Photo of girl with rabbit by Luc Asbury; remaining photos by Ingrid Kulick (Courtesy of Dutchess Co. Fair)
In a region with so many county fairs every summer, what sets one apart from the other? When it comes to the Dutchess County Fair, it has both longevity and size on its side. The six-day extravaganza of agri-tainment that begins on Tuesday, August 19 and runs every day through Sunday, August 24 at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck will be the 169th such affair sponsored by the Dutchess County Agricultural Society. And with as many as half a million visitors coming through the gates each year, the Dutchess County Fair takes bragging rights as the second-largest county fair in New York State.
Although many will come for the guilty pleasures of fairground food and a wide range of children’s activities, carnival rides and live entertainment, the organizers say that their mission is actually to remain true to the founding principles of the Dutchess County Agricultural Society, and to protect the agricultural integrity of the fair. There is plenty of that, for sure. There’s an antique tractor pull exhibition, vegetable and grain competitions and the largest horticultural show in the Northeast within the grounds of the fair.
Looking at a six-day schedule of events, in fact, there’s far too much to pluck a few things out to highlight. After all, the whole point is that there’s plenty of variety, and something different will appeal to each person. But scan the list and it’s clear that the rural nature of the Hudson Valley is well-represented amidst the bright lights of the carnival scene.
The nonprofit 4-H organization that has helped rural youth to develop their full potential since 1902 is an important part of the fair experience, with shows and exhibitions of livestock and poultry (and selling their justifiably popular milkshakes). All in all, more than 1,400 farm animals will be on view or competing for ribbons on Livestock Hill during the six days of the fair.
Hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Look for the racing pigs, Frisbee-throwing dogs, a six-pony hitch and dock-diving dogs. Crafts, cooking demonstrations, the Melody Farm Revue, Hilby the Skinny German Juggler, Oscar the Roving Robot, demonstrations of woodcarving and rug-hooking and a Mad Science Show… as noted, way too much to leave anything or anybody out by omission: Check the full schedule on the website at www.dutchessfair.com.
Continuous live entertainment is offered throughout the fair, but for most of the Grandstand Concert Series, there is an extra charge beyond the $15 general admission fee ($10 for seniors and military and free for kids under age 12, $7 general admission after 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday). Opening night at the fair will feature Australian teen sensation Cody Simpson with special guest Coco Jones at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 to $15. Tickets for Randy House and Eric Paslay on Wednesday, August 20 at 7 p.m. cost $25 to $30, and tickets for Danielle Bradbery and the Swon Brothers on Thursday, August 21 at 7:30 p.m. cost $15 to $20. Tickets for the Felice Brothers with Simone Felice on Friday, August 22 at 7 p.m. are free.
A few other charges apply: Rides are by tickets sold ten for $20. On closing day, Sunday, August 24, spectators at the Painted Pony Rodeo at 2 and 6 p.m. will find bull-riding, barrel-racing and more at a ticket cost of $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6 to 12 and free for ages 5 and under.
Dutchess County Fair, Tuesday-Sunday, August 19-24, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., $15/$10,Dutchess County Fairgrounds, 6500 Springbrook Avenue (Route 9), Rhinebeck; (845) 876-4000, www.dutchessfair.com.