indulged in some ricotta and spinach wood-fired pizza. I also passed by Indian cuisine, ice cream, lots of seafood, smoothies, and foods that accommodate allergies and restrictions. “It’s really nice to see such a variety of food options, especially for people like me who have food allergies,” Sarah Wainshal ’16 said.
After overeating, I explored the tents containing things like jewelry, art, herbal medicines, and teas. I was in awe of the skill demonstrated by artists at the fair. Women were knitting sweaters and hats on site, making quilts, basket-weaving, making jewelry, dreamcatchers, etc. There were materials to purchase, like yarn and fleece, if you wanted to create your own, or you could purchase an already-made scarf or hat. The fashion pieces were very unique, no one like the other. I actually ran into a photographer I met at a fair in Bar Harbor, and purchased a photo of a moose for my father (don’t tell him.) The local talent and skill is truly amazing.
Lured by the smell of lavender, I visited the tea/home remedy tents. I smelled many essential oils and herbal remedies, and while I can’t tell you if they work or not, I can vouch for their great smells. I also sampled many vegan/organic lotions and have never had softer hands. There was a dried flower tent near the remedy tents, where I purchased a cup of delicious citrus tea, and dried lavender from a familiar face, who I realized was the same man who pierced my ear earlier this week on Lisbon Street. He is not the only person I ran into. The fair, full of families and people of all ages, also had a fair number of Batesies that I loved meeting throughout the day.
Though I must say, I ran into the most people at the animal portion of the fair. There were chickens, geese, goats, sheep, and an overwhelming number of bunnies (I’m not complaining.) I spent a large segment of my afternoon near the bunnies – not only for their cuteness, but also because of the incredibly large and fluffy bunnies, which were unlike anything I had ever seen before. I would go back to Common Ground Fair next year for the sole purpose of seeing those big, fluffy bunnies. My only criticism is that there were bunnies for sale for anywhere between $20 and $100, meaning I had enough cash in my pocket to purchase a bunny. It took unbelievable self-restraint to leave the fair without one. “It was great to see the young and young at heart taking delight in the bunnies they had for sale,” James Erwin ’18 said.
Would I go back? Absolutely. The fair is a really great way to spend your day and explore what Maine has to offer. It is virtually impossible to see everything that the fair presents, so returning either the following day or year is a must. “The fair had so many different tents and things to see that even after walking around for three hours I felt like I had only scratched the surface,” Amanda San Roman ’17 said. “My favorite part was probably seeing all of the different animals and learning where they were from. It was a perfect day to be at the fair and so much fun seeing students and families all enjoying it together.”