All’s fair in New Paltz

County fairs seem like a throwback to another time. And of course, they are.

The origins of the Ulster County Fair go all the way back to 1869, to a small fair with horse racing and agricultural exhibits that was held in Ellenville. With the success of subsequent fairs, the Southern Ulster Agricultural Society formed in 1886 to organize the first official Ulster County Fair that September.

The fair became a great success as the years went by, drawing even more crowds when the first passenger train from Ellenville to Kingston in 1902 made the distance of 27 miles an easy journey. The succeeding years brought all the advancements of each era — even car races in the 1920s — but in 2013, what place does a county fair hold for people in a world increasingly glued, heads down, to their electronic devices?

Perhaps with the Hudson Valley region’s growing appreciation in recent years for farm-to-table dining in its best restaurants and an emphasis on supporting locally-produced food, no time is better than now to unplug and reconnect with the rural past of our area at a county fair.

The Ulster County Fair will be held once again this summer at its home since 1967, the Ulster County Fairgrounds at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz. The gates open Tuesday, July 30 at 4 p.m. with “carload” pricing — $40 per car. The rest of the week, Wednesday, July 31 through Sunday, August 4, the gates open at 10 a.m. and admission is $15 for kids and adults, with tickets including free parking, all the entertainment and unlimited rides on the mid-way attractions. Thursday, August 1, seniors are admitted free before 4 p.m. The fair will stay open until 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, until midnight Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

There’s a lot to do — pig racing, rabbit judging, jugglers, a draft horse show, wool spinning and weaving demos, tractor competitions, cattle showmanship and judging, dog drills, a livestock auction, fireworks, a sheriff’s K-9 demo and much more — for schedules of activities on specific days, visit the fair’s website at https://www.ulstercountyfair.com.

The price of admission includes live music by the Rivers Edge Band (Tuesday, July 30, 7 p.m.), Easton Corbin (Wednesday, July 31, 8 p.m.), Joe Diffie (Thursday, August 1, 8 p.m.), Cook and Belle (Friday, August 2, two shows 4 and 8 p.m.), The Lost Trailers (Saturday, August 3, two shows 4 and 8 p.m.) and Jason Michael Carroll (Sunday, August 4, 5:30 p.m.).

Ulster County Fair, Tuesday, July 30 (4–10 p.m.), Wednesday, July 31 and Thursday, August 1 (10 a.m.–10 p.m.), Friday and Saturday, August 2 and 3 (10 a.m.–midnight) and Sunday, August 4 (10 a.m.–8 p.m.), $15 adults/children Wednesday–Sunday (Tuesday $40 a carload, seniors free Thursdays before 4 p.m.), free parking, Ulster County Fairgrounds, 249 Libertyville Road, New Paltz; (845) 255-1380, https://www.ulstercountyfair.com.

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