Pared down Rochester Country Fair still draws crowds

Aug 11, 2019

ROCHESTER — There were not wrestlers, livestock categories or magicians at Rochester’s 20th Country Fair on Aug. 11, but fairgoers still ate, watched entertainment and interacted with a variety of businesses and community organizations. 

Many of the activities, and the Fair’s Thursday and Friday events were cancelled because Rochester is at critical risk for Eastern Equine Encephailitis, a mosquito-bourne viral illness that caused Rochester to cancel all evening activities on their property (which include the fairgrounds). 

Though some of the Thursday and Friday events were scheduled before dusk, it was too few to make the fair feasible on those nights. “You can’t start at 4 and end at 6,” said Andy Harding, who serves on the Fair’s Board of Directors. 

Harding thought spectators, “can’t call it a fair, because there are no animals,” but did note that the food court still did well. 

Captain Bonney’s had a booth at the fair, but also volunteered to run an ice cream eating contest. Participants formed a little arena to watch 14 contestants in two categories (youth and teen/adult) down a pint of ice cream, some eating so fast they ripped the pint. 

The winner of the older age group got $100, with gift certificates or t-shirts for the kids that participated. 

For community organizations, the event was a chance for outreach. The Rochester Historical Society showed fairgoers a map that one of their members had recently put together showing the location of the 11 schools that existed in Rochester in 1903. 

The Historical Society and Rochester Land Trust jointly hosted a photography contest, picking the winners at 1 p.m. In the youth category Ariana Lachance, 17, won for her photo of a larger horse jumping over a smaller one to avoid a collision. The adult competition yielded a tie between Travers Charron’s photo of East Over Farm and Amanda Colwell’s photo of a songbird in Lionburger Woods.  

Rochester Affordable Housing, Inc was at the fair to let people know who they were, and their mission (to create more affordable housing for seniors). They also wanted to poll people about their experience with housing. The new nonprofit is accepting land and monetary donations, and considering a wide variety of options for those donations. They have discussed accepting land and partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build on it.

Norene Hartley said that the group’s beginning reminded her of her efforts to start the Rochester Land Trust, since both were unfocused at first. But a conference she recently attended offers new hope for farmhouses, or “the same kind of architecture that would have been built forever ago, giving creative landlords the chance to split them into as many as six or seven units. 

The fair also offered a variety of entertainment for kids. Two face painters offered their services, with unicorns winning out as the most popular request for both Kool Kats, which offered glittery temporary art, and another vendor who offered colorful half-face or full-face designs. Skulls were popular for boys at Kool Kats, though the artist noted both genders went for the glitter. 

After working “second shift” to help park cars, Rochester Boy Scout Chris Topulos took some time to jump on a small trampoline while rigged into a bungee cord harness that enabled jumpers to go extra high. 

“I’m now a kangaroo,” he said at one point, also exclaiming that “I can see the whole fair from here!”