September 19, 2019

Natural is way of life at Common Ground

Maine Produces Tab

WINDSOR — The silence can be deafening for those people accustomed to noisy fairs.

No barkers employ their strident voices to assault the ears of passersby.

No carousels chime their music against a background of screaming teen-agers who are locked into whirling, diving rides with names like “Tilt-A-Whirl” or the “Flying Bobs.”

Little noise can be heard other than the baaing of sheep; the quiet, hushed tones of people engaged in deep conversation; or the occasional squealing wheel of a pony-drawn cart ferrying people around the fairgrounds.

The lack of noise marks the Common Ground Fair as a fair apart. Sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and held in Windsor one weekend each September (this year’s dates are Sept. 21-23), the Common Ground Fair stresses a natural way of life, not the plastic, entertainment-oriented life portrayed by bright, neon-lit midways and their attendant litter, noise, and confusion.

Created many years ago as a way for “back-to-nature” lovers to celebrate their way of life, the fair soon established a policy that barred carbonated soda, gas-powered rides, and dogs — though some canines still show up each year.

Gone are the noisy rides and hoarse-voiced barkers, to be replaced by many booths displaying agricultural products, homemade crafts (a committee polices such entrants to keep out commercial businesses), and political endorsements.

The agricultural products range from goat cheese to dyed-and-spun wool to canes and walking sticks carved from unusually shaped hardwood limbs. Crafts might include beautiful jewelry, paintings, baskets, and other items not mass-produced by machinery.

The political endorsements run the gamut of Maine politics. Fair organizers deny booth space to few groups, no matter how splintered or politically distant from society’s center line (the Ku Klux Klan rates an exception, of course). Among the rules observed by the myriad groups, however, are bans against strong arguments or political demonstrations.

Food and drink sold at the Common Ground Fair must be produced naturally. Organic gardening reigns supreme, and many visitors listen well when an organic farmer describes a natural method for controlling insect pests.

In September 1989, fair organizers created a recycling program. Set across the fairgrounds were barrels for separating garbage from other wastes. By the time that paper and similar material had been recycled, and garbage had been tipped onto compost piles, 99 percent of the fair’s wastes had been recycled.

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