The original iteration of the Ulster County Fair, a small fair featuring horseracing and a few agricultural exhibits, was held to celebrate the opening of the Ellenville Driving Park in 1869. That makes the extravaganza returning to the Ulster County Fairgrounds next week 153 years old. When it comes to summertime family fun in the Hudson Valley – on a scale that still feels human and homegrown rather than slick and corporate – it’s tough to find a more reliable option than that.
Following a scaled-down “drive-through” Fair in 2020, the annual event broke attendance records in 2021, drawing more than 53,000 patrons who were undoubtedly sick of hanging around indoors during the pandemic. The 2022 edition of the Ulster County Fair, hosted as ever by the Ulster County Agricultural Society, will run from Tuesday, August 2 through Sunday, August 7. The Fairgrounds are open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. on Sunday. Rides open at 11 a.m.
Tuesday from 4 to 10 p.m. is Carload Night, with an entry discount of $50 for up to eight people in one car. Seniors are admitted free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, August 3 and 4. Otherwise, the pay-one-price admission of $20 per person at the gate, $18 online covers all midway rides, shows and entertainment (not counting games). Children are charged by height, not age: Anyone 36 inches or taller must buy and wear a wristband. Parking right across Libertyville Road is free, and has a killer view of the Shawangunk Ridge as a bonus.
Besides the midway rides and lots of charismatic livestock to admire in the 4-H Club buildings, each day at the Fair presents an array of activity choices. Fireworks at dusk on Wednesday are always a highlight. Danny Grant’s Cowboy Circus: The World’s Smallest Rodeo is new this year, and a daily attraction. Robinson’s Racing Pigs, the Royal Hanneford Mini Circus, the Goodnow Family Farm Petting Zoo and stiltwalker Carrie McQueen will also be there all week. The Ten Broeck Commons Choir performs at 10 a.m. on Thursday. For the hippophiles, the Horse Ring hosts competitions and demonstrations every day. Check out the daily schedule on the Fair website to find out where you need to be when: https://ulstercountyfair.com/fair-info/schedule-and-map.
Evening headline acts – mostly country music, as usual – are included in your pay-one-price admission. Local pop band Sass an Brass featuring Daryl McGill, who wowed the crowd at the Sawyer Motors Car Show in Saugerties a couple of weeks ago, will kick off the Fair at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 2. Sawyer Brown plays at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, August 3.
Thursday, August 4 at 8 p.m. brings in an unusual choice: Murphy, a soulful alt/folk guitarist and singer/songwriter who became such a fan favorite on American Idol in 2021, and generated so much viewer outrage when he didn’t make the final cut that the show brought him back for a special guest appearance on the season-finale broadcast.
Friday evening, August 5 at 8 p.m. features emerging country star Allie Colleen. Jerrod Neimann performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 6. And at 5:30 p.m. on closing day, Sunday, August 7, Saugerties native Ian Flanigan will perform. He placed third on The Voice in 2020 and has a new LP coming out on September 2.
The Ulster County Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz, west of the Wallkill River crossing. (Arriving from the direction of Gardiner is local residents’ secret to avoiding traffic backups.) For more info and to prepurchase tickets, visit https://ulstercountyfair.com.