BALLSTON SPA — Last year’s Saratoga County Fair saw a turnout of roughly 90,000 people. This year might be hitting a record-breaking 100,000.
At least that’s what Executive Director Kevin Veitch is determined to make happen.
The 178th annual fair will feature over 100 total vendors, 40 food vendors, multiple music performances and numerous other events including chainsaw carving, a petting zoo, a dog sport entertainment show, a parkour performance and a demolition derby among, well, just about anything else you can think of.
On Monday afternoon, Veitch and his staff of hundreds, including volunteers, helped set up in the rain to make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible from Tuesday through Sunday, kicking off Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
But for Veitch, “smoothly” means better than any before it.
Veitch, who is about to put on the first fair under his direction, said preparation begins a month before the previous fair. He took charge after the previous fair leader, Jeff Townsend, died last May. Last year’s fair was mainly a result of Townsend’s direction, but this year is now Veitch’s vision.
And although there’s a lot he and his staff needed to plan in advance, some things just come together when they’re meant to.
This year, the fair features a performance from local favorite and “American Idol” finalist Madison VanDenburg, who just celebrated a third-place finish and a recent performance at the Times Union Center. To get her on the bill, all Veitch had to do was invite her to attend.
“I just happened to go on her Facebook page,” Veitch said. “I sent her an email and it was basically an invitation. I said, ‘We want to invite you and your family to come have a day at the fair on us.’”
Veitch felt bad VanDenburg didn’t win the show and thought the offering would be a nice gesture. Next thing he knew, VanDenburg wanted to perform, not just attend.
“She wrote back to me that she used to go to the fair all the time and she loves it here,” Veitch said. “So it’s great. We’re really excited about her coming.”
VanDenburg is performing alongside acts like Skeeter Creek, Shades of Grey and Big Sky Country, who will be playing on different days throughout the week.
Outside of the diverse music offerings of the event, the differences between this fair and previous fairs were clear before the gates even opened.
The fair’s annual poster includes a little extra color and pop. The poster, designed by artist Sharon Dwyer Bolton, features signature images from the fair like flowers, a pie, amusement rides and a silhouette of a man doing a motorcycle trick.
Veitch said attendees have already contacted him to buy their own copies.
“When I contacted [Bolton] about it, she was all excited,” Veitch said. “She actually came to the fairgrounds and got the visuals of our grandstand and our judges stand and incorporated all this together. We love it.”
This year’s fair will feature a multitude of food options, including kettle corn, barbecue, Mexican food, slushies, poutine and other fair favorites.
For the last 16 years, Vince Valentino and his business, Valentino’s London Broil, have made stops at the fair, selling everything from Buffalo wings to sweet and hot sausage. His father started working London Broil 56 years ago and recipes have remained the same, Valentino said.
Valentino was setting up his spot on Monday afternoon in the pouring rain, something he wasn’t too happy about, but he was looking forward to the projected weather for the week.
“The weather is going to be great this year,” Valentino said. “After this rain, that’s supposed to be it.”
Valentino said although he sells food at fairs throughout the area and just came back from a Saturday fair on Long Island, the Saratoga County fair vendors feel like a family.
“It’s like home. I know just about every vendor here. If I don’t know them, there’s a reason why I don’t know them,” Valentino joked.
While Valentino is continuing his father’s tradition, Veitch too is excited to be carrying on the history of the 178-year-old fair that he grew up on.
“At 9 a.m. tomorrow morning when the gates open, we have to be ready.” Veitch said on Monday.