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August 5, 2013

Demolition derbies end Fair with bang

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — MORRIS — Engines roared, cows bellowed, auctioneers called and midway rides whooshed around Sunday during the last day of the Otsego County Fair.

“It’s a lot of people. There are a lot of things to do,” said Kari Lesko, 17, of Endwell. “I like it. It was fun.”

Hundreds of visitors of all ages crowded walkways between vendors, rides and exhibits near the grand stand and midway, while fewer fair-goers checked out animals in barns on the other side of the grounds. Attendance sparked by two demolition derbies Sunday required fair organizers to add extra parking spaces in a ring after some horse showing concluded.

“It’s a zoo out there,” Judy Harris, fair manager, said with a smile. “Demolition derbies always are a consistent success.”

This year’s fair attendance will be about equal to last year’s of about 37,000 people, according to Harris, manager for about 15 years following experience running fair horse shows and being an exhibitor.

Rain on Friday meant a tractor pull had to be canceled, she said. During other rain episodes, fair-goers took shelter inside exhibit halls, which was a good thing, she said, and there was some rain Sunday.

“Demolition derby guys like to play in the mud,” Harris said.

On Sunday afternoon, intense sunshine was cooled by a brisk wind that also carried the odor of gasoline and the aroma of friend dough and other foods. 

Vendors sold jewelry, T-shirts, leather vests and other apparel, and the food marketplace offered hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, candied apples, freshly squeezed lemonade and more.

The Otsego County Fair opened Tuesday.

The midway comes “as a package,” Harris said, and fair organizers weren’t aware that a midway dart game displayed photographs of President Obama as targets until at least eight callers complained or inquired about them. The Huffington Post and other media reported on the photographs, which were taken down Friday.

“It’s still disrespectful, I don’t care whose picture it is,” Harris said. “We got lots of call on it.”

The midway vendor had displayed Obama photos at other fairs without issues, she said, but took them down locally without problems.

“They were fine with it,” Harris said. “They were very apologetic and didn’t think it would bother anybody.”

Harris said Otsego County deputies weren’t called, and deputies on site later said there weren’t any problems during fair week.

Lesko and Camlyn Lyons, 17, both school seniors at Maine-Endwell High School agreed that the peacock at the Otsego County Federation of Sportsmen exhibit and a tractor pull had been two favorite fair offerings. They also helped tend horses and rabbits that Lyons’s relatives were showing at the fair.

Annette Hammond of Round Top Meadows Farm in Gilbertsville said the best part of the fair was working with her three daughters and members of the Gilbertsville Dairy Club, a 4-H group. The week culminated a year of work, she said. Her daughters, Meredith, 13, Emily, 9, and Kendra, 7, have been showing the farm’s beef cattle and pigs, she said.

“It’s been great to be here to support each other,” Hammond, a principal in the Gilbertsville-Mount Upton Central School District, said. “It’s good to watch my own children and see how they have grown.”

Meredith Hammond agreed that fair highlights were were spending time with friends and taking care of the animals.

Harris said fairs have similar elements from year to year, yet offer different attractions to “keep up with the times.” But the agricultural, family oriented emphasis remains, she said, and generations of families have brought their livestock.

In recent years, fair-goers have included visitors from baseball camps who haven’t been to a county fair before, Harris said.

“We always are trying to maintain an agricultural fair,” she said. “That’s what fairs are.”