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Region’s first fair ready to open

Region’s first fair ready to open

Sunday night, heavy rains knocked down some of the display tents set up for the Saratoga County Fair

Sunday night, heavy rains knocked down some of the display tents set up for the Saratoga County Fair that opens today.

But the fair must go on.

By late Monday, those tents were back up, fried dough and sandwich wagons were parked along the midway and young 4-H students were grooming their animals for judging.

The 167th annual county fair is scheduled to open this morning at the Prospect Street fairground.

“I’ve been coming to the fair since I was 8 years old. I was a 4-H Cloverbud,” said Kerith Pott of Ballston.

The 21-year-old sat in a barn with Maverick and Morgan, her two Haflinger draft horses, who will be in competition later this week. She’s kept coming back every year, even though she’s now too old for 4-H.

“I love this fair. The crowd it draws is a very nice, relaxed crowd,” Pott said.

The fair will run from 9 a.m. to midnight today through Sunday, with activities ranging from animal exhibits to a demolition derby tonight and again Sunday night in front of the grandstand.

Attendance of approximately 80,000 is expected, and there are hopes among backers that it will be a good year because high gas prices mean people are looking for entertainment options closer to home.

The total economic impact of the fair is about $4 million, fair officials estimated.

For many, it’s a family activity.

The Carley family, owners of Walnut Grove Farm in Ballston Spa, were preparing their sheep for 4-H shows, cleaning and trimming their wool coats. The children, ages 13, 11 and 9, help with the animals.

“It gives them a sense of responsibility, and hopefully the start of a good work ethic,” said Mark Carley, their father.

Older teenage 4-H members will be working this week at the 4-H Snack Bar, where hamburgers and ice cream are available, with proceeds benefiting 4-H programs.

“It’s a real small business. It makes somewhere around $25,000,” said William Schwerd, executive director of Saratoga County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Katie Donnan of Galway, another 4-H member, last year was the county dairy princess, acting as an ambassador for dairy farming while also showing cows of her own in competition. “It was a busy week,” she said.

She and her friend, Katie Hanahan of Saratoga, both recent high school graduates, each received $1,000 college scholarships from the state fair association during a ceremony Monday.

The availability of food grown at local farms will be a theme this year, said Rob Pastore of Ballston Spa, who is overseeing the produce department.

“To fair-goers, we’re trying to let them know how much is available locally,” Pastore said.

Visitors to the fair will notice several improvements to the grounds this year.

The taxidermy area in the conservation building has been renovated to better display the assorted trophies, ranging from buck deer to bear.

One improvement nearly every visitor will notice: new bathrooms near Gate 2. They have been expanded, with modern fixtures and more stalls, and also shower space for fair workers and performers. There’s also a separate rest room designed for changing a baby or accompanying someone who needs assistance.

“It was our oldest bathroom, dated from 1950 by the beer cans found in the wall,” said fair manager Dick Rowland.

Popular returning entertainment acts include Rosaire’s Racing Pigs, chainsaw carver Brian Ruth and local bands performing each night in the Beer Garden.

At the grandstand, events at 7:30 p.m. each day include demolition derby tonight and Sunday, tractor pulls Wednesday, Double M Rodeo Thursday and Friday, and a truck pull Saturday night.

“Each night, [the grandstand] will be full,” Rowland said. “Anything motorized, anything with just a touch of danger, packs them in.”

The midway, with rides, food and games, will again be operated by Amusements of America.

A new conservation-themed exhibit is “Ways of the Woods, People and the Land of the Northern Forest,” a traveling museum of the great northern woods that stretches from upstate New York to northern Maine.

Admission prices are the same as last year, $7 per person today through Thursday, and $10 Friday through Sunday. Individual season passes are available at the fair office for $25. Parking is free.

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