Rochester Country Fair pulls through despite cancellations

Aug 10, 2019

ROCHESTER — The Rochester Country Fair persevered on Saturday, Aug. 10 with a tractor pulling contest, craft vendors, and entertainment, despite many cancellations due to the risk of EEE.

The Rochester Board of Health notified fair organizers on Monday afternoon of a dusk to dawn curfew due to the “high risk” of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a mosquito-bourne virus that causes brain inflammation. Fair organizers then decided to cancel all events on Thursday and Friday. Hours for Saturday and Sunday were cut down to 9 am. to 6 p.m., instead of going until 10 p.m.

Livestock and petting zoo attractions also had to be cut because no one would be available to watch the animals overnight due to the EEE risk. 

Kelly Morgado, of the fair’s Board of Directors, said that with the reduced schedule, organizers canceled “all entertainment that had a financial impact on the fair.”

Without big draws like professional wrestling from Top Rope Promotions, and nighttime concerts, fair organizers decided that they would not charge admission this year. The fair usually charges $5 per person. That money typically goes toward the next year’s fair, as the town does not fund any of the festivities. 

Morgado said that organizers had raised about $30,000 by January, and would likely have around the same amount of money at the end of this year’s fair. In total, the fair usually costs about $50,000 to $60,000. Organizers will have to compensate for the lack of admission sales with fundraisers and donations for the 2020 fair.

Organizer Howard Plaud added that “it takes a village to run a fair,” as the annual event is put on entirely by volunteers.

Crowds still gathered to watch Saturday’s Antique Tractor Pull. Competitors used their tractors to pull a weighted sled across a dirt path.The weight of the sled was adjusted by class, with different categories based on the weight of the tractors being used. The goal of the competition was to see which driver could pull the weight the farthest on a 200 foot path. 

If more than one competitor in a class completed the whole path, more weight was added to the sled for a tie breaking “pull off.”

As tractor engines roared in the background, local vendors showcased their homemade crafts.

Linda Perry, and Joelyn Moniz showed off a collection of signs, pillows, and other household items. The two artisans started their business earlier this year, and don’t yet have a name for it. Perry also works for Pelletier Realty, and said that she often uses her products for home staging

Colleen Keegan of Home in History showcased products she made through the use of “dying arts” such as knitting and sewing. Some of her handmade work is based on various historical periods, others are completely of her own design.

Keegan said that she also offers school programs where she teaches her crafts to children. She that a lot of kids see things in stores, and have no idea where they came from. She refers to he practices as dying arts, because they have become much less common due to the popularity of mass-produced products.

Saturday’s fair also included a play area for kids, food, and music played by The Strangers and Kendra & Jake.

Events and attractions for Sunday, Aug. 11 will include more tractor pulls, an ice cream eating contest, and a horseshoe tournament.