The sights, sounds and flavors of the Saratoga County Fair will still be available this year; just in a different format.
The Saratoga County Fair, like others in New York State, had to cancel due to COVID-19. However, organizers recently decided to hold a virtual fair, as well as a Food Truck Festival so that people could still come and get their fair kick.
“This is my first fair and I knew we had to do something. What it was going to look like I had no idea because this is all new to everybody,” said Susan Rhoades, the executive director of the Saratoga County Agricultural Society and the Fair.
Luckily, Lauren Rowland, a member of the fair’s Board of Directors and longtime fairgoer, worked with the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs and the New York State Showpeople’s Association to organize a statewide virtual fair earlier this year.
For Rowland, the Saratoga County Fair is a longstanding family tradition and this year would have been the first in her life that she’s had to miss.
“My dad was the original general manager of the County Fair so I’ve been involved since I was about 18 months old. . . I started as a volunteer and then it became my summer hangout and then I started on the Board 10-plus years ago,” Rowland said.
She’s hoping that a virtual fair, along with the Food Truck Festival, will at least give people some pieces of the regular fair experience.
The Food Truck Festival kicks off on Friday featuring dishes from Brickyard Grill, Fantastic 4’s Fish Fry, Gillette’s Pizza, Mrs. Kettle Corn, Uncle Spud’s French Fries, Polar Bear Homemade Ice Cream, Angela’s Fried Dough and more. They’ll be there from 4-9:30 p.m. on Friday and from noon to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Festival continues next weekend with a host of other vendors, all from around New York State.
“They range from Ballston Spa to the Unadilla area. You’re not necessarily going to see the traditional Florida, Georgia, North Carolina license plates this year for our vendors. We made a focus on local [businesses],” Rowland said.
The virtual County Fair kicks off on Tuesday with the crowning of the Fair Queen, a longtime fair tradition.
Throughout the week, organizers will post videos from rodeos and tractor pulls of the past, as well as host live performances and talks via Facebook. Many groups that were slated to take part in the fair have also contributed videos or other media, including 4-H groups, musicians and other presenters.
Each day of the fair, which runs from Tuesday, July 21, to Sunday, July 26, will also feature a different theme, including recognizing essential workers, celebrating seniors and thanking veterans.
“We’re actually going to have kids submit videos of them saying the 'pledge,' ” Rowland said.
The sheer number of videos and digital presentations made it challenging for organizers like Rowland to figure out when to post and hold all the live events.
“We’re trying to fit a lot into what was normally 12 days; we’re trying to fit a lot of posts into six days without oversaturating people and annoying people with how much we’re posting. That’s the difficult part. We have a strong schedule of events usually and to try and get everybody included in six virtual days is not easy,” Rowland said.
Beyond the online elements, there’s also a scavenger hunt and a virtual coloring contest. Kids who enter the scavenger hunt have a chance to win a bike. Entries for the coloring contest will be posted on Facebook and the entry with the most likes wins a Stewart’s Shops gift card; the rest receive a free ice cream cone.
So far, the response from the community has been positive, according to Rhoades.
“The majority of people understand why we’re not having a fair and are thrilled that we’re doing something that still keeps them connected to us. That was really the ultimate goal; we want people to be connected to the fair,” Rhoades said.
Fair Food Festival
From 4-9:30 p.m. Fri., July 17, and 12-9:30 p.m. Sat., July 18
From 4-9:30 p.m. Fri. July 24, and 12-9:30 p.m. Sat. July 25
There’s no cost to enter the fairgrounds. Attendees will be allowed to leave their vehicles and order from each vendor. Everyone must wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
Saratoga County Fair Takeout Chicken BBQ
From 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, July 23
Ed’s Dugout will be serving up BBQ chicken, salted potatoes, coleslaw and rolls. Each meal is $13 and must be pre-ordered via saratogacountyfair.org. Attendees can pull into Gate Two on the fairgrounds to pick up their dinners.