Irv West of Thurman (left) answers questions about local 4-H programs asked by children attending the 2010 Warren County Youth Fair. Plans are now underway to expand the event substantially and rename it the Warren County Rural Heritage Festival and Youth Fair — through a joint effort between Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Warren County Historical Society.
The Warren County Youth Fair, for years diminished in attendance and scope, is likely to reclaim some of its former glory by this summer.
Under a new partnership between Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program and the Warren County Historical Society, plans are now moving ahead for a far larger festival than in recent history.
In line with the planned expansion, the event — set for Saturday Aug. 11 — is to be re-titled as the Warren County Rural Heritage Festival & Youth Fair.
The expanded fair is to not only include the annual youth fair talent show, horse show and youth produce and craft competitions, but a variety of exhibits, demonstrations and vendors relating to the traditions of work and play in Warren County’s bygone years.
Already lined up for the Heritage & Youth Fair are exhibits by the Washington Co. Fairground Museum, the Chapman Museum of Glens Falls, and demonstrations by the Merry Mohicans Squaredance Club and the Allies of Ongonquit.
While the Fairground Museum will be welcoming people to operate old corn-grinding apparatus and butter churns, the Chapman will be demonstrating Victorian games and toys.
This first-time-ever partnership between Cooperative Extension and another organization to sponsor the event could double attendance and lead toward long-term revitalization of the county fair, Extension agent John Bowe said April 23.
“With many new exhibitors and vendors and the added theme of local history, we’ll be offering an experience that’s fun and educational, while continuing to be very affordable,” he said.
Plans also are underway for the fair to offer tethered horse rides, and living-history demonstrations of early Native American culture by the Allies 0f Ongonquit re-enactors.
Also booked for the fair are the North Country Toastmasters Club with its members offering tall tales, and square dancing demonstrations and instruction — with all welcome to participate — by the Merry Mohicans club.
Wool shearing and spinning demonstrations are also planned — as is a seminar on raising chickens, to be offered by Nemec’s Farm & Garden.
Bowe added that animals may also be on exhibit. Of course, the various contests and games of prior years, like the annual pie-eating contest, will also be featured.
Plans also are underway to include farmers’ markets as well as antiques dealers, who will be encouraged to explain their artifacts and life in the olden days.
A short presentation on the 2012 Heritage Festival and Youth Fair was presented to the Warren County Board of Supervisors at their April 20 meeting by members of the Warren County Historical Society, and the concept was well received.
Also featured at the 2012 fair will be a croquet tournament sponsored by the Warrensburgh Historical Society — and all county Supervisors were challenged, at the April 20 meeting, to compete in the tournament.
Bowe said the historical society approached him in 2011, seeking information on holding a heritage festival on the county-owned fairgrounds last fall. Bowe said he advised them to partner with his agency to facilitate appropriate permits, and boost the prospects of both initiatives.
Bowe praised the historical society members for their efforts to date.
“They are working very hard, lining up vendors, demonstrators and educators,” he said
Bowe added that such a partnership could bring the Warren County Youth Fair back to its glory days. In the 1980s, it was a two-day event featuring carnival rides, a midway, pony pull events, adult woodsmen’s competitions, and entertainment by prominent regional rock and country music bands.
In those years, attendance could be as high as 10,000 over the weekend. In recent years, the event — now free of charge — has drawn merely 300 to 500 people total.
Bowe said April 23 that this new partnership might blossom into a resumed effort to establish a county fair association to manage and operate the fair.
For two years, talk has surfaced of privatizing the fair administration, but such efforts have stalled.
Bowe added that Warren County’s plans to sell the fairgrounds to developer Richard Emerson of Warrensburg might benefit the fair’s revival — although others have been wary of the move. Bowe said that Emerson would likely lend his expertise in marketing to promote the fair, as well as upgrading the buildings, which have deteriorated in recent years. Emerson has stated he intends to use the fairgrounds, which includes 25 acres and nine buildings - including barns and animal stalls - for staging events.