It’s 129 years and counting for the venerable Ulster County Fair, which kicks off its annual visit to the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, August 2 continuing daily through Sunday, August 7. County fairs have long seemed a throwback to a more innocent time, but this year more than ever, perhaps, it will be a reassuring presence in an increasingly unstable world and a reminder that the simple pleasures of American life and country living are still within our grasp.
With live music and more than 20 midway rides, carnival games and tractor pulls, 4-H livestock and fireworks, racing pigs and horse shows and entertainers and chainsaw carvers — not to mention all the food vendors tempting us with every kind of guilty pleasure one can ingest —the main question is, where does one start?
Gates open Tuesday, August 2 at 4 p.m. with “carload” pricing — $40 per car with a maximum of eight people per vehicle. For the rest of the week, gates open at 10 a.m. and admission returns to individually priced entrance at $15 per person, all ages. Rides open at 11 a.m. The cost of admission includes parking, all the entertainment and unlimited rides on the midway attractions. Handicapped parking is available and restrooms are wheelchair-accessible. Thursday, August 4 is Senior Day, with free admission for all those age 62 or older arriving between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The fair will stay open until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday. Sunday is the final day of the fair with closing time 8 p.m.
The concert headliners start on Tuesday evening with Hot Rod at 7 p.m. All concerts are included with admission to the fair. The Cadillac Three play Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. and Lee Greenwood performs Thursday at 8 p.m. Branch and Dean will do two shows on Friday, at 4 and 8 p.m. and Courtney Cole will do two shows on Saturday, also at 4 and 8 p.m. Craig Wayne Boyd brings the week to a close on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
Highlights on the daily schedule of entertainment include kids’ shows like Dr. Rock’s Dinosaur Adventures, Wade Henry (juggler, unicyclist, ropewalker, fire-eater and magician), Robinson’s Racing Pigs (four shows daily), Barn Yard Cracklin’ Review (on the hour and half hour), with “Rocky Da’ Roosta and a cast of cackling hens” and Josh Landry, chainsaw carver (all the works he creates will be auctioned off Sunday afternoon).
One-time only entertainment includes fireworks, scheduled for dusk on Wednesday evening; the Garden Tractor Pull competition, on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.; the Truck Pull Thursday evening at 7 p.m.; and an Antique Tractor Pull Friday evening at 6 p.m.
Horse shows are held Wednesday through Sunday. The only 4-H horse show will be on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (English and Western). The rest of the horse shows are open to all competitors, with Thursday bringing the pony show and driving competition from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday the draft horse show from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday will feature horse shows from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Western) and a 4 p.m. gymkhana event (speed pattern racing and timed games for riders on horses). Sunday has an English horse show at 8 a.m.
The Ulster County Sheriff’s Office will host a Sheriff’s Museum, and police K9 dogs will perform demos (time to be determined as of press time). The dogs and their officer handlers will demonstrate how they find drugs and explosives, do vehicle searches and tracking and apprehending suspects. Kids will be allowed to pet the dogs at the end of the demos.
The Wool Room will offer daily spinning and weaving demos and a wide range of wool products for all the fiber fans out there.
The 4-H kids will serve up their renowned milkshakes at the Jane W. Barley Memorial Youth Building, and there will be plenty of fun youth activities and 4-H exhibits. The organization’s dog judging and rally obedience event will be held on Wednesday at 9 a.m. with livestock competitions on Thursday and Friday with a livestock auction on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
This will be the 49th year the Ulster County Fair has been held at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz. The origins of the fair date back to 1869, when a small fair featuring horse racing and agricultural exhibits was held in Ellenville. When the Southern Ulster Agricultural Society formed in 1886, it organized the first official Ulster County Fair that September.
The fair began drawing substantial crowds when the first passenger train from Ellenville to Kingston in 1902 made the distance of 27 miles an easy journey. Even more access was created by a direct train connection between Kingston and Port Jervis. The years that followed brought all the advancements of each era — even car races in the 1920s — but after a fairground fire in 1926 and a 1931 polio epidemic that brought admission to an all-time low, the fortunes of the fair in Ellenville had to be reconsidered.
The fairgrounds were sold to the Ellenville Central School District in 1932 and the county fair moved to Kingston. After successful fairs at Forsyth Park for three decades — with a brief interlude near the beginning of that run at the State Armory building — it was decided to enlarge the county fair and increase the number of fair days to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors and visitors. The Ulster County Agricultural Society moved the fair to its present location in New Paltz in 1967.
More information is available on the fair’s comprehensive website at www.ulstercountyfair.com.