RIGHT - A Slideshow of Past Columbia County Fairs Photo Credit : William Parker
Like the days leading up to the senior prom, the third week of August is full of preparation in anticipation of the August 27th opening of the Columbia County Fair.
All over the county, chosen livestock is being suds up, clipped, and generally coddled. Special feed is being measured and custom mixed. And 4-Hers are making sure their “show uniform” is as bleached white as possible.
Not to be outdone by the agricultural portion of the fair, vendors are making preparations, too. During the fair’s six-day run, more than 3,000 baked potatoes will be consumed. Those potatoes have to be ordered, shipped, and stored – along with the bacon, cheese sauce, and butter that are standard topping options. Blooming onions, the bigger the better, are on their way to the vendor—all 3,500 pounds of them.
Blooming flowers, on the other hand, are being kept as fresh as possible prior to appearing in assorted arrangements on display by various garden clubs.
Peak season was the whole reason for the county fair, which marks its 168th year on Wednesday. August is the time when animals look their best, when offspring have matured enough to compete for blue ribbons, and the harvest season is in its prime. Visitors all those years ago marveled at the size of a zucchini, looked with awe at the neatness of some housewife’s canned string beans, and maybe lost a few dollars on a harness race—all in a day’s visit.
Horse racing has disappeared from the roster of entertainment, replaced by racing pigs, but fairgoers can still check out canned goods and visit Harvest Hall to see the mouthwatering displays of county apples, vegetables, and beautiful, multicolored heirloom tomatoes. They all look good enough to eat, and fortunately, Linda Fix, superintendent of the Fruits and Vegetables Division, will have trays and trays of delicious, locally made cider donuts to satisfy those cravings.
Elsewhere, amateur and professional chefs are fine-tuning their recipes and checking out local farm stands to select the best produce available for their entry in the Bounty Cooking Contest. This year, with prize money of $1,000, judges will taste 70 entries in all on Saturday, August 30, at 2 p.m.
Entries include everything from Tomato Torte, Gazpacho, and Spinach Artichoke Dip to entrees of Pasta con Salsa Crema, Vegetable Foccacia Pizza, Lebanese Chicken, Corn Casserole, Hobo Chicken Veggie & Noodle Nest, Savory Mediterranean Tartlet to desserts of Blueberry Cheesecake, Raspberry Bavarian, Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Brandy Alexander Pie, and Baked Apple with Chevre & Honey. Come hear what the judges have to say, and maybe get a taste of one of the winners.
They say that ice cream cones got their start at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Who knows what tradition might begin with this year’s entries?
An addition to the entertainment line-up is the band that travels with Eddie Money. While the ‘80s rock-n-roller goes on at 8 p.m. on Friday, after the Schoolgirl Queen Contest at 7 p.m., Money’s lead-in band performs at 6 p.m.
At the Monster Tractor Pull, the tradition each year is bigger, stronger, more powerful engines. Tom Durfee of Warsaw, NY, thought his submission last year in the 7,500-pound modified class was good enough. Come see how it’ll stack up against new competitors on Saturday night starting at 7 p.m.
Of course, as the days dwindle down, there will be another sort of preparation going on, too. Singers will be gargling with salt water, practicing their scales, and taking a last look at lyrics as diverse as “When Will I be Loved,” a Linda Ronstadt standard sure to be sung by Peaceful Country, and “No Woman No Cry,” a Bob Marley classic that is on the play list of Jeff Martel.
We’re sure that bluegrass headliner and twelve-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, on the roster for Sunday at 3 and 8 p.m., have all their lyrics memorized.
Performance is not an issue for the young animals that are part of the Two-By-Two Zoo. All they have to do is look cute and cuddly—not a hard assignment if you are a six-week- old kangaroo or a baby black-and-white ruffed lemur. With a name like Oreo, how could you go wrong?
Other animals are probably honing their performance skills. The Brabent draft horses need to perfect running in tandem, bucking broncos should be kicking up a storm prepping for Labor Day’s Painted Pony Rodeo at 4 p.m., the avian predators need to groom their wings for their sky-high soaring demonstrations, and the racing pigs need to practice a quick jump off the starting line.
So do fairgoers. The gates open at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 27 and at 10 a.m. on subsequent days for what promises to be a really big show.
The Fairgrounds are on Route 66. The Fair runs through Monday, Labor Day, September 1. This year, gate prices are unchanged: $10 Wednesday through Saturday and Monday. Sunday’s admission is $12. Children 12 and under are always free. On Thursday, seniors can enter for half price until 4 p.m. and youth up to age 18 are free until 4 p.m. that day. Admission includes all entertainment and parking.
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