Just the smells – goats, hay and fried dough the dominant notes – are enough to trigger a lifetime of Ulster County Fair memories for this New Paltz boy. With its promenades and its nocturnal neighborhoods delineated in gaudy lights, the Fair transforms the grounds on Libertyville Road into a mysterious night city that feels sprawling, labyrinthine and endless in its surprises, even as the space itself is actually a fairly modest field most of the year. The Fair always coincides with my leonine birthday, so forgive me for feeling, in a certain way, that the sky to the southwest of New Paltz, between the river and the mountains, is lighting up for me.
This year the fair kicks off on Tuesday, July 28 and runs through Sunday, August 2. Musically, the lineup skews toward country-leaning Fair Rock (rock-leaning Fair Country?), which is really its own genre: a commercial niche of which Charlie Daniels is arguably creator and king. The aged Devil-beating fiddler is not on the bill, of course, but I do believe that he has played our fair (and all the others) at least once. Headliners this year are the Swon Brothers, John Michael Montgomery, Keith Anderson, Caroline Kole and the Willis Clan.
Family entertainment includes Dr. Rock’s Dinosaur Adventures, the stilt-walking trickster Carrie McQueen, Rietta and Lyric Wallenda of the “World-Famous Wallendas” performing as Circus Incredible, Masters of the Chainsaw, a garden tractor-pull competition, fireworks on Wednesday evening at dusk and my favorite (on paper at least): Robinson’s Racing Pigs.
When a pig has been crowned, make your way to the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office to visit the museum and see the K9 demonstration on Friday. Other exhibits include the Wool Room and six days of animal workshops and demonstrations by the venerable 4-H.
The Ulster County Fair boasts a lucid and content-rich website that many music venues would do well to emulate. On it you will find all the scheduled events, performances and exhibits as well as your admission and parking options. Visit https://ulstercountyfair.com for all this and more. The Ulster Country Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz.
Ulster County Fair, July 28-August 2, Ulster Country Fairgrounds, 249 Libertyville Road, New Paltz; https://ulstercountyfair.com.