With high humidity and temperatures that reached nearly 90 degrees, it was a tough day to be out in the sun at the opening day of the Saratoga County Fair.
However, the hearty fairgoers who could stand the heat didn’t have to wait in line to enjoy the rides, games or fair food on the midway.
At 4 p.m., carnival rides were almost empty while the sun was high in the sky. Instead, people took refuge under tents and barns to watch the Saratoga County Fair Pageant, the 4-H pageant or the Agricadabra Magic Show.
“Last year, there were two days where it felt like 100 degrees, and this place felt like a ghost town,” said Bob Smith, who estimated he’s been showing his reindeer at the fair for 40 years. “As soon as the heat and humidity dropped, it was elbow to elbow walking around down here. More people will come around when the sun goes down, too.”
Livestock and farm animals didn’t enjoy the heat any more than the fair patrons did, but they also stayed out of the sun in the many barns and show rings around the grounds.
Natasha Czizk tended to her goats after winning the grand championship in the goat show. The 15-year-old is a fourth-generation farmer at George Vincek Farms in Milton.
“I prepare for weeks ahead of time, training the goats to walk with me in the show,” Czizk said.
The Czizks have 14 goats, seven of which came to the fair with Natasha. They spend all week at the fair, taking care of goats that have to be milked twice a day.
“Really, she worked for years with the goats, raising them and taking care of them,” said Natasha’s mother, Maria. “I’m glad I have a daughter who’s interested in it.”
Audience members at the Alaskan Grizzly Experience fanned themselves as they watched experienced animal trainer Dexter Osborn work with Tonk, a 7-foot, 600-pound grizzly bear. Back by popular demand for its second year, the show is both entertaining and educational. You can watch Tonk eat marshmallows from Osborn’s mouth while Megan, Osborn’s wife, talks about bear safety.
“Giving food to or approaching wild animals disrupts their natural habitat and is the No. 1 cause of conflicts with animals,” Megan Osborn explained to the audience as her husband tossed a basketball to Tonk. “You should make noise or sing to yourself as you’re hiking and avoid hiking alone, especially at night.”
The Alaskan Grizzly Experience is a family affair for the Osborns, who travel four to six months out of the year, along with their 2-year old son, Hayden. Dexter Osborn said it takes 40 pounds of food a day to feed the three bears who live in an air-conditioned trailer when they’re on the road. The family lives on an 8-acre ranch near Naples, Florida, where they raise both their son and their family of bears.
“With the bears, everything is about mutual respect.” Dexter Osborn said. “Our show is all about education. This is my whole life, and I love it.”
People who come to a fair like Saratoga County’s might not think about the work that goes into setting up and putting the event on. Linda Wendrick has been working for Amusements of America, which provides midway attractions like rides and games, for over 30 years.
“I’m a full-time, online student, you know,” said Wendrick, who is working toward a criminal justice degree. “People should know that not all carnies are bums. Some of us really enjoy what we do.”
The carnival veteran said one of her favorite jobs is running the kiddie games.
“I’m like a migrant worker, but I’m a migrant carnival worker. I travel from place to place, take it all in, and then I move on,” said Wendrick, who has traveled as far as San Diego and parts of Tennessee.
Despite what appeared to be a low turnout, fairgoers who braved the sun seemed to be having a great time. Carole Conti has been coming to the Saratoga Fair for years, and this year, she brought 8-year-old Aaaliyah Carroll to enjoy the rides and shop with the craft vendors.
“My favorite part is the animals,” Conti said as she watched a Stoney Meadows Farm sheep get a shave and haircut. “We’ll go to most of the local fairs. I think right now it’s a little quiet because of the heat. People start coming in around 6, or when the sun goes down a bit.”
The Saratoga County Fair runs through Sunday, with midway rides starting at noon each day. Each night offers large grandstand entertainment shows, including rodeos, tractor pulls and demolition derbies.