The Fonda Fairgrounds have sprouted a city of carnival rides, vendor tents and heavy machinery.
Outside, Monday’s afternoon rain turned to humidity and puddles of churned mud. Inside the barns, 4-H kids pitchforked hay and straw into to stalls and farmers led cows and goats.
At 11 a.m. today, the gates will open, kicking off the 171st Fonda Fair, the single largest event of the year in Fulton and Montgomery counties.
“Every day there is something really fantastic going on,” said fair board President Rich Kennedy.
Kennedy listed some of the attractions he’s most excited about, starting with the two rodeos to be held today.
“We stopped having rodeos a few years ago,” he said, “but I heard from so many people who wanted it back.”
In past years, rodeos were held in front of the grandstands on the track, which didn’t provide the right footing for horses. This year they cleared the indoor arena for the first day, allowing New York high school and professional rodeos to take place at 1 and 7 p.m., respectively.
Over the week there will be the usual truck and tractor pulls. Then on Sunday more than 100 semi trucks will roll in from the Amsterdam Beech-Nut factory in something called the Convoy for the Kids.
Rigs will be shown off all day, culminating in a truck pull championship in the evening.
“It’s going to be an action-packed day,” Kennedy said, adding that all the proceeds from the convoy will go to the Children’s Miracle Network and Albany Children’s Hospital.
Throughout the week, a projected 80,000 people will stream through the gates. For a week, the population of the fairgrounds will be temporarily elevated to that of a small city.
On Monday, though, the panicked squeals of pigs dragged to pens echoed through relatively empty barns. Arhianna Fleres dived under the family truck to catch the back leg of one her potbellied pigs.
“You have to have coordination,” she said, “and just grab for it.”
Her father, John, recounted chasing one of the potbellies through a field in a car for half an hour before getting it in the truck.
“You don’t want to have to chase,” he said.
The Fleres children’s pigs will be competing against many other swine. The potbellies will be judged on a number of factors, including proportions, health and cleanliness. As members of 4-H, it’s the culmination of a year of work.
“They have to take care of the animals all year,” John Fleres said. “This is their opportunity to show off.”
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