The Saratoga County Fair, is almost here!
As the first in the area this year, the Saratoga County Fair is erring on the side of caution, and setting an example for the fairs to follow.
They’ve sheared off a couple of days and have gotten back to their roots - educating the public about agricultural activities in a fun way - with animals, tractor and truck pulls, carnival rides, and fair food.
“We have a full schedule and safety will always be first and foremost for us. We will follow the CDC guidelines that are current for that day, open up as much as possible, and go full speed ahead,” said Tammy Ballestero, President of the Saratoga County Agricultural Society.
Ballestero is most excited to once again see her neighbors in person.
“There’s just nothing like hosting live events and the companionship you get once a year when folks get together up on the hill,” she said.
In 2020, the pandemic halted social gatherings and caused the way people experienced the fair to be quite different.
“In spite of the fact that we were not able to have a traditional fair last year, we were able to have a live event with a ribbon cutting, and to provide a lot of activities for people to participate in virtually. So, in that sense, it was a success,” said Ballestero.
In 2021, reopening can’t mean going completely “back to normal” for the event, which typically draws in 100,000 people.
In addition to the shortened week, there are no concerts and no alcohol being served onsite. The demolition derby won’t be happening.
Also, the fair is typically staffed heavily by volunteers, and there weren’t as many willing to step forward this year.
Welcome Back Carnival Rides
This year, the Saratoga County Fair is happy to welcome back Amusements of America for carnival rides and games.
“People will still be pleasantly surprised. There’ll be a good mix of thrill and kiddie rides,” said Ballestero.
Conscious of not excluding anyone, particularly the youth, they will again be having Think Differently Day, an hour-long event beginning at 11 a.m. on Friday, without the bright lights and loud sounds that can be disturbing for sensitive patrons.
Welcome Back Fair Food
Familiar vendors and a dozen concession stands will also be back this year, including the popular Brickyard Tavern and Grill, who will be serving breakfast, sausage, and steak sandwiches.
The annual 4H Chicken Barbecue will be on Thursday, July 22, 4-7 p.m., but you must buy tickets in advance.
Each dinner includes a half chicken, baked potato, coleslaw, dinner roll, slice of Smith's apple pie, and a bottle of water for $14/meal.
To order, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension by calling 518-885-8995, or go online to ccesaratoga.org
Also returning this year, will be the lemonade stand run by 10-year-old Brendan Mulvaney. He started setting up the stand when he was five and donates the proceeds.
“It's an example of how youth in our community can make a difference and we at the Fair encourage everyone to support him,” said Ballestero.
Back to its Roots
Showcasing Saratoga County agriculture is back to being at the heart of the fair.
“Everyone has a different version of what their favorite thing at the fair is, but we’ve gotten back to our mission- a grassroots effort to stress the importance of agriculture,” said Ballestero.
“In Saratoga County, we are heavy into agriculture,” she continued. “We have horses, yes, of course, but we have a number of dairy farms, sheep, goats. Saratoga has one of the strongest Cornell Cooperative Extensions and 4H programs around. The fair is, hands down, the best place to showcase that.”
It’s not just animals, either. There’s chemistry projects, robotics, and machinery used by farmers to produce food on display.
Grandstand is Gone
While many will be delighted by all that fair has to offer this year, one of the biggest changes is what isn’t there: the grandstand.
Originally built in the 1800s, the aging structure was demolished last November.
Bids to rebuild have topped $1million, and costs have increased since the original estimate, as contractors are still scrambling to get their hands on building supplies that have, in some cases, tripled in price.
Because of that, bleachers have been set up, seating is limited, however, so bringing your own chair to sit and watch the truck and tractor pulls is allowed.
Instead of prize money being awarded at the motorsport events, proceeds will be added to the grandstand building fund.
Back to Forging Ahead
Raising enough money to pay for the grandstand replacement is the nonprofit Agricultural Society’s top priority…but it has been difficult.
“Like all the nonprofits, we were hit hard and heavy by COVID,” said Ballestero.
Last year, traditional fundraisers where people get together, like breakfasts and dinners, were all suddenly off the table as possibilities. They instead launched Event21, where 21 fair directors asked 21 people to donate $21 each. Very quickly, they raised $17,000.
If the Agricultural Society can raise $250,000, Saratoga County pledged to match it, but they still have a long way to go to reach their goal.
“We’ve realized we need corporate sponsors if we are going to be successful in this,” said Ballestero.
A fundraising breakfast and car show with raffle and vendors is also planned for August 22nd.
Despite all the challenges, Ballestero is eager and excited to be forging ahead.
“I want to thank the general public in advance. Things will be different but we promise, we are going to give you the best fair that we are able to.”
The Saratoga County Fair will be Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. They’ve slashed ticket prices to just $5 (down from $12), kids 12 and under are free. Parking (which is normally free) will be offered from the Lions Club for $5/vehicle. Admission is FREE Thursday from 5-11 p.m. For more information, find them on Facebook, or go to saratogacountyfair.org.