When I was covering the Delaware County Fair this year, I read the account of Bowman H. Owen in a letter to the editor of a local publication.
A resident of Lew Beach, he first made the journey to the Delaware County Fair in 1906 when he was a young boy. He and his family traveled by horse-drawn wagon, and it took them two days to get there and two days to get back — for one day at the fair. Owen, however, wrote about it fondly and it was Owen’s dying wish that his letter recounting this trip be published.
I heard sentiments similar to Owen’s from Lewis Miller when he talked about the Otsego County Fair. Miller, the longtime president of the Otsego County Fair, is one of the people chiefly responsible for bringing Harness racing to the Otsego County Fairgrounds.
Such an appreciation was also apparent when I interviewed Mary Oakes, whose family first ran the midway at the Chenango County Fair decades ago.
The common thread I found, both in interviewing people and walking around at these three fairs, was this: County fairs draw people together, in a basic, human way.
Take away the food, the events, the rides, the exhibits and the contests, and you still have something: an event that a community can structure its year around. People go to the fair not just because of what’s being offered, but because it’s there, and they know others will be there as well. It’s a place to see and be seen, a massive communal dance where everyone is invited.
There are other events like this in this area. Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival, which will be held in Norwich on Sept. 7 and 8, most readily comes to mind. But I know I’m not the only who’s curious about what next year’s county fairs will bring.
BERA DUNAU is a staff writer at The Daily Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.