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Farm pride, fried dough & a Ferris wheel

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - Updated: 4:09 AM

The 172th edition of the Fonda Fair opens Tuesday and runs through Labor Day -- testimony to the staying power of county fairs in general and this one in particular.

A lot has happened in the time since the inaugural Fonda exposition opened in 1841.

That year, the first wagon train bound for California left Independence, Mo. Samuel Morse was tinkering with his telegraph. And the Civil War was still 20 years away.

The Fonda Fair is an important part of our heritage, reminding us of the Mohawk Valley's deep agricultural roots.

The fair is also fun, and always has been. Each year, it seems, it brings along new thrills and chills. As long as they are accompanied by the most decadent of food options, that's OK too.

The original version of the fair -- held, by the way, on the current site -- included horse races, produce displays, farm animals, handcrafts and commercial items. Sounds like the lineup for this year's edition.

Some things, however, have changed.

In the old days, there were no tractor pulls, monster trucks or demolition derbies; no midway featuring whirling rides and bright lights.

But the crowds flocked to the fairgrounds nonetheless for what rapidly grew into an end-of-summer fling.

Coverage of the fair has been a staple here at the local daily newspaper, which traces its own beginnings back to the The Daily Democrat.

"One of the most curious articles on exhibit was an 'incubator' for hatching chickens," reported the newspaper's correspondent. "The chicks could be seen pecking through their shells and every once in a while, leaping out to life and liberty."

Other exhibits included horse-drawn plows, cultivators, mowers and grain drills, a fanning mill, lumber wagons, open buggies, buckboard wagons, wood stoves and pianos.

Indeed, the fair has grown and changed with the times. And while the emphasis has most assuredly drawn clear of its roots in agriculture, there remains, on the part of our farming community, a deep-seated interest in keeping many of the original traditions alive. The passion with which those who still represent the agricultural community participate in livestock and produce competitions cannot be denied.

The pride on a youngster's face as he or she parades a champion around the show ring remains proof that all of our ingrained traditions have not been shoved aside for the Tilt-A-Whirl, the ring toss, and the bloomin' onion.

The fair is an annual tradition that ushers out the end of summer vacation season and ushers in the return to our normal lives and routines. Ours stacks up as one of the best in the state.

It's Americana at its grass roots. Also, there's fried dough.

     

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