Head for the Dutchess County Fair, August 21-26

If the Ulster County Fair just past is the homey small-town version of a classic American country fair, the 167-year-old Dutchess County Fair coming up at the Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck is our region’s Grandpappy of the genre: the second-largest county fair in New York State. Everything about it, from the midway to the array of agricultural exhibits spread over the 160-acre site, is huge. You could probably go for each day of its August 21 to 26 run and still not see everything. That’s probably part of the reason why 300,000 visitors are expected; a lot of people keep coming back year after year.

The choices of activity are mind-boggling: In addition to typical fair fare like prizewinning 4-H livestock, giant pumpkins, pies and pickles, horse-jumping and racing pigs, you can also check out oddball offerings like Frisbee-playing dogs, a goat costume competition, a stick pony rodeo and a husband-calling contest. There are a million things for kids to try that they wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else, from spinning or felting wool to sand sculpture, plus all sorts of fun educational programs about things like bugs and rainforests and “mad science.” You can download the full Fair schedule at www.dutchessfair.com/downloads/2012DCF-Fair-Schedule.pdf; don’t forget to clip the coupon for a $2 entry fee discount!

The $15 General Admission price for everyone over age 12 includes most attractions, but not carnival rides and games, and most of the Grandstand shows require an additional charge ranging from $5 to $25. General parking is free, but “preferred (closer to the fair entrance) parking” costs $10. Ride tickets, if purchased online at www.dutchessfair.com/tickets.php before August 21, go for $20 for 12 rides; they will cost more onsite.


The lineup of big-name acts this year includes Justin Moore at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday; Chubby Checker at 7 p.m. on Wednesday; Lonestar at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday; Starship featuring Mickey Thomas at 7 p.m. on Friday; FMX Freestyle Motocross at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday; and Championship Bull Riding at 2 and 6 p.m. on Sunday. Though there’s nobody left in Starship who was ever part of Jefferson Airplane, Mickey Thomas, who replaced Marty Balin as lead singer, is the guy who sang lead on the Elvin Bishop Group’s monster 1976 hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” And catch the Twist king Chubby Checker while you still can!

The entry gates and exhibit buildings at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, August 21 through Sunday, August 26. Rides run from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day except Friday and Saturday, when they keep going until 12 midnight. The food vendors, of which 125 are expected to set up shop, stay open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds are located at 6550 Springbrook Avenue, better known as Route 9, in Rhinebeck.

The Dutchess County Fair runs from August 21 to 26 at the County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, opening at 10 a.m. daily. Admission is $15 for adults, free for children under age 12. Pricing for Grandstand entertainment varies from free to $25. General parking is free, but “preferred (closer to the fair entrance) parking” costs $10. Rides cost extra, at discounted prices if purchased online before August 21. Grandstand acts include Justin Moore on August 21, Chubby Checker on August 22, Lonestar on August 23, Starship on August 24, FMX Freestyle Motocross on August 25 and Championship Bull Riding on August 26. See the full schedule and order tickets online at www.dutchessfair.com, or call (845) 876-4000 for more info.