The Saratoga County Fair is returning to its roots, focusing on showcasing the importance of agriculture.
“We’re back to our grassroots this year with regard to sticking to the basics of the animal shows and the motorized events,” said Tammy Ballestero, the president of the Saratoga County Agricultural Society.
Opening today and running on a shorter four-day schedule, it’s the first fair of the summer season in the Capital Region. With that comes a bit of pressure.
“We’re the first in the area so that does create a little bit of an obstacle for us as far as how to navigate all the COVID [concerns] because it’s still a real concern and we’re making sure that we’re up to date with whatever the CDC guidelines are for that day,” Ballestero said.
It wasn’t too long ago that restrictions in New York State loosened and allowed for fairs to happen, which left organizers scrambling.
“By the time we got clearance to be able to move forward and clearly know what the guidelines were, it was late in the game to be able to start planning,” Ballestero said. “Now, that does not mean that we weren’t planning all [along] but there’s contracts that have to be signed months in advance and there’s permits and mass gathering permits, liquor permits, etc. that have to be gotten well in advance so we weren’t able to do quite a bit of it . . . so we’ve had to try to evolve as we’ve moved along and we feel that we are going to be successful in meeting our mission which is to educate the general public on the importance of agriculture in a fun manner.”
On top of that, the fair is without its grandstand this year, as it was torn down in 2020 for safety reasons. While the Agricultural Society, which is a not-for-profit, has been raising the funds to replace it, the absence of a grandstand makes hosting events like the demolition derby impossible since it typically attracts a large crowd.
Yet, despite all the challenges, the fair will go on.
There will be tractor and truck pulls throughout the weekend, some of which will function as fundraisers for replacing the grandstand. A pared-down carnival, featuring both thrill and kiddie rides will also be open daily, and there will be a variety of food/drink vendors, though none will serve alcohol.
“We’re not a full-fledged fair this year but there will be a good mix of food vendors. I think they’ve got 12 different food vendors. Plus the carnival will have food as well,” Ballestero said.
The animal shows, perhaps the most traditional aspect of the fair, make up the bulk of the schedule. Each day there are 4-H shows, including goat, sheep, poultry, horse and rabbit. There are also open English and western horse shows.
“This is important to some of these kids because otherwise, they age out, they won’t have that opportunity again to be able to show their animals,” Ballestero said.
Opening the fair on Thursday from 4-7 p.m., there will be a 4-H chicken BBQ with a performance by members of the Big Sky Country band. Meals must be reserved in advance.
Friday morning from 9 a.m. to noon will be Think Differently Day, with lights and sounds turned down throughout the fairgrounds.
“We’re looking forward to having people back. It’s been a long year for us and we hope everyone makes a decision to come and support us in any way that they can and we realize things are different this year but we’re already working for a successful 2022 fair and be looking for some of our fundraisers coming up because we’re still trying to rebuild that grandstand and we’re excited to have the public back and hosting an event,” Ballestero said.
Saratoga County Fair
WHEN: 5 – 11 p.m. on Thursday; 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Saratoga County Fairgrounds & Expo Center, 162 Prospect St., Ballston Spa
TICKETS: Admission is free on Thursday and $5 Friday-Sunday
MORE INFO: saratogacountyfair.org
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