Montgomery County

Animals face off as Fonda Fair opens

Fairgoers turned out in force on opening day of the Fonda Fair to take in the rides, have some fried

Marigrace Hoag described the course: There was a simulated bridge, some streamers, then some barrels and hay bales, and then finally, there was the hula hoop.

Those younger than 12 had to go through the hoop with their goat, Hoag explained. For those older than 12, just the goat had to go through.

“We do it more for the kids,” Hoag explained, apparently meaning the children. She then jokingly added, “but it’s fun to see the adults make fools of themselves.”

This was the goat obstacle course competition held Tuesday evening, opening day of the Fonda Fair.

Fairgoers turned out in force to take in the rides, have some fried dough and see the animals. And there are plenty of animals at the fair, which runs through Sept. 2.

In the Ag 2000 building, there are plenty of goats and sheep. Elsewhere are cattle, rabbits and other farm animals.

There’s even an exotic animal petting zoo, fair treasurer Kelley Okosky noted.

Agriculture is a focus this year, she said: “We’ve brought a lot of old back. We’ve brought a lot of the agriculture back.”

Attendance on the first day was encouraging, she said: “So far, the weather’s been good and it looks like attendance is good.”

Those attending the fair Tuesday evening were treated to perfect weather, with a beautiful sunset to the west.

In the Ag 2000 barn, participants in the goat obstacle course waited their turn with their goats.

Would the goats cooperate?

“No, they won’t,” Hoag said.

Hoag runs LoveKnot Farm in Canajoharie, offering goat’s milk and organic goat’s milk soap. She has her own contingent of goats at the fair.

Alexandria Opalka, whose family runs Secret Star Farm in Fort Johnson, waited with her goat for her run. Before the event, she explained that the trick was simple: Pick whichever goat leads the best.

“Sometimes,” she added, “they don’t want to move.”

On her run, Opalka had pretty good luck. Her goat missed most of the simulated bridge and knocked over both barrels. But at least it kept moving, for the most part.

With the obstacle course out of the way Tuesday, up next today is the goat-milking competition. The first milking is at 6 a.m., the second at 6 p.m. The goat providing the most milk wins.

Opalka is participating in this as well. The key to the event, she said, is to make sure the goat has plenty of water and food.

She intends to participate in that competition with her goat SwissMiss. “She’s a very elegant goat, just very nice,” Opalka said.

At the end of the obstacle course competition, ribbons were handed out, including one to a 5-year-old girl who finished the course with an adult.

There was some rationale for making the animals navigate obstacles: Goats are sometimes used as pack animals in the Adirondacks, said Kay Offenborn, the fair livestock superintendent, who oversaw the competition.

Such competitions also help interest children in farming, she said.

Offenborn said the fair is important in that it lets people know what’s farmed locally, encouraging them to shop locally and support those farms.

The fair is also starting a farmers market from Thursday through Sunday from nooon to 5 p.m., she said.

“We want people to know about us,” Offenborn said of the local agricultural community. “People come in here and they look at our sheep and our goats and they don’t realize all of this is going on in our area.”

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