The 172nd Dutchess County Fair starts its six-day run on Tuesday, August 22. Fair hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Sunday, August 27.
Half a million people are expected to go through the gates of the 147-acre Fairgrounds on Route 9 during this year’s run. The fact that this is the 172nd county fair held in Dutchess County is kind of mind-boggling when one considers how different the world was when the first official fair was held in 1842 (the 1916-18 fairs were canceled due to finances and wartime issues). The county fair came to Springbrook Park in Rhinebeck for the first time in 1919. County fairs back then were all about showcasing the talents of farmers: what they grew, what they made, what they fostered. But while the entertainment and midway rides and carnival games have become an integral part of the picture, the county fair at its heart is still about its origins.
The second-largest county fair in the state will showcase thousands of farm animals, agricultural exhibits and horticultural displays. Ribbons will be awarded to competitors vying in categories that cross the spectrum from horticulture to livestock, photography to quilting and fiber arts to baking. The barns will be full of beautiful animals being taken care of by hardworking kids in the 4-H program, whose “famous 4-H milkshakes” will be available for purchase in the marketplace.
Adult admission tickets are sold in advance (through Sunday, August 20) for $12. Tickets at the gate cost $15. Seniors and military with ID pay $10, and kids age 11 and under get in free. Ten-ride tickets are sold for $20 in advance: a more than 50 percent savings. Admission, rides and a $50 six-day pass can also be purchased at the fairgrounds office in Rhinebeck. Buying advance tickets for the concerts offers a discount as well as guaranteed admission to the performance. Adult admission costs $10 on Tuesday. Adults pay $7 on Thursday after 5 p.m. For the last day of the fair on Sunday, adults get two-for-one admission for $15. A list of local businesses selling advance tickets can be found on the event website.
All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Opening night on Tuesday, August 22 features rock band 3 Doors Down. An advance combination ticket that includes admission to the fair and the concert is available for $35 ($40 on the day of the show). Wednesday, August 23 brings the Brothers Osborne to the stage. Advance tickets cost $32 ($37 day of show). The Marshall Tucker Band plays on Thursday, August 24. All seats are free with paid admission to the fair. On Friday, August 25, the performance is by the Old Crow Medicine Show. Tickets are available for $32 ($37 day of the show).
The Dutchess Fair Marketplace will have rows of concession booths with more than 300 vendors from all over the world offering a unique shopping experience. Look for house and garden items, artisanal crafts and jewelry and packaged food and spirits. Most vendors will hold purchases until fairgoers are ready to go home for the day.
Building D is the place to go to sample and purchase specialty foods. Stock up on country-store candies, honey, maple syrup, jams, jellies, fudge and even chocolate-covered apples on a stick. (What’s a county fair without some type of food on a stick?)
And visitors to the fair can expect to find activities far too numerous to list here. Racing pigs, stiltwalkers, a stingray encounter, mad scientist shows for kids, a blacksmith competition, police K-9 demonstrations and demos of quilting, rug-hooking and woodcarving and a blacksmith competition are just a few of the entertainments available. There’s an Action Sports Extreme thrill show on Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 6 p.m. ($5 for adults, free for kids age 5 and under) and a draft horse show on Sunday at 9 a.m.
Gentler days can be imagined in the restored one-room schoolhouse and train station, relocated from their original sites. The Century Museum Village displays, complemented by storytellers in costume, offer a recreation of an early-20th-century print shop with a working press, a living room filled with Victorian-era furniture, a reimagined rural kitchen of the past and the opportunity to watch as repairs are done in a Model T-era auto shop.
Dutchess County Fair, Tuesday-Sunday, August 22-27, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., $10/$15, Dutchess County Fairgrounds, 6550 Spring Brook Avenue, Rhinebeck; (845) 876-4000, www.dutchessfair.com.