Two weeks before it was set to open, it wasn't clear if there would be any money for a central Maine fair that has been running since 1858. In August, the Litchfield Farmers' Club found itself "flat broke," and its treasurer arrested for allegedly draining the accounts.
But today, the story is different.
"Okay,the gates open at 7 in the morning. Friday we're going to have ox pulling all day long. We have wrestling, we have robotic wrestling coming as well as professional wrestling... we have entertainment going on our stages,” says the club vice president Richard Brown.
Brown says that community donations have provided enough start-up cash to get the Litchfield Fair gates open Friday morning. While he's not sure of the exact count yet, Brown says the funds are not enough to cover all of the fair expenses — estimated at $50- to $75,000 — when it's all over. But, he says given the outpouring of support, the Farmers' Club is betting on the gate.
"Paid admissions will be a big contribution,” he says. “Paid admissions is our main income. If we have the weather — and they're predicting we're going to have great weather — I am anticipating a record crowd will be at the fair."
Still, Brown says that the club continues to discover financial problems, such as thousands of dollars in maxed out credit cards and unpaid bills, in addition to more than $100,000 dollars in missing funds.
Last month, club treasurer Ryan Beaudette of West Gardiner was arrested for the alleged embezzlement.
The Litchfield Fair opens Friday and runs through Sunday.