Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's Fair Time!

You may not know that, arguably the best county fair in the Empire State, is the Washington County Fair. It was first held in Salem in 1841 & eventually moved to Sandy Hill/ Hudson Falls. It remained there until 1934. The Great Depression took it's toll on many things, and the fair was one. Four years later, in 1938, the fairgrounds and 30 structures were sold to make way for the County Highway Department.

junior fair participant shows off her calf 2008 (Basile)
The Cambridge Valley Agricultural Society, which had been hosting fairs in Cambridge since 1900, revived the Washington County Fair in late August 1947 at the McMullen farm in the Town of Greenwich. Where was that, you might ask? Well, it's about where Hannaford sits now- near Routes 29 & 40 & the roundabout.

During the 1930s & 40s another local fair was floundering, the Washington County Junior Fair. Then in 1949 the Junior Fair had to be cancelled because of an outbreak of polio. By November 125 young people had contracted the debilitating disease, four died.

Five years later, in 1954, Philip Houlton of Hoosick Falls (see even folks from Rensselaer County know it's the best fair) sold his share in our county fair for $6,000 to a group calling themselves the Washington County Junior Fair. From that moment on, the two fairs would be forever linked.

When did the fair move to it's current location in Greenwich? Well, it's not in Greenwich. The current fairgrounds along Route 29 may have a mailing address of Greenwich & a zip code of 12834 (zip codes were instituted in 1963), but the location is the Town of Easton. Anyway, the Washington County Fair moved to it's current location, then called Brisbane Flats, in 1961.

rides on the midway 2006 (Basile)
Other notable moments in Washington County Fair history are...

1983- Fair attendance exceeds 100,000 for the first time
1999- E. coli outbreak kills two. The village of Greenwich begins chlorinating its water.
2000- After spending $100,000 to ensure safe water, attendance is down 10%
2011- The fair opens for it's best season yet

http://www.washingtoncountyfair.com/

P.S. If you have any photographs or ephemera of the Washington County Fair, I would love to start a collection. If you don't want to donate the  items, I can scan them & give them back to you. Please!

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