W ashington County’s largest event gets underway next week.
The Washington County Fair kicks off on Monday, Aug. 18 and continues through Aug. 24.
Held in Greenwich, the event has been held every summer for the past 124 years and is one of the largest county fairs in the state.
The fair is home to over 1,800 exhibitors; more than 1,900 animals; over 30 free daily shows and entertainment; more than 40 carnival rides; hundreds of artisans, craftsmen, and historians and 50 food vendors. Over 120,000 people walk through the fairground’s gates each year.
“The event gets bigger and better each year,” Ida Williams, head of marketing and public relations, said.
Williams said the fair means different things to different people. Some come for the family-friendly entertainment, others for the adrenaline-inducing motor sports.
“The goal is to deliver a fair that is clean, safe, family-friendly, fun, entertaining, agricultural and educational,” she said.
But at its core the fair remains an opportunity to revel in the county’s agricultural traditions.
Agriculture continues to be Washington County’s number one industry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the county is home to more than 800 farms, totaling 202,000 acres. And while the county’s agriculture is diverse with fruit and vegetable operations, equestrian centers, fiber farms and even hops growers, dairy remains the most prominent agricultural endeavor. It’s estimated that more than 49,000 bovines live in the bucolic countryside that is Washington County.
Throughout the week, fairgoers will have the chance to see and learn about all sorts of livestock.
“There’s expected to be more than 1,800 livestock at the fair. There are cows, goats, horses and pigs,” Williams said. There are also rabbits, chickens, ducks, peacocks and even a handful of reindeer.
Fair-goers can walk through the cow barns, pet horses, watch juried animal shows, attend a gymkhana and even see cows being milked. In many instances, farmers will answer questions about their livestock.
Other agriculturally-inspired activities include a produce growing contests, an on-site maple sugar house, rooster-calling contest and a number of 4-H presentations.
Chrys Nestle, 4-H educator for Washington County, said more than 300 4-H members from throughout the county participate in the fair each year.
“The fair is an opportunity for the youth to show their projects off,” she said.
Although the fair was founded on agriculture and it remains a central component of the event, there is plenty of entertainment that has nothing to do with farming.
There are concerts every night, magic shows, an illusionist, pig races and a full slate of motor sports events, including tractor pulls and a demolition derby.
One of the most popular events is the Washington County Fair Pro Rodeo, which will be held this year at 7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday nights. A youth rodeo will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
“People really enjoy it and it’s a great way to start the Fair,” Williams said.
The rodeo is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and attracts high level competitors who will vie thousands of dollars in prize money and a gold championship belt buckle in seven events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, women’s barrel racing and bull riding, which tends to be a crowd favorite.
“That’s one of the main events for sure, and we save it for last,” said Shana Graham of Painted Pony Rodeo in Lake Luzerne, which presents the competition. “It’s a real crowd-pleaser and really adds to the excitement of the night.”
Most families, especially those with children or the young at heart, will eventually be drawn to the games and amusement rides in the midway.
For the 14th year, the carnival section of the fair will be provided by Amusements of America, a New Jersey-based traveling carnival operator. This year will feature more than 40 rides, which will be open 5-11 p.m. on Monday, noon-11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon-9 p.m. on Sunday.
Other popular events include the out of field tractor pulls at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, the NYTPA sanctioned tractor pulls at 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and the demolition derby at 3 p.m. on Sunday. A monster truck demonstration, featuring The Raminator and the Rammunition, will precede the derby at 2 p.m.
The cost to attend the fair remains unchanged. Admission costs $10 for adults and is free for children 13 and younger; active members of the military receive free admission. A week-long pass costs $30. Parking is free and there is handicapped parking near the gates and courtesy rides will be offered to the mobility impaired.
Special promotions include Carnival Day on Tuesday when fairgoers will have access to all the rides from noon to 11 p.m. for $20; Senior Citizens’ Day on Wednesday when everybody ages 62 and older will receive admission for $5; Children’s Day is Thursday and all children, high school age and younger, get in for free and all rides require one fewer ticket (there will also be bicycle giveaways at 3 and 8 p.m.); and Family Fun Day on Sunday when all rides can be accessed for only $20.
Ride tickets are also available at a 60 percent discount (20 tickets for $8) if purchased before Aug. 19. Otherwise 20 tickets cost $20.
The fair opens at 5 p.m. on Monday and 9 a.m. on all other days. The midway opens at noon Tues. through Sunday.
For more information, including a full schedule of activities, check out the Washington County Fair Guide, published by Manchester Newspapers, inside this week’s edition.