Robin Seaman, secretary of the Agricultural Society of Oswego County, New York, believes there is one word that may have significantly contributed to the overall success of the 2014 Oswego County Fair - FREE.
As it has been for several years, admission to the fair was free and parking was free. That way, people could roam in and out of the fair day after day as they desired. They could eat all they wanted, explore all they wanted and ride all of the rides they wanted. Of course, they had to pay for the rides, but the concept gave everybody a sense of freedom they would not have felt in another setting, she said.
The weather was grand and everything went very well for the run of the fair from July 2 through July 6.nn"We had a little rain here and there, said Seaman.nMaybe it rained just a little every day. But it was definitely nothing like the year before. Last year, it rained hard every single day. It was a washout."
It was hard to keep track of the attendance numbers with fairgoers roaming in and out of the main gate, but it was not hard to see that there was record-breaking attendance at the BMX motor cross show and also at the demolition derby, she said.
One of the most popular shows at the fair was an old-time lumber jack show, where men demonstrated the historic traditions behind cutting the timber from rural forests.
Another popular act featured at this year¡¦s fair was "Buffalo Barfield and his wife Michele, aka ¡¥Miss Rumadean¡¦". Barfield is a singer, songwriter, storyteller and country Comedian who has written songs in country, bluegrass, gospel and children¡¦s music genres. He also plays multiple instruments like guitar, mandolin, harmonica, spoons, Cajun/Êydeco rub board and Cajun accordion.
The old-time country music show presented by Barfield and Barfield is presented like great traditional country music shows such as The Grand Old Opry and the 70us country variety show "Hee-Haw".
"We had no known national acts but plenty of entertainment," said Seaman.
There were also truck and tractor pulls, arts and crafts exhibits and competitions, a popular bearded iris show that attracted people from all over the state of New York, a dog show and a regional talent show.
This year was the 167th fair for Oswego County, said Seaman. It¡¦s been going on since 1857 except for the World War I and World War II years. It¡¦s always been based on Oswego County¡¦s proud agricultural traditions and is owned and operated by the Agricultural Society of Oswego County, in Sandy Creek, New York.
The fair was advertised throughout the county and around the region through newspapers, billboards, radio, television, social media and a traffic alert operated by the local sheriff¡¦s department, according to Seaman. Advertising fliers were also sent out to local businesses, and the fair had its own website.
Sandy Creek, New York is located on the western border of Lake Ontario. It¡¦s about 44 miles north of Syracuse, New York. The theme of the fair this year was "Pride in Oswego County."
The county is probably most famous for an incident that happened in 1835. That¡¦s when Sandy Creek resident Thomas Meacham decided to make the world¡¦s largest cheese as a gift to President Andrew Jackson. The finished product was four feet in diameter, two feet thick and weighed nearly 1,400 pounds. The cheese was delivered and sat at the White House until February 22, 1836 when the president invited the public to come to the White House and eat the cheese. This event was made famous in an episode of the television show The West Wing.
There was no free cheese at the fair this year, but new to the fair were alpacas, those llama-like animals - except somewhat smaller than llamas - prized for the fiber content of their coats. Three times a day, visitors had the chance to walk an alpaca. All you had to do was sign up at the barn corner.
In and around the barn area, you could also contact the animal experts whose job it was to answer any and all questions fairgoers could come up with that had to do with animals.
"Ask Me" experts were available at all times to answer the public¡¦s questions about animals and about Oswego County agriculture. Anyone wearing an "Ask Me" T-shirt was available to offer their expertise. The "Ask Me" program was provided by the Oswego County 4H, Oswego County Fair and the Tractor Supply Company.
Since 1858, the fair has featured fun for the entire family including children¡¦s activities, tractor pulls, demolition derby, rides, commercial vendors selling their wares, a wide variety of food and attractions and much more.
The agricultural competitions and exhibits were a big part of the fair this year, just as they are every year.
"Almost all of the youth in the county participate in 4H," said Seaman. "There aren¡¦t as many farms here now as there once were, but we still have lots of farms in the area. Oswego remains rural."
There were youth and meat goat shows, a junior and open poultry show and dairy show. There was harness racing, a spelling bee and an Oreo stacking contest for senior citizens. There was a skillet throwing contest and a frozen T-shirt contest. Military Appreciation Day was held on Friday, July 4. The day included exhibits on the Civil War as well as on other veteran¡¦s research projects.
Sunday, July 6, was Fraternal Organization Day, when the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and members of the American Legion, Masonic orders and Eastern Star, the Grange and Lions were welcomed to the fair. There were also exhibits displayed about several of the organizations.
Seaman said she thought one of the best events was held on the day before the fair opened. Children with special needs were invited to enjoy the fair and to ride the rides for free all afternoon on "Special Times for Special People" Day.
During that event, the local businesses group held the first of its drawings for free bicycles. Four or five bikes a day - complete with bike helmets - were handed out to youngsters at the fair, Seaman said.
"It¡¦s a great program, and it always goes very well," she said.