Saratoga County

Saratoga County Fair features fun, food, attractions (with photo gallery)

The 170th edition of the Saratoga County Fair opened Tuesday under sunny skies with agricultural exh

The 170th edition of the Saratoga County Fair opened Tuesday under sunny skies with agricultural exhibits, a children’s beauty pageant, the smell of fresh funnel cakes — and the Big Aerial Show.

The aerial show is making its first ever visit to the county fairgrounds on Prospect Street in Ballston Spa. The region’s first fair of the summer continues from 9 a.m. to midnight today through Sunday.

“We wanted a wow factor,” said William Schwerd, board president of the Saratoga County Agriculture Society, about the new high-wire act.

When fairgoers come through Gate 3, “they look up at that thing,” Schwerd said.

“That thing” is the 80-foot-tall sway pole and climbing apparatus used by the four-person Big Aerial Show out of Burlington, Vt.

Sam “Slackwire” Johnson, 32, said he became interested in aerial acts when he was with the international youth circus Circus Smirkus some years ago. He said the other three members (two men and a woman) of his aerial team were also inspired by Circus Smirkus.

They climb the sway bar and perform aerial acts, sometimes on their heads. Sam rides a unicycle while juggling on the slack wire high above the ground.

Fair at a glance

When: 9 a.m. to midnight, today through Sunday

Where: 162 Prospect St., Ballston Spa

Parking: Free at fair lots

Cost: $8 for adults through Thursday, $10 Friday through Sunday, children under 52 inches tall free

Special admission: Today, senior citizen day, over 65 $4 until 5 p.m.

No safety nets are used during the daily shows at noon, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“We are just good at what we do,” Johnson said. “Everything we are doing, yes, it’s dangerous, but at a minimum we’ve put in 100 hours of practice. It’s second nature to us.”

The Big Aerial Show heads west after performing in Saratoga County, scheduled for shows in Illinois, Arizona and the state of Washington.

“It’s a good healthy crowd,” said Susan Farnsworth, the fair media relations director, about the fair’s opening day attendance. She said Tuesday night’s Demolition Derby is always well attended, especially when the weather is good.

Both Schwerd and Farnsworth said weather is a key factor for the six-day fair. Schwerd said last year’s fair attendance numbers were down slightly (a little below 80,000 for six days) because the Friday of the 2010 fair was a complete, hard-pouring washout.

If the weather heats up later this week, the fair has cooling areas for fair patrons, including large open tents with picnic tables in them where people can get out of the sun, drink some water and rest.

Bands play in the Beer Garden at the fair from 8 p.m. to midnight each night through Saturday. The live music is free.

Lorenzo DiStefano of Ballston Spa was at the fair Tuesday afternoon with his wife, daughter, son, mother-in-law and wife’s aunt.

“It’s fun for the kids,” DiStefano said from inside the Saratoga County exhibit tent.

The DiStefano family was waiting for one of the fair pageants to start. Natalie DiStefano, 9, a student at Wood Road Elementary School, was in the pageant.

DiStefano said he and his family would then have dinner at one of the many stands in the large food concession area.

One of the popular new food twists this year is a Kool-Aid-flavored fried dough treat.

Sausage and peppers, French fries, hot meatball subs and other traditional fair food are being sold by a variety of vendors.

The midway rides are again being presented by Amusements of America, one of the nation’s premier carnival operators. “Pay One Price Rides” hand stamps are available every day for $20 and are good from noon until midnight.

The fair grandstand is free. Tonight’s feature is a tractor pull; Thursday and Friday, the Double M Pro Rodeo is in the grandstand. On Saturday night, the 4-by-4 truck pull will entertain, and Sunday features the JM Productions Demolition Derby in the grandstand.

Schwerd said the Saratoga County Fair stays true to its agricultural roots. A highlight is the draft horse show at 6 p.m. Thursday, with some of the best draft horses in the country on parade.

On Sunday, there is a major goat show open to goat owners throughout the Northeast. The 4-H Club shows include a variety of farm animals from cows to chickens.

But don’t forget the Mechanical Man. His real name is Randy Burns, and he has been performing at fairs across the country for three decades.

Randy appears to be pugged into a wall socket. His movements are all machine-like and mechanical. Young people were having a ball watching him on Tuesday afternoon and trying to figure out if he was real or just a machine.

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