CHATHAM — The 178th annual Columbia County Fair was the definition of a packed house Saturday. People from all over — not just Columbia County but New England and beyond as well — made it to the fair this weekend.
Kathy and Steve Zdon, of Windsor, Massachussets, were among them. The Zdons brought their two granddaughters — Hannah, 6, and Haley, 4 — to have a true fair experience.
“We like this fair,” said Kathy Zdon. “This is a real country fair.”
Their granddaughters, Hannah and Haley, enjoyed many aspects of the fair.
“I liked seeing the bunnies,” said Hannah with a giggle.
Hannah and her sister both learned how to make yarn out of wool while touring the Heritage Center. The girls loved playing with their yarn creations, and when asked about what their favorite part of the fair was, Haley just held up her yarn with a smile.
These are some of the many faces that graced the fair Saturday, where there was a wide variety of events. One of the attractions was the 68th annual Firefighter Parade, which passes through the fairgrounds each year for guests to enjoy. Fire departments from all over the county and surrounding areas participated in the parade.
The festivities began with a police escort from the Columbia Sheriff’s Department and the Chatham Police Department.
The Chatham Volunteer Fire Department was the lead group to step off for the parade, and there were over 45 participating groups, including all the fire trucks and vehicles, marching bands, and horses from the Cowgirl Up Ranch, in Canaan, New York.
Participating fire companies and organizations included East Chatham, Delmar, Valatie, Germantown, Columbia Haz Mat, Churchtown, Copake, Kinderhook, Niverville, Craryville, State Police, Spencertown, North Chatham, Goshen, Mellenville, West Ghent, Stuyvesant Falls, Canaan, Philmont, Milan, Stockport, Ancram, Nassau, Clermont, Greenport, Ghent, Red Rock, Tri-Village, Hillsdale, Stottville, Lebanon Valley, Pine Plains and others.
“It’s a tradition,” said John Roberts from the Churchtown Fire Department. “Parading is part of firematic service.”
Roberts has been a member of the department for 46 years. He joined when he was 18 because he had a lot of family in the department — his grandfather was a founding member of the charter, Roberts said. He added that he plans to remain a member as long as possible.
“It’s been so long, I can’t walk away from it,” Roberts said.
In addition to the parade, some of the Saturday attractions included an oxen demonstration, the hot dot pig race, the show ring, petting zoo, a musical performance by Allen & Azzaam, a ventriloquist, a mentalist, and a hypnosis show. The fair also hosted a “Monster Tractor Pull” starting at 4 pm. According to the Columbia County Fair website, www.columbiafair.com, the monster tractor pull is one of the heaviest motorsports in the world.
The fair drew longtime fans and newcomers alike. One couple is working on preserving the faces of the guests by creating a large photo album of them all. Jamie and Laura Hankin, of Kinderhook, are a local couple who has been working on a campaign to benefit the Columbia County Fair, the Columbia County 4-H and the Hudson Valley Young Farmers Coalition. It is called “Faces at the Fair” — a collection of photos of attendees, staff, vendors and anyone who has taken part in the fair.
“This has been a bit of a bucket list project,” said Jamie Hankin. “We have been coming here for a long time and wanted to do something with the fair.”
Jamie Hankin is a commercial photographer whose favorite subject to work with is people.
“It’s not a money thing, I talked with the fair board about it and I just wanted to take pictures of people.” Jamie said,
Starting in 2011, Jamie and Laura Hankin have attended every fair, except for 2016 due to health issues, and have taken photos of the people at the fair.
“We probably average 250 photos a day,” said Jamie, “We have taken thousands of photos.”
Some of the photos can be seen in the advertising used for the Columbia County Fair, as well as an article in the Columbia County Fair guide, and in a book that they have printed with a variety of images they have taken. The long-term goal is to have published books, with the money raised from book sales going to benefit the fair, the Columbia County 4-H and the Hudson Valley Young Farmers Coalition.
“It’s not a money thing, it’s about sharing a photo.” said Jamie.
Jamie and Laura have a Kickstarter fundraising page online, www.kickstarter.com/projects/275167363/faces-at-the-fair-0, if you are interested in learning more about this project.