Fair play: Vermont State Fair returns for 165th season

[Originally published in the Rutland Herald on 9/2/10] Around this time of year, there’s a familiar chill in the air when the sun goes down. Even this week, with temperatures creeping into the 90s, the nights quickly cooled, reminding us that summer is on its way out.

“Fair weather,” the old timers call it, a telltale sign that the fair is around the corner.

Sure enough, the Vermont State Fair returns to Rutland this Friday for its 165th year.

Hitting the midway is a Rutland tradition, if only for the people watching. While everyone has their own routine, some landmarks, like Roxie’s fries, a sausage from the MSJ booth and maple creemees are required eating.

Along the way, you can check out the animals – big, small and even exotic – try your luck at a game and, if we’re daring, hop on a ride or two.

But according to Fair President and Manager Richard Rivers, that’s not even the half of it.

This year, fair attendees will get “more bang for their buck.” Rivers boasts that there will be “more free entertainment than any other fair in the Northeast.”

Indeed, from country rock to comical clowns – and even a singing pig or two – the Vermont State Fair once again offers something for everyone.

Rivers noted that despite the down economy, fairs have overall been doing well. “It’s affordable, and right now, that’s a big draw,” he said.

One way attendees will get “more” is through a number of deals on admission and rides.

Frequent fliers can get a season passes. For those looking for a shorter stay, Monday offers free admission; Tuesday is “Dollar Day”; and Wednesday is “Family Day,” which means that all rides are included in the price of admission.

Of note this year is the grandstand entertainment, which features something every night.

In addition to three nights of the ever-popular Stoney Roberts Demolition Derby and an afternoon of harness racing, the grandstand will also play host to a number of musicians and performers, including southern rock stalwarts Molly Hatchet on Saturday, country darling Wynona Judd on Monday and 1980s pop-rocker Rick Springfield on Wednesday.

However, Rivers said that it’s old-school country crooner Charlie Pride who’s been the strongest selling act so far. Pride will perform at the grandstand on Sept. 11.

Just past the grandstand, the fair’s agricultural exhibits will be in full swing. While Rivers noted that, as with other fairs, the agricultural component has been on the decline, there are some definite bright spots.

“The cattle department has been growing,” he said. “This year, there will be 350 head there.”

Another point of interest is the milking parlor, which is “still up and running” – an increasingly rare site at today’s fairs.

Rivers also made note of the number of 4-H events, horse shows and the always-busy Maple Barn – home to the aforementioned creemees.

He expects this year’s fair to attract approximately 100,000 people over its 10-day run, which will put it on par with previous years.

For Rivers, who’s marking his 10th year with the Vermont State Fair, each year is both exciting and familiar – a Vermont tradition that he is pleased to be a part of.

“It the last hurrah of the season,” Rivers said.

The Vermont State Fair opens at the Rutland Fairgrounds at 5 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday, Sept. 12. For more information and a complete schedule, visit www.vermontstatefair.net.

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