This weekend marked the 40th annual Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, a must-see fall attraction for those in the 207 area. Every year the fair pulls out all the stops to provide a fun and educational experience for visitors and vendors alike.
Unity is a little over an hour drive from Bates’ campus. The ride itself is lovely; you get to see beautiful Maine landscapes, including the changing fall foliage. The fair has free parking but charges $15 for admission, which is waived for members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
You’ll definitely get your money’s worth at Common Ground. I was there for three hours, up until 6 o’clock when the fair closed and everyone was herded out. Even with all that time, I still didn’t get to see everything there. I would definitely recommend going earlier in the day so you have more time to explore.
Another recommendation: bring cash and an empty stomach. There are free samples everywhere, from homegrown cheese to maple syrup to hot chocolate. Then there are the actual food tents. This isn’t your typical fair food. You can choose from crab rolls, ravioli, tofu fries, tacos and so much more, all for pretty reasonable prices. Having money on hand is also helpful when perusing the various art stands and craft tents. Jewelry, paintings and of course, alpaca wool – in the form of hats, blankets, scarves and pillows – are just a few of the items offered by vendors. Some take credit cards, some don’t, so play it safe and bring a couple bucks.
There are also farm stands throughout the fair, manned by actual workers who love to talk about their produce. You’ll see blueberries, apple cider, potpourri, flower crowns, raw honey, pumpkins, fresh milk, organic veggies and so much more. Want to give gardening a try? There’s a pick your own veggies tent.
For a more hands-on approach, check out the folk art tent. There, you can get lessons on building shelters in woods, making fire from sticks, chopping wood and identifying animal tracks just to name a few. These vendors know a lot about what they do, and will gladly answer any and all questions you have.
The social justice action tent is especially awesome. With tables from Planned Parenthood, gun control lobbyists and even several promoting the legalization of reefer, you are bound to find a cause that is up your alley. This gives you an opportunity to volunteer for organizations you are passionate about.
My favorite part was definitely the animals who attended common ground. Llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats and bunnies were the true stars of the show.
Throughout the day, live music is playing in various venues including the amphitheater and stages in tents. Muddy Ruckus made an appearance on Friday, while The Oshima Brothers played on Saturday.
Here is a brief rundown of what not to miss next year.
Best Tent: Herbal Revolution Farm & Apothecary, which offered herbal tonics and elixirs, including a “sensually invigorating” potion called “Chocolate Love.” (Note: I sampled Chocolate Love and did not feel sensually invigorated. Perhaps I did not try enough of it.) Herbal Revolution was the winner of this year’s Best Display Award.
Softest Animal: Aztec the llama, who was an impressive 21 years old, and definitely posed in our selfie together.
Most WTF Moment: In the Blacksmith Tent, one of the vendors asked me what’s the first thing you should do when dropped off in the wilderness if you are on the show Naked and Afraid. My answer: I would not go on that show. The correct answer: Make shoes. The more you know…
Coolest Artwork: The giant fold-out posters by the Beehive Design Collective. Their art is all inspired by anti-globalization and global justice movements. The Mesoamerica Resiste piece stretched 34″ by 68″, and it was breathtaking.
Mandatory fall activities at Bates includes apple-picking, pumpkin-carving and eating lots of candy. Be sure to add attending the Common Ground Fair to future excursions.