One day in 1807, a man brought his sheep to the public square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Elkanah Watson was a wealthy farmer and a businessman, and he wanted to show off. As the story goes, the idea rippled into the formation of the Berkshire Agricultural Society, a Cattle Show in 1811, and developing fairs across New England counties by 1819. It was New York that fashioned the first State Fair in Syracuse in 1841. At the heart of the country fair is the desire to showcase local food production and appreciation. The beauty of that is and always has been its democratic nature: that anyone can bring in something to boast. In the parade of our neighbors’ livestock, recipes, garden-grown curiosities, and the original DIY culture of handmade crafts, we share our passions and experience authentic, old fashioned, family fun.
This week, the Ulster County Fair is celebrating its 128th get-together with a new attraction. The brand new agricultural museum will display old time farm equipment and an old fashioned kitchen, with people on hand to explain their uses. Its included in the $15 entry ticket, along with everything at the Ulster County Fair beyond the food and some carnival games. “We work very hard to keep it an old fashioned country fair,” says Fair Manager, Gary Newkirk. There’s an emphasis on agriculture, and the 4H is very strong at the fair with lots of opportunities for kids to showcase their projects. It dovetails nicely with a focus on family-oriented entertainment. Aside from seeing and petting the animals, families can enjoy carnival rides, daily horse shows, pig races, children’s activities and entertainers, and music every night. “Fairs used to be big family entertainment back in the day,” Newkirk muses. “My generation remembers going to the fair as kids. It’s a family tradition that’s been around for over 150 years! We want to share that.” The Ulster County Fair at the Ulster County Fair Grounds at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz; July 28th-August 2nd, 10a-10p/midnight (Tues-Thurs/Fri-Sun); $15 pay-one-price tickets per person over the height of 36”, includes free parking. Don’t miss Tuesday Carload Night at $40 per car, or Wednesday’s fireworks display!
Do the 2015 fair circuit! The Orange County Family Fair is going on now til August 2nd; the Dutchess Fair is August 25th-30th; and the Columbia County Fair is September 2nd-7th. And check out the Great New York State Fair from August 27th through September 7th in Syracuse.