The Saratoga County Fair will open in a little more than a week.
If a July 16 start for an event originally intended to celebrate the agricultural harvest seems a little too early to you, rest assured you’re not alone.
Ever since the fair board decided to go with a mid-July start more than a decade ago, there have been complaints from the kids who grow vegetables for competition and, more persuasively, from their elders, who complain that tomatoes are still green, carrots are scrawny and 4-H Club members haven’t had enough time to prepare their fair projects since school got out.
The fair board has listened. Next year, the fair will be moved back a week and will be held July 22-27.
In pushing the dates back, fair leaders are giving up the notion that the fair can’t compete directly with the New York Racing Association and the steamroller of the Saratoga thoroughbred meet — even if the track doesn’t have midway rides and a cattle competition.
In principle, it’s a good idea not to duel with NYRA — and there was no problem back when the racing season was confined to four weeks in August. But NYRA began adding July racing in the 1980s and it now offers six weeks of racing, starting in the third week of July. This year the track will open July 19, the Friday of fair week.
“[The fair opening] was just getting earlier and earlier as we tried to outrun the track,” said fair General Manager Jeff Townsend. “We’re giving up.”
The Saratoga County Fair will remain the region’s first fair and a must-go for people who spend the days from September on hankering for next summer’s fried dough and grilled Italian sausages.
“We’re still going to be the first,” Townsend said.
The entertainment lineup should stay about the same: porcine sprinters Rolling Thunder, Shakin’ Bacon and Lindsay Loham will be there, thrilling their fans and offering the closest thing the fair has to the thrill of the thoroughbreds.
Yes, Rosaire’s Racing Pigs — believe it or not, one of the fair’s most popular acts, year in and year out — will still be on the schedule, according to Townsend. “We had to clear it with the pigs,” he said, perhaps tongue-in-cheek.
The next time you head up the Helderberg Escarpment to John Boyd Thacher Park, the spectacular cliff-top views will be better,
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation last week sent in a team that removed buckthorn trees that have sprouted up close to the cliff-tops, blocking some views.
While views of the Hudson-Mohawk valley Adirondacks, Taconics and Green Mountains will be better, the raptor population also will benefit.
The buckthorn removal had the support of the Audubon Society of New York State, which said the small trees have prevented the growth of the large native deciduous species that hawks, turkey vultures, eagles and other large hunting birds prefer for nesting and perches.
Thacher Park has six miles of limestone cliff and was established specifically to preserve the escarpment views and open them to the public. However, it is also one of the state’s 20 bird conservation areas.
Next year will mark the centennial of Emma Treadwell
Thacher’s donation of the land, in memory of her late husband, a former mayor of Albany.
Ballston walking tour
A new booklet out this summer offers the background for taking a historic walking tour of Ballston Spa, the Saratoga County seat.
Author David Fiske, a history researcher who lives in the area, said the tour includes many historic buildings and sites around the village, which was established in the 1790s. Past residents discussed in the book include Sherman Hayner, who ran the Hayner House hotel and exhibited a large collection of caged squirrels, and Elias Hannah, a Syrian immigrant who made enough money selling fruit to buy the Lincoln Hotel — now an apartment and retail building but still standing at Malta and Milton avenues.
Fiske’s book, “Ballston Spa Walkaround,” is available in print from Amazon.com or as an electronic book from Smashwords.com.