Another Fair, Another Tiger Show: Bangor State Fair changes price, offers more

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Another Fair, Another Tiger Show

Bangor State Fair changes price, offers more

Summertime carnival opens Friday, July 31
By Heather Steeves

BANGOR, Maine — The 160th Bangor State Fair will showcase new events, including the Maine’s Got Talent show, in which people can display their talents for two minutes; a farmers’ draft horse show and a team penning competition.

“Planning the fair is a fine balance between the tradition [of] what people expect and the wow factor,” Dyer said.

One new element to help bring in the wow factor is a tiger show. Handlers will educate fairgoers daily with their eight Bengal tigers.

The fair’s cats weigh between 200 and 425 pounds and come in every type of Bengal coloring, from the classic orange-and-black or white-and-black felines to the more rare gold-and-red mix, of which there are 70 in the world. There is also the rarer snow-white tiger, which is white with gold stripes and of which there are only 40 in the world.

“It’s not like a circus act — it’s an educational act based on natural behaviors,” said Mike Inks, a handler from Tigers of India based in Ponce de Leon, Fla.

Inks wants fairgoers to be entertained but leave with a greater appreciation and education about the endangered species.

“We’re a preservation program for the Bengal tigers,” he said.

Inside the large, circular cage where the tigers play, trainers are likely to be licked, hugged and groaned at.

“He’s just being schmoozey. He’s a very lovey, schmoozey boy,” Inks said about the golden tabby tiger Bhutan when he jumped up and put his front paws on trainer Andy Spolyar and started to groan.

The crowd stays about 10 feet back from the cage during shows. Umbrellas are strongly discouraged; the star of the show, Nina, a black-and-orange tiger, simply despises them.

“They want to kill them,” said Brad Guy, a tiger keeper.

At the show, viewers will see Nina do her “tribute to Michael Jackson,” which involves a tiger-style moonwalk, while the trainers educate the crowd about tiger behavior.

“People’s perception is that they’re ferocious, snarling demons. They’re not,” Inks said. “They sleep most of the day and they’re very affectionate.”

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