Monday, March 30, 2015
Amsterdam, NY ,

The fair has risen again

Friday, August 29, 2014 - Updated: 6:50 AM

A foggy blanket greets the morning, dampening the grass, but not the spirits.

Hurry, hustle, get things moving ... it's opening day at the Fonda Fair.

Feed the chickens, walk the doggies, move the turkey tractor one more time.

Pack the things forgotten yesterday; grab the baby and her bonnet.

And get yourselves across the river; time to wash those dirty ponies.

It's gonna be a hot one. Spears of light will pierce that blanket and burn bright blue windows in its fabric. The sun will shine out proud and bold, over cows and kids and busy parking lots.

The old folks will finish chores, racing like roadrunners, and head for the fair right behind you.

The whole place looks impressive this year, clean and swept and ready for fun. New paint, new decorations, and lots to see and experience. A quick walk around before we go back to work is more fun than we've had in ages.

First the wash rack by the dairy barn. Steaming cows drip and drizzle, while fit young people in high rubber boots tend to their cosmetic requirements.

Then we stop to see the Northview ponies, Diamond and Black Jack, and to coo at grandbaby Peggy, who is enjoying her first visit to the fair. Comes a quick flashback, to showing other ponies long ago, Deranged Richard, and Major Moves, with Peggy's then baby mother in tow.

Things have surely come full circle, because now that one-time stroller roller is showing ponies, with her own baby nearby. How long before Miss Peggy is on the halter, I wonder.

Off to see the cows and poultry.

Jade has a rooster here, a big, blue Cochin. As soon as we step through the chicken barn door I spot a pretty one and think, "if that is the competition, Jade has a tough row to hoe."

Becky laughs at me and points to the name tag. It's Jade's chicken, Mr. Blue. Sad not to recognize a bird that crows you awake at dawn every morning. I plead nearsightedness.

There are ducks to please any taste. At the carnival a pool of bright yellow rubber duckies beckons the young and young-at-heart to "Pick a duck, any duck, for a large prize every time," while in the poultry barn, real yellow and brown Muscovy ducklings shove anxiously under their red-helmeted, white-feathered mother. Dignified Call Ducks in Mallard colors peer discerningly out at us and mutter gently.

There are geese, too, and a plethora of rabbits of all colors, plus many chickens of every fluff and feather. I love the sound of the poultry barn, soft chuckling and clucking punctuated by imperative crowing, as the roosters proclaim their territory. A young man of perhaps 10 years starts to race across in front of us, and then pauses to apologize politely. I relish this moment of good manners, an island of nice in an all-too-often sea of otherwise. You can spot a farm kid anywhere.

We visit the barn where 4-H children present their livestock. Oh, look, sheep in shirts. Well, not shirts exactly, but bright blue blankets. They seem unimpressed by their fancy attire and lie calmly in deep straw, chewing cud and staring into space. I like sheep, and plumb miss having them.

We quickly meet a group of youngsters in green t-shirts, parading spans of baby oxen. They are giving a demonstration of ox handling. How much more pleasant are the demonstrations that take place in rural settings than the ones in big cities. No looting at this one; just well-mannered children with pretty cattle.

We stop to watch the show.

After all, the calves are mahogany-colored milking shorthorns and I am such a sucker for the red ones. It is impressive to see the baby cows walking side-by-side with their young handlers.

We discover that the kids are from the family of nice people who rescued us years ago, when we were pulling our new baler home from the auction and suddenly saw the wheel preceding us down the road at a great clip.

After a wonderful visit, we snap some photos and move along to the tornado.

Yep a tornado. Up in the model railroad display there is a working tornado, complete with cows and sheep, and a lady on a scooter. The tornado really twirls, too. It is a small one, but then it is a small railroad. We wander through the display looking at nifty trains and the many sight gags people have cooked up for our enjoyment. The folks who arranged the display have a real sense of humor. Look closely to find King Kong and Godzilla roaring near the tracks, and a John Deere train speeding through the scenery.

After a quick stop to watch the antics of racing pigs with names like Sponge Bob Spam Pants and Kevin Bacon, it's on to the politicking and selling of strange stuff under the grandstand. The pig racing announcer is good at his shtick and has the crowd roaring with laughter.

Our walk around the fair continues in the same vein. We even find a bison, some caribou, and a pronghorn antelope, although they reside, forever young, in the Adirondack Wildlife Museum display.

The displays are attractive and nicely arranged. Everything is clean and engaging. Even the carnival is bright and tidy.

The fair website says that the first fair was held in November 1841. I would imagine it tended mostly to competition among farmers with their livestock and their wives with pies and stitchery. Maybe some hotly contested horse races as well.

Today the fair maintains its agricultural focus, meanwhile providing entertainment for people of all interests and inclinations.

From the many disastrous floods that have swept over it, leaving chaos in their wake, Fonda Fair has risen again, to be as much fun as it was when we were kids, who sneaked in before the gates were open and didn't leave until our parents closed their shops in Fonda to go home. Hope you get there.

Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS

is a regular columnist. She blogs



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