Summer is in full swing and one of the best ways to spend a day or night in upstate New York is enjoying some time at the local county fair. Young or old, there is nothing better than the enchanting sights along the midway, the lighthearted sound of children laughing with excitement, or the enticing aroma of sausage sandwiches and fried dough.
Although there is some dispute, many historians claim the first county fair in the United States actually took place right here in New York in Watertown nearly 200 years ago. During the early 1800s fairs were purely an agricultural affair, an opportunity for farmers to learn about the latest planting techniques, new equipment and other farming innovations. It didn’t take long however for fairs to become a highly anticipated summertime event for all.
Along with displaying modern farming equipment, fairs became known for introducing the public to all types of newfangled inventions. Electric lights, automobiles and countless kitchen appliances were first seen by many at the local county fair.
Today, county fairs remain a great proving ground for the latest gadgets and innovative new products and, more importantly, they provide an opportunity for farmers to showcase their wares. From livestock to fruits and vegetables to a variety of other homegrown products, the county fair is the place to see and sample the best our region has to offer. Residents also have an opportunity to compete for a coveted blue ribbon in any number of categories.
We are extremely fortunate to have some splendid local fairs scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. These are annual traditions that families have enjoyed for generations as both presenters and fair-goers. Each is unique and offers its own special attractions. The upcoming schedule includes:
The Schoharie County Sunshine Fair in Cobleskill, July 30 – August 6;
The Otsego County Fair in Morris, August 2 – August 7;
The Ulster County Fair in New Paltz, August 2 – August 7;
The Chenango County Fair in Norwich, August 9 – 14;
The Delaware County Fair in Walton, August 15 – 20;
The Herkimer County Fair in Herkimer, August 16 – 21;
The Tompkins County Fair in Trumansburg, August 23 – 28.
Earlier this summer, the Cortland County Youth Fair was held shining the spotlight on our young people. The fair highlighted the best and the brightest from our area’s youth populations. Future leaders in industry, business and of course, farming all took part.
New York is also home to one of the longest running state fairs. The New York State Fair now runs for 12 days from August 25 – September 5 and features the state’s best agriculture, commerce, education, art and music. Just like the county fairs, the New York State Fair is filled with tradition. Time-honored, crowd pleasing exhibits are on display year after year, while exciting new shows and displays are constantly added to the line-up promising brand new surprises.
I would also like to point out that this year’s state budget included a special $5 million grant fund to help local fairs with improvements and renovation projects. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which is administering the grant program, will release detailed eligibility requirements and the application this fall, allowing the county fairs time to prepare project proposals that are shovel-ready and that could be implemented starting next year. Grant funding will not exceed $200,000 and will be awarded on a first-come basis. All county fairs interested in applying for funding are encouraged to register online at grantsgateway.ny.gov.
Fairs are a great source of affordable family entertainment and also wonderful educational tools. Children can learn history, science and so much more in one of the grandest classrooms available. I invite you to explore one of our local county fairs – you won’t be disappointed.