Common Ground Fair Evaluation
Each year, a representative of the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs (MAAF) observes and evaluates our Common Ground Fair against pre-determined agricultural fairs standards. We certainly seem to be doing lots of things right: We earned a “Very Good” overall rating – the best a Fair can get.
Sue Baker, the MAAF evaluator this year, commended the Fair on its beautiful garden displays and ongoing agricultural demonstrations, both with livestock and by regional experts. “Common Ground Fair works very hard to educate the public in lots of areas on farm living,” she said. She also praised livestock area volunteers for their knowledge and willingness to show the public how the animals work and think. Everyone was more than willing to engage the public with information on his or her specialty, from sheep dogs to draft horses, mules, oxen, poultry and more.
The Association noted ways we might improve, according to its standards. Those standards include things such as lighting, the public address system and seating, for which we do not achieve the highest ratings, although we are often comfortable according to our own standards. For instance the public address system is not heard all over the Fairgrounds, but many argue that hearing it in the central corridors is adequate, and they appreciate not having announcements interrupt demonstrations and presentations. The only Fair activity in the evening is entertainment at the Amphitheater, and people walk from all ends of the Fairgrounds, with little lighting, to get there, illuminating a potential safety issue. Baker noted that the public throngs around the sheepdog demo and the livestock area, where seating is sparse. People have also said that they would like seats in the amphitheater.
The Common Ground Country Fair has carved a niche within the Agricultural Fairs community and continues to march to its own values, but we can learn a lot from this report and provide the kind of comfort to the public that will enable MOFGA and the Fair to increasingly influence public values within Maine.