From Farm to Fair

FONDA – This year, attendees at the 173rd Fonda Fair will be able to get a closer look at where their food comes from than ever before.

A new exhibit Saturday will allow fair-goers to get an up-close-and-personal look at the birth of a calf. A local farm has volunteered to bring in a dairy cow that will be going into labor that Saturday.

“Most people don’t ever get to witness the birth of an animal,” said Richard Kennedy, president of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, which has put on the fair since it began. “If you’re fortunate enough to witness the birth of your own child, it’s pretty miraculous. So to witness the birth of a live animal that will eventually be helping to provide food for your family … it’s a great opportunity for people to know the cycle of life.”

Showing where food comes from has been the mission of the fair for the last 172 years. Originally focused on Montgomery County, in recent years Fulton County has become more involved due to the loss of its fair, Kennedy said.

Along with rides and concessions, the fair will feature a number of shows and competitions for livestock and produce, including fruit and vegetable judging on opening day Tuesday; a dairy goat milking contest Wednesday; beef and poultry shows Thursday; dairy cattle judging Friday; and an open draft animal show Labor Day, the fair’s closing day.

“It’s really important for the exhibitors to interact with the public,” Kennedy said. “It used to be that [people] were only one generation from being off the farm, but now they’re three or four generations from being off the farm. Less and less people know where their food comes from, so it’s a great opportunity for the public to see where their food comes from, for agriculture to be sustainable.”

Exhibits from 4-H Youth Development and Future Farmers of America in Fulton and Montgomery counties make up a large component of the fair each year, according to Kennedy.

The fair represents a culmination of the 4-H year of activities, according to Shannon Dygert, Program Assistant with Cornell Cooperative Extension. The 4-H year begins Oct. 1 and runs through the end of September. A majority of the 200 kids in the 4-H program will participate in this year’s fair, Dygert said.

4-H fair events this year will include a number of animal shows throughout the week, including the rabbit show Tuesday, the horse show Thursday and the livestock and dairy awards ceremony Sept. 1. Non-animal exhibits include the 4-H Youth Fitness Olympics on Saturday.

“That’s our big youth day to get kids into the building, to get them interested in 4-H and possibly interested in joining,” Dygert said.

Other 4-H exhibits will display sewing arts and crafts and cooking projects. A 4-H snack bar will also run throughout the fair, offering homemade milkshakes and ice cream.

“Another part of the fair is that teens get to be team leaders,” Dygert said. “As team leaders, they’ll help run the animal shows and run the building, the activities with the kids who come through the building. It’s a leadership opportunity for the kids, so it’s a lot more than just getting a ribbon.”

Beyond the agricultural components, the fair will also feature a number of new ground shows. According to Kennedy, a motorcycle thrill show will operate every day of the fair.

The annual truck convoy has changed as well. This year, all proceeds from the Convoy for a Cause will be donated to the Ethan Allen Mitochondria Action Fund and the National Alliance for Mental Illness, Kennedy said.

“We’re hoping for 200 trucks to be in the convoy,” he said.

Additional promotions include Ten Buck Tuesday, with a $10 wristband allowing for admission on all rides throughout the day Tuesday; a Children’s Day with free admission for children ages 14 and younger Wednesday; Thrifty Thursday, with $10 admission per car; and free gate until 11 a.m. Labor Day.

According to Susan Worjturski-Hazzard, the fair’s concessions manager, a number of new concessions stands will be featured. Ronald McDonald will visit the fair Saturday to give out coupons for McDonald’s restaurants to kids, and the Wandering Cowboys will return after sitting out last year’s fair. Grandma Millie’s Bakery, Alpin Haus and Diesel Anarchy will all return with booths this year.

“We’ve got a lot of different concessions, new and local foods, a different array of foods to pique people’s interests,” Worjturski-Hazzard said. “We’re hoping people actually enjoy coming back to the Fonda Fair year after year, and are not saying it’s the same old, same old.”

According to Kennedy, the fair has bounced back since the flooding in 2011 that hurt attendance that year. While a state of emergency was declared in Montgomery County on Friday after a thunderstorm caused more flooding in the area, the fairgrounds were not affected, Kennedy said.

“We had normal water buildup in the areas where water runs off – basically large puddles,” he said.

With weather forecasts sunny through the middle of next week, Kennedy is hopeful for another strong year.

“Fortunately, the last couple of years, we’ve had very good weather for the fair, and attendance has been good,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had a great deal of support from the community as well.”