UNITY, Maine — The Common Ground Country Fair, the signature event of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) in Unity, Maine, is moving forward as an in-person event this year. April Boucher, Common Ground Country Fair director, said, “After months of discussions, research and planning to determine if we can meet our primary goal of supporting a safe onsite event we are planning to go ahead, but the fair will look different this year. We also need more certainty from our robust volunteer community that they are going to help out or we may need to alter our course.”
The annual celebration of rural living will be held September 24, 25 and 26. While in a normal year the event would draw over 60,000 visitors to MOFGA’s fairgrounds, this year attendance will be carefully managed according to state guidelines to support social distancing. That is one of the changes that will be implemented to help ensure and support a safe experience that complies with current Maine Center for Disease Control and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development guidelines for outdoor festivals. Some of the other changes will include spacing vendors to allow for social distancing, mask requirements for all participants, additional sanitation of high-touch areas and more. “We’re still working on the details of implementation of the various components of the fair and have a dedicated group of staff and volunteers that are working creatively to address concerns and recommendations,” added Boucher.
The organizers are making the decision at this time to help organic farmers, exhibitors, volunteers and fairgoers with their own planning and preparations for the event. This decision is especially important for organic farmers throughout the state who need a level of assurance of this major market at this time in the cropping season. A survey released earlier this year to gauge public interest and comfort level in participating in the event garnered nearly 4,000 responses. Overwhelmingly vendors and participants are interested in returning to an in-person event this year. “This decision was not taken lightly and the health and safety of our community is our top priority. We would not be planning this event if we did not believe we could support a safe experience for all involved,” said MOFGA’s Executive Director Sarah Alexander.
The Common Ground Country Fair started in 1977 and relies on the work of more than 2,000 volunteers annually. Boucher said, “Our volunteer community is what makes this event possible each year. Now that we’ve decided we are planning on an in-person event, one of our top priorities is to ensure we have the interested volunteers to help make the fair a success this year. If we don’t have expressed interest from volunteers within the next several weeks we may have to rethink our plan. The fair cannot run without a tremendous amount of people power.” Individuals interested in volunteering can express their interest using this form, and then will be notified when the volunteer shifts open. They can also check mofga.org for updates.
The fair is a one-of-a-kind event that offers educational talks and experiences regarding organic production and sustainable living and features vendors from across the state. One of the most beloved aspects is the food, including two all-organic farmers markets and many food booths that showcase Maine’s organic products.
The event organizers recognize that the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic could change in many ways over the coming months. Status updates will be posted at the organization’s website: mofga.org.
–Common Ground Country Fair
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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