County fairs return to Hudson Valley
With summertime comes a quintessential American tradition: the county fair. Orange, Putnam, Dutchess and Ulster counties will host fairs with plenty of thrills, fun and good eats in July and August, with the Orange County Fair kicking off this week.
Here's info on each of the fairs, including when it will be open and what you can expect.
ORANGE COUNTY FAIR (July 13-29)
The first Orange County Fair, held in 1841, was a small, one-day event. Farmers came to exhibit their most prized livestock and area women sold their specialty desserts.
"It has progressed a lot since then," said Kimberly Reed, the office manager of the Orange County Fair. "Now there are rides, tons of food and vendors, and plenty of entertainment."
This year, an expected 70,000 to 80,000 people will visit the fairgrounds during the two-week event.
Fairgoers will be treated to free performances on the community concert stages by acts including Gene Dinapoli, an Elvis tribute artist, and Completely Unchained, a Van Halen tribute band. Other entertainment includes the Moto & Monster Truck Madness, an adrenaline-inducing act that boasts motorcycle acrobatics and dirt-spitting monster trucks. Tickets for this show are $12 to $20.
"The Monster Truck show will probably be the most popular attraction this year," said Reed. "The kids love it and it seems to be a crowd-pleaser every time."
Kids will also enjoy the petting zoo, which will display exotic animals like monkeys, a porcupine and a lynx alongside sheep and mules, and the all new Wild West frontier show.
"The fair is a great family-oriented outing," Reed said.
When: 5-11 p.m., Friday, July 13 (opening night) until Sunday, July 29. Weekdays: 5 p.m.-midnight; Weekends: 2 p.m.-midnight; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Info: Orange County Fairgrounds, 239 Wisner Ave., Middletown; 845-343-4826; www.orangecountyfair.com. Admission: $8 adults; $5 seniors, military and youth, ages 6-12; free for children under 5. Unlimited rides are $25 per person. Parking prices vary.
PUTNAM 4H COUNTY FAIR (July 27-29)
The Putnam County Fair started 41 years ago as a tiny event where members of the 4H Youth Development Program showcased projects they'd been working on. Now, 20,000 to 30,000 visitors are expected to attend what has become a traditional, country-style fair, featuring old-fashioned fun like hayrides, pony rides, and dog shows.
The vendor-free, nonprofit fair will offers lots of food options like pulled pork, barbecue, cotton candy and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
"You can't get better lemonade anywhere," said Dena Altavilla, director of Putnam's 4H Youth Development Program. "Trust me, I've tried."
On Friday, July 27, there will be a youth talent showcase featuring singers, gymnasts, and jugglers. Saturday, July 28, will feature a country-style auction where attendees can bid on vintage goods and garden products. And on Sunday, July 29, vintage rides will be on display for the Classic Car Showcase.
"The fair is a relaxing day out where you can still manage to keep a few bucks in your wallet," said Altavilla. "And, you'll get to see me get pies thrown in my face."
When: Noon-6 p.m., Friday, July 27; 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, July 28; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, July 29
Info: Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park, 201 Gipsy Trail Rd., Carmel; 845-278-6738; counties.cce.cornell.edu/putnam/4hfair.html; free admission and parking
ULSTER COUNTY FAIR (July 31-Aug. 5)
Celebrating its 125th anniversary, the Ulster County Fair offers classic rides, carnival games and live entertainment, among other attractions.
The fair's Tuesday opening includes a parade and garden tractor pull in the fairground's horse ring. Other draws include a petting zoo, a pony show and a fireworks display.
The varied schedule of live music includes performances by Hot Rod, a four-piece cover band that's been rocking the Hudson Valley since 1996 (July 31); The Village People, the group behind the blockbuster hit, "YMCA" (Aug. 2); and Amber Leigh, a multi-instrumentalist known for boldly mixing rock, country and Celtic sounds (Aug. 4). Concert seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
When: 4-10 p.m., Tuesday, July 31; 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 1-2; 10 a.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday, Aug. 3-4; 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 5
Info: Ulster County Fairgrounds, 249 Libertyville Rd., New Paltz; 845-255-1380; www.ulstercountyfair.com; admission: $15, free for children under 4; parking is free
DUTCHESS COUNTY FAIR (Aug. 21-26)
Since the first event 167 years ago, the Dutchess County Fair has managed to stay true to its tradition of educating visitors about agriculture. Some 300,000 visitors are expected to come out and enjoy midway rides, grandstand entertainment and agricultural-themed attractions spread out over 160 acres of intricately manicured gardens.
"The fairground is just spectacular," said Vicki Imperati, the marketing director for the fairgrounds. "You can tell heart and soul goes into keeping this place looking the way it does."
The grandstand lineup, with tickets topping out at $25, includes well-known talents like Lonestar and Chubby Checker. Entertainment also includes a FMX Freestyle Motocross show.
In terms of food options, fairgoers can take a culinary tour of America with 125 food vendors offering everything from New Orleans-style eats to Texas barbecue.
Unique to the fair are the country style contests. The "Backseat Driver Contest" requires a blindfolded tractor driver to make his or her way through an obstacle course with the help of directions from someone sitting in an attached wagon. The "Husband Calling Contest" rewards ladies with the loudest and most creative ways to capture their husbands' attention from the field.
"There's so much to do," said Imperati. "It's the perfect staycation."
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, Aug. 21-26
Info: Dutchess County Fairgrounds, 6550 Springbrook Ave., Rhinebeck; 845-876-4000; www.dutchessfair.com; Admission: $15, free for children under 12; Ride tickets are $20 for 12 rides; pricing for grandstand entertainment varies (free-$25); parking is $10