Altamont Fair 2018: A sludgy shindig

— Photo from Russell Pokorny

A bird’s eye view on Sunday afternoon: The weather took its toll on the 2018 Altamont Fair. Rain caused the parking lots to be mostly unusable on Saturday and Sunday, while attendance was down significantly from last year.

ALTAMONT — Record-breaking rain, nay, mud, has not dampened the optimism of the Altamont Fair organizers. “We’re like farmers; the next year is going to be better,” said Pat Canaday, the fair’s treasurer. “Maybe it’s our agricultural roots.”

The tri-county fair, which ran from Tuesday, Aug. 14, through Sunday, Aug. 19, endured the whims of Mother Nature.

Sister fairs, Canaday said, like the Ulster County Fair, suffered from some of the same harsh weather. The fairs in Saratoga and Schoharie counties had to deal with weather-related issues as well; a fair in Pennsylvania had to close because a nearby creek had overflowed its banks, Canaday said.

The rain and high humidity affected the Altamont Fair’s attendance, Canaday said, estimating it was down about 20 percent from last year, when 75,000 to 90,000 people attended.  

Two storms on Friday, Aug. 17, rendered the fair’s parking lots unusable for Saturday and Sunday. “We heard from many of our old-timers, ‘I’ve never seen a year where all of the parking lots were flooded,’” she said.

Organizers scrambled for a solution, and quickly were able to secure buses from nearby school districts, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and Berne-Knox-Westerlo, and the parking lot of Guilderland High School for visitors.

“We were very pleased and thankful — with true gratitude,” Canaday said of the local school districts and their willingness to step in at the last minute with so much help.

The school buses ferried fair-goers from the paved high school parking lot in Guilderland Center to and from the fairgrounds, which has grass parking lots.

Still, there were those who disregarded the warnings. “We had law enforcement trying to keep people out because it was clearly just not suitable,” Canaday said.

Those who didn’t heed warnings ran of the risk of getting their vehicles stuck in the mud.

“We managed to get most of them out ourselves with our own equipment and own staff,” Canaday said of stuck vehicles. “But there were several that were just pretty buried.” For those vehicles, a tow truck had to be called.

Canaday said that she has heard from many people who had a great time at the fair. A revamped circus, she said, drew large crowds as did the Axe Women of Maine. “People seemed to really enjoy it,” Canday said of the Axe Women, “and, of course, everybody loves the Hollywood Racing Pigs.”

The pie-eating contest, she said, was a crowd favorite; a wine tasting was also a big hit.

In spite of the weather, Canaday said, she and the other fair organizers were buoyed by all of the positive comments from fair-goers, and want to thank all of the new and returning vendors as well as the hundreds of volunteers who donated countless hours.

Asked her final thoughts, Canaday said, “We were humbled by the weather and now we’ll go back and refine our weather procedures, and will be bigger and better next year.”

More Guilderland News

  • “We have to be a model for our kids to deal with adversity in positive ways. That’s one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids,” said Altamont Elementary School Principal Peter Brabant who is optimistically running a school where two classes and a handful of teachers had to be quarantined.

  • A group of citizens dedicated to supporting the historic Schoolcraft House has disbanded but Guilderland’s supervisor says the town will continue to support the house and the town’s historian says, “The potential is there.”

  • Guilderland library trustees voted unanimously to reopen the library — as coronavirus restrictions allow — while construction is underway for an $8 million upgrade. The director will present a reopening plan at the board’s next meeting, on Sept. 17.

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