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July 16, 2013

Local fair season kicks off

Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

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With all its promise of livestock shows, special foods and fun, fair season is underway in the area, organizers said Monday.
Each fair board has worked hard to make sure area residents and visitors will have the best experience possible, those interviewed said.
Although this was the second year without a midway at the Afton Fair, President Dennis Fletcher said the July 11-14 event was “fairly well-attended for what it had.”
Some of the highlights were Thursday’s rodeo, Friday’s stock car races, as well as youth dairy and 4-H horse shows. Efforts to secure a midway did not pan out, but after a very brief break, organizers will try again to find one in 2014, according a media release.
As one of the few town fairs in the state, it is difficult to compete with the county fairs, Fletcher said. He said he was hopeful there would be one next year.
Doug Cater, president of the Schoharie County Sunshine Fair, said that more attractions have been brought in this year to keep the event exciting. They include Rosaire’s Big Cat Encounter — an outdoor circus act with lions and tigers. There will also be a large petting zoo with camel and pony rides. Hot Dog Pig Racing and K-9s in Flight high-flying Frisbee dog and dock diving show are also new.
There will be a parade Wednesday — for the first time in 20 years — and area residents and television personalities the Fabulous Beekman Boys will be at the fair all day as grand marshals for the event. The event runs from July 27 to Aug. 3.
Agriculture remains important, Cater said, and there will be plenty of related events, including cattle and horse shows. For other entertainment, sometimes the fair board looks two years in advance because some acts are so hard to book, Cater said.
“We are always looking to make changes and improve our facilities to keep it fresh and exciting,” he said.
When the fair expanded its calendar five years ago, it had been six days, it switched to Powers Great American Midways. It had used Gillette Shows, but the board sought a bigger firm to meet its needs,  he said.
The Otsego County Fair runs July 30 to Aug. 4. Manager Judy Harris said “we try to provide the entertainment that people let us know they wanted.” Different fairs are known for different things, she said. and that includes demolition derbies at the Otsego fair. There will be one Thursday and two Sunday.
Agricultural exhibits are also essential. The numbers are about the same this year.
“The barns are still full,” she said.
The economy has some effect on attendance but the fair board does its best to keep prices affordable.
“We don’t have room to get bigger so we try to do it better,” she said.  This includes maintaining children’s day’s and pay-one-price wristband specials. Gillette Shows has been providing the midway for 35 years.
“They are almost like family,” she said. “It has helped make it a success.”
Chenango County Fair President Mary Weidman said that fair attendance has been stable in the current economy, while eather has had more of an influence. That event is held Aug. 6 to 11.
In order to keep the fair vital, “we have done a lot of maintenance work,” she said. “We try to get some different entertainment.”
To add to staples such as harness racing and animal exhibits, the board has added such attractions as a petting zoo. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. will be coming to there Thursday. Musical entertainment has been coordinated with the Chenango Blues Festival. Such cooperation with other organizations, such as local 4-H, has helped as well, she said. The latter is a key to youth participation.
Keeping people coming to the fairground during the year by renting out the grounds for a variety of events is also important, she said.
Delaware County Fair President Dan Hodges said “everything is coming along great” for the event, which runs Aug. 12 to 17. “We are right on schedule, so hopefully it will be smooth going from here.”
Having an active board of 11 directors keeps things progressing, as they look for the best in entertainment and vendors, he said.
“We keep the tried and true,” such as demolition derbies and tractor pulls, while looking for what is new. Bronco riding, for example, has been added to the Friday afternoon rodeo. A 5-K race has been added to Saturday morning. Country band Montgomery Gentry will be back for a second year. With the strength of their recent performance at Hunter Mountain, that should be a strong show.
Reithoffer Shows will be back providing midway entertainment.
“They have always done a great job” and will be bringing three “spectaculars” — $1-million-plus rides, Hodges said. “It’s a huge part of the fair.”
Livestock exhibits are up, showing “the love this community has” for the fair. It’s supported by farms of all sizes, and “it’s great to have such community support,” he said.
While the economy is an important factor in the fair’s success, having a local event that’s kept affordable means it shouldn’t be hurt.
“There is so much to do,” he said, “it’s unbelievable.”