Updated 08/23/2010 06:01 PM
Washington County Fair celebrates 50th anniversary in Easton
The Washington County fair is celebrating a milestone: 50 years at its current location in the Town of Easton. As our Matt Hunter reports, even with a cut to state tourism dollars, organizers are confident they'll get a strong week.
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EASTON, N.Y. -- Greenwich resident Burdette Buckley, 94, says he hasn't missed the Washington County Fair once since it moved to the town of Easton in 1961 and that he's noticed a lot of changes along the way.
"Just look at how it's grown,” Buckley said. “The land they've got now, buildings, it's some improvement from what it was way back in the 50s."
While the fair has no doubt grown in stature, becoming a $1 million business for one week a year, its significance to the county has always been immeasurable. The hundreds of farmers and ranchers who come every summer, rely on it to give their businesses a boost.
"You know, we don't advertise, it's just a way for people to know where we are, what we do, how we do stuff, it's to educate people," dairy farmer Jessica Rowland said.
"It gives you a great flavor, a great taste for agriculture and you understand how hard these people work," State Senator Betty Little said.
About 100,000 patrons are expected to pass through the gates this week. That's in spite of the fact cuts to the New York State Department of Tourism budget meant less was available to spend on promotion. Organizers say thankfully where the state fell short, private sponsors stepped up.
"Where we've lost in state funding, I think we've gained in private funding,” fair president Harry Booth said. “That's made a big difference in where we are and what we can do."
As vendors made final preparations before the gates opened Monday night, those who have seen the fair grow were sure to highlight what made it successful in the first place.
“Any time you can keep something going for 120 years and 50 years in one location, that takes a lot of effort, a lot of leadership, a lot of volunteers,” Little said.
“There's just something that grows inside of you that makes this fair continue to be what it is,” Booth said.
The fair runs through Sunday night. Admission is $10 with all children under 14 and active military personnel with a military ID getting in free.