by Alexandra Muto and Terry Duffy
The Niagara County Fair has always had a progressive approach to entertaining fairgoers.
But this annual event, which opens Wednesday, Aug. 3, for a five-day run on the fairgrounds in Lockport, also differs from others, says Linda Conlin of the Niagara County Fair Committee.
It is not a "commercial fair," she says, but instead extends the mission of its promoting organization - Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County - to better the community by furthering environmental, local and health research and education. According to Conlin, these help influence the fair's own mission of providing a "family affair where everything is family appropriate and enjoyable for all."
The fair's entertainment offerings include traditional favorites, such as rides, food, fireworks and games, but also "eclectic" ones that appeal to Niagara County residents, Conlin says.
This year's edition runs Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And there's some "big changes" in store for visitors at the Niagara County Fair this year, Conlin says.
Notable is a change in the layout of vendors, offering fairgoers a more organized experience. In an attempt to make all offerings more visible, the Niagara County Fair plans to organize food concessions into a single location, called a "Food Alley."
Speaking of foods, fairgoers can begin their experience Wednesday by energizing on a hearty breakfast. The Farm City Breakfast opens the day at 8 a.m. where diners can enjoy a buffet-style breakfast for $7 per person. The fair breakfast also serves an "environmentally-friendly (purpose) starting this year," Conlin says. Guest speaker Dawn Tim of the Niagara County Environmental Management Council will be on hand that morning to address diners on the merits of "going green, reusing and recycling."
Diners at the breakfast and in the fair's Food Alley all five days will use recyclable plates and utensils, Conlin reports, and organizers hope to encourage fairgoers to "go green" by providing on-site recycling on the fair grounds. Collection proceeds from the "go green" campaign will benefit local 4-H Club youth programs.
A variety of food tents, stands and specials can be found at this year's fair. In the food arena the 4-H Club will serve root beer floats, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sundaes, hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian sausage, roast beef sandwiches, nachos and cheese, tacos, and potato chips at a milk bar. 4-H members will also sell freshly baked Hall's Apple Farm pies from the 4-H Training Center.
Barbecue lovers can enjoy a chicken barbecue at noon Thursday until sold out. Prepared by area chefs - Dennis Smith, Matt Costello and Julie and Leon Thompson - dinners will be available for $8.
Those hoping for a classic fair diet for a week will be more than satisfied.
How about a mix of entertainment? As part of the new layout, fair diners this year will be able to enjoy shows on a "portable entertainment space" provided by the City of Lockport in the middle of the Food Alley. A detailed visual layout is available on the Cornell Cooperative Extension's website, www.cceniagaracounty.org. The food and entertainment juxtaposition will likely please visitors.
But performances are not limited to the Food Alley stage. Also found on the grounds will be Niagara County favorites offering tried and true entertainment for the whole family. Included are the Niagara Frontier Fiddle Club on Wednesday at 2 p.m., the Lockport Community Band on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., the Niagara Experience Players on Thursday at 4 p.m., and the Hot Country Liners on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.
Festivalgoers can also enjoy new performers, such as magician Rob Allen on Wednesday at 8 p.m., Nels Ross, a comedian performing his act titled "In-Jest" on Friday at 8:30 p.m., and musical groups the North Coast Band on Sunday at 2 p.m. and Turbulence on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
In addition, a number of contests and events of interest will be offered. Included are an antique tractor show beginning with a parade on Wednesday at 7 p.m., an amateur winemakers' contest on Friday, a meat auction on Friday at 6:15 p.m., and a traditional arts and crafts show on Saturday and Sunday.
And what of the fair's "eclectic activities"?
•Farm and animal lovers will find a new "Rooster Crowing Contest" intriguing.
•New for devoted bookworms, a "bring a book and take a book" program allows visitors to bring up to 10 books and exchange them. The book program will take place between noon and 6 p.m. during the fair each day.
•A non-denominational church service by Living Waters Church of Newfane will be offered Sunday at 8 a.m., and gospel singer Sharifah will perform on that day at 3 p.m.
•For car and NASCAR aficionados, famous NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s official race car will be on display Saturday and Sunday.
•Youths can partake in the fair's new "Hot Shot" basketball tournament daily from noon to 8 p.m., where contestants will compete for the most hoops in a short period of time. Visitors can expect to boost their adrenaline at the fair.
•And fairgoers will be able to check out MercyFlight, which will be on the grounds on Saturday.
•Carol Stream Rides and Amusements has relocated to the former west parking area adjacent to Lake Avenue in Lockport. Free parking will be available Aug. 3-7 on the east side of the fairgrounds after entering the North Gate.
•Fair admission is $2 per person and a discounted $8 weekly admission is now on sale through Aug. 2. Military personnel are provided four free passes on Saturday (with identification) in gratitude for their service. Special prices for rides include an all-day price of $15 on Wednesday and Thursday, and $20 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Despite minor changes, the fair promises to be as popular as in the past. According to the Niagara County Fair website, organizers are predicting record crowds this year. Conlin noted, "It is still the bargain of the century to get a whole day of entertainment for two bucks. You can't beat that price!"
More details about events not mentioned, such as locations on site, can be found at www.cceniagaracounty.org, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County's website.
Wednesday, Aug. 3
'Go Green/Wear Green Day'
Thursday, Aug. 4
Friday, Aug. 5
Saturday, Aug. 6
Sunday, Aug. 7
Schedule provided by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County.