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2005 Altamont Fair Preview — The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2005

Old-timers honored, too

By Nicole Fay Barr

Orloff Bear vividly remembers his first trip to the Altamont Fair. It was 1923 and he was five years old.

His grandfather, who showed cattle, put six of the family’s best livestock on a train in Coxsackie.

Bear and his father, who lived in Greenville, then rode to Altamont in his father’s Model-T Ford. They met Bear’s grandfather on the edge of the fairgrounds, where the cattle were unloaded from the train.

Many other families came to the fair by horse and buggy. The fair serves three counties — Albany, Schenectady, and Greene. They’d park in the infield and spread out picnic lunches.

After viewing the many farm animals on exhibit, children would ride a Ferris wheel or pitch baseballs at milk bottles for prizes.
Bear, now 86, and his wife, Jeanne, laughed as they told The Enterprise of their memories of the Altamont Fair. Married for 60 years, they have attended the fair each year and their grandchildren now show cattle there.

"It gets in your blood and you can’t get it out," Bear said of the fair.

To honor their commitment to the yearly event, the fair’s board of directors presented the Bears this week with a "gold pass." As the Bears had planned to camp on the fairgrounds for most of fair week, they can now attend the fair for free, for the rest of their lives.

Cattle family

Orloff Bear has lived in Greenville his entire life. He was born in Sunny Hill, the same place as his mother and grandfather, about 30 miles south of Altamont.

"This place was a lot different then," Bear said of pastoral Greenville. "It used to be a real rural community."

Jeanne Bear was raised in Hartford, Conn. She came to this area to teach art and met her future husband.

The couple has lived in the same white farmhouse for most of their marriage. The 47 acres that stretches behind it is still used by their grandchildren for cattle, horses, and other animals.

This week, Bear recalled his years of showing cattle at the Altamont Fair.

"The fair was more agricultural than today," Bear said. "And they showed cattle in different respects. They showed bulls in those days...Each exhibitor would have a bull with his cows."

Every bull had a ring through its nose and, by sticking a long stick sideways through the ring, the exhibitor would lead his bull around, Bear said.

"At the time, we used to have a cattle parade. That was a big thing," Bear said. "Fellas would lead bulls all the way around the race track."

When Bear was a child, his grandfather let him lead his bulls in the parade.

At the fair, judges looked for "confirmation of the animal" and specific breed characteristics, Jeanne Bear said.

Years ago, cattle were kept in the fair’s current poultry building, Orloff Bear said. (The fair has a brand-new cattle barn this year.)

"We also had milking contests then," Bear said. "They’d weigh the milk and take the butter content of the milk to find whose cow was the best cow. My grandfather won a trophy for that one year."

To prepare to show cattle, contestants would polish the horns and hoofs of their animals, he said.

"Those days we never washed or clipped a cow," Bear said. "We put a blanket on them at night and we’d brush them to clean them."

Before the fair, the cattle would also have to be taught to be led.

"That was a big problem sometimes," Bear said, laughing.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Bear showed his first cow in 1932, when he was 14.

In the late ’30’s and ’40’s, Bear went to the fair, "just as a spectator," he said. He also traveled to fairs around the country with his family, showing horses and cows.

In the 1960’s and ’70’s, Bear got serious about exhibiting cattle. He also showed goats, sheep, and ponies.

His two sons and daughter also got involved and, today, some of his grandchildren show beef cattle.

"It’s in their blood," Jeanne Bear said.

For over 30 years, Orloff Bear was also the night superintendent of the fair’s cattle barn.

In the 1960’s, Bear was involved with harness racing at the fair. Men would fasten carts to their horses or ponies and race each other around a track. Spectators would watch, but not bet on the races, Bear said.

To train their ponies, the Bears made a small race track in their backyard, Jeanne Bear said.

"We ended up racing all over the country," Orloff Bear said.

"We took some long trips with those ponies," Jeanne Bear said. "We would put six or seven ponies in a pickup truck with high sides. Then our oldest son and Orlie would race them."

Today, the Bears’ grandsons are also involved in racing, at Saratoga.

"Our family is funny like that," Orloff Bear said. "Our family loved to show animals and their children do, too."

Dedicated woman

Jeanne Bear has been just as involved with the Altamont Fair as her husband. In 1945, she started a 4-H club, called the Greenville Gremlins. It was the first year that Greene County 4-H members were allowed to exhibit at the Altamont Fair.

"That year, I took my beginning girls’ sewing work," Bear said.

"She’s had an exhibit there every year for 60 years," her husband said.

"I’m going to take clothing items this year," Jeanne Bear said. Her club also enters the cooking and baking contests, she said.
In the couple’s living room, an entire wall is dedicated to plaques and trophies they have won from fairs or 4-H accomplishments.

One of the awards is from the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, congratulating Jeanne Bear for her "long period of service" with her 4-H club. That award is from 1966.

In the middle of the wall is a green-and-white stitched sign that reads, Greenville Gremlins.

As her husband took care of their many animals, Jeanne Bear taught art at the Greenville School District. She later served as town councilwoman for 12 years and town clerk for 28 years.

As she ran the clerk’s office out of her basement, the Bears also ran a small feed store there.

"But," Jeanne Bear said, "it’s being 4-H leader for 60 years that’s really been my accomplishment."

She went on, "You have no idea the women that get in touch with me and say, ‘Thanks for teaching me to use a sewing machine.’"

Fair memories

The Altamont Fair has changed a lot since Orloff Bear began attending, he said.

In the early 1920’s, Bear said, machinery dealers would have their equipment pulled to the fair by horses. It was not until the 1940’s, he said, that tractors were used.

Automobiles weren’t scarce at the fair, though, as auto racing was a big exhibit, he said.

Food sold at the fair consisted of hot dogs, peanuts, and popcorn, Bear said.

"No hamburgers," his wife said.

"Hot dogs were a dime and peanuts were a nickel," Bear said. "The only soda they had was orange and root beer in glass bottles."

In the flower building, women would sell cakes, pies, bread, jam, and canned goods, Bear said.

"When I was a kid, a guy said to me that he could smell the peanuts and popcorn at the fair," Bear said, laughing. "We were 10 miles away."

Bear’s family, and many others, used to bring their own food to the fair.

"We’d always have a picnic," he said. "My grandmother and mother would bring chicken or cream-cheese-and-olive sandwiches."

"Or egg salad and tuna fish," his wife said.

In the 1920’s, the fair’s midway had a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel, and swings.

"That’s it for rides," Bear said.

For games, he said, "we’d have places were you could throw baseballs at bottles or chuck pennies."

He added, "The fair today is a lot more commercial."

For a lot of money, a man with a camera would take photographs of men at the fair, with their animals.

"We didn’t have cameras like we have today," Bear said. "We had a guy with a tripod who’d put a cover over his head and snap a picture of you. That was expensive, though."

Still, by far, Bear’s favorite part of the Altamont Fair has always been its agricultural exhibits, he said. Although not as many animals are exhibited today as were years ago, Bear still loves every minute of the fair.

"The Altamont Fair has just been a big part of my life," he said.

The Next Generation: Young female farmers find a place at fair

By Holly Grosch

ALTAMONT FAIR — A new generation of farmers has entered livestock and is running the show barns at the tri-county fair.

A number of the stereotypical grandpa farmers in overalls have retired and the next generation of 20-something female farmers have stepped into the ring.

The belief that small farms are dying is challenged at this year’s Altamont Fair.

The fair, many participants say, continues each year to serve as a medium for fostering youth interest in agriculture, passing a trade on to the next generation.

Udder satisfaction

Jennifer Preska, 27, has run her own farm in Delmar since 2000 and now owns 140 dairy cows.

She sat in the newly-built enormous cattle barn at the fairgrounds in a fold-out camping chair, with baby-blue sunglasses resting on her head. She wore jeans at her hip, a striped maroon polo shirt, pink nail polish and work boots.

Preska wakes up on her Duncreek Farm at 4 a.m. each morning to feed and milk her cows and then heads out to do field work in the sunlight.

You get one cow to start, she said, "Then you don’t want to sell the first one and it’s a vicious cycle."

Dairy farmers do tend to get more attached to their cows than beef farmers allow themselves to, she told The Enterprise.

Preska is a fourth-generation farmer, but her parents had raised primarily hay and horses, she said. She got her first show calf at age 10, and now, she said of raising cattle, "It’s all I do."

It is a viable living, she said, especially since the prices for milk have gone up over the last couple of years.

Preska is part of the co-op Dairy Farmers of America, and her milk goes to Crowley.

In the "Agriculture Today" exhibit, next to the fair’s Circus Building, a three-sided poster display from the New York Agricultural Statistics Service shows the decrease of dairy cows in the state.

In 1910, there were 1.5 million dairy cows in New York. In 1960, there were 1.4 million; in 1970, there were 954,000; in 2000, there were 700,000; and in 2004, there were 658,000.

"It’s a hard business to get into because of the equipment — it is expensive to start," Preska said.

Over the last 20 years, she has had cows, but, when she took over the family farm in 2000, she built new facilities on the land, she said.

Duncreek Farm doesn’t have any employees, Preska said, but her parents do help out every once in a while. Both her parents hold regular full-time jobs during the day.

Her father, Charles Preska, said something is wrong with the way things work in America when a bottle of water cost more than a bottle of milk.

"What’s a water bottler got invested in it"" he asked; a bottler has to run some water through a filter, he said.

Jennifer Preska pointed to the bovines resting on the wood shavings in front of her and said, "I bred their mamas...I’ve got great-great granddaughters of my first cow."

She has a lot invested in her cows; they are the toil of her work and decisions. She has decided which cow to mate with which bull, to achieve certain characteristics in her current stock.

There’s a model for the Holstein breed, she said. The judges are looking for the "ideal cow," Preska said, which, when extremely simplified, means the biggest, nicest, prettiest cow.

Holsteins are the most easily recognized cows because of their black and white spots; they are frequently used to illustrate children’s books, and cheese commercials.

The cows are ranked at the fair based on appearance. The judges consider body structure, milk production, and breeding capability, Preska said.

Preska brought nine of her cows to show at the fair this year. She chose the tallest from her herd, and they have the nicest udders, she said.

Coming to the fair each year is only sort of a vacation, Preska said. She enjoys hanging out with other dairy farmers, but then she also does double duty and returns home to her farm twice a day to do the usual chores.

Good eggs

Dr. Richard Langenbach was the "guru" of chickens, he was an "Icon" at the fair, said Erica Marzak, of Greenwhich.

Long-time poultry superintendent Langenbach died this past April; he was a mentor to 27-year-old Marczak. She decided to become the assistant superintendent for the poultry this year to follow in his footsteps.

A picture of Langenbach is posted near the entrance of the barn.

Marczak said, just like Langenbach, she wants to be at the fair for 4-H students to answer their questions and guide them.

"I got my start here in agriculture," she said of the fair.

As a child, she said, "I didn’t have a farm, but I always wanted a farm."

She joined the 4-H and had a garden and some chickens.

It’s fairs like Altamont’s that get young people involved in agriculture, she said.

Marczak now works at Our Farm C.S.A. with a pasture free-range commercial flock of egg-laying hens.

She sells the eggs at the Troy Water Front Farmers Market.

While she could be making quicker money doing other things, Marczak said, "I’m making it my career."

She hopes to own her own chicken farm in the future. She added that, right now, there is a small surge in women chicken farmers.

Wearing a Northeastern Poultry Congress shirt, Marczak sat in a wooden chair, brushing the dirt off the feet and claws of a white and red feathered hen with a toothbrush.

The bird didn’t budge or make a fuss. When asked if it was normal for a chicken to be so cooperative, Marczak said that it just depends on how a person handles the bird. She said if this particular bird had been picked up 10 times before in its life, that would be a lot.

With the free-range style of egg production, Marczak once a week moves a mobile house where the hens lay their eggs to a new pasture.

It’s a very different approach to egg farming than the huge indoor poultry sheds where chicken are cooped in cages. "They never see the light of day," Marczak said, shaking her head.

While that approach might be more efficient, the hens Marczak works with are raised more humanely raised, she said.

"They scratch in the dirt...They’re chickens that act like chickens," she said.

Lately, her 150 hens have been laying 110 eggs, because of the heat, she said. Ideally, egg farms would like 90 percent of the hens to lay eggs daily, she said.

Since they are pastured chickens, although they are fenced in, a few of the hens do get out and hide their eggs, she said.

As she finished brushing away dirt with the toothbrush, Marczak held up her hen’s white talon — that’s something the judges will be looking for, she said.

An egg-laying hen’s feet should be bleached to white, Marczak said, rather than showing yellow pigment, because all the chicken’s energy should be going into producing eggs. Also, a hen’s irises can lesson in color, she said.

Then, as Marczak brushed the hen’s feathers back with her hand, she pointed out that an egg-laying hen is not supposed to have nice shiny feathers either, for the same reason.

Get your goat

Donna and Kristina Marohn, a mother and grown daughter, have been raising goats as a hobby for 14 years. They entered the adult Showmanship Competition at the Altamont Fair this year, competing against each other.

"It’s fun to enter all we can," said Donna Marohn, the mother.

"It sets an example and encourages the young children," said Kristina, who is in her 20’s. When young competitors can laugh at her for making a mistake, they don’t feel so bad or nervous themselves, she said.

The Marohns brought 13 goats to the fair this year, from their farm in Knox.

They drink the goats’ milk and Mrs. Marohn makes cheese. They also raise newborn calves on the goats milk, because it is easier to digest due to the smaller fat globules, Kristina Marohn said.

The judge of the showmanship ring, Robert Spitzer, said that he appreciates how the adults paid a lot of attention to their goats in the ring. He said older contestants tend to be become more lax with age.

Directly after the adult competition, teenagers entered the rings for the same sportsmanship category, only in their own age range.

Spitzer took them through the same rigors, having the contestants move their goats out of the line and then back again, switch goats with the person next to them, knowing thier goat’s strengths and weaknesses, place their goats to the best advantage — so their best features are pronounced and deficiencies are hidden.

One by one, the teens looked at the goat’s foot position before taking the chain leash of the neighboring goat. Then, after gaining control of the goat, they adjusted the legs accordingly, after which they coaxed the spine of the animal fingers by running their thumbs and fingers back and forth along the backbone.

Spitzer had the contestants spread throughout the ring, and then approached them, one by one, asking them a series of questions. He had them recite what they were being judged on and the point totals for each criteria.

If these teenagers had been listening just 10 minutes earlier, they would have heard Spitzer announce, at the end of the Adult Showmanship Competition that 40 percent of the total score is allotted for the goat’s appearance, 10 percent for the contestant’s appearance, and then 50 percent for the person’s ability to show and handle the goat.

Donna Marohn said that goat showman are expected to wear all white outfits because it give the appearance of cleanliness.

Spitzer also had each contestant point out parts of the goat’s body.

"Off by just a hair," said one contestant as he proceeded to point about an inch higher on the same rear bone.

He later said that it’s important for entrants to know the parts of the goat so, when a judge gives some criticism, the contestant knows what part he is talking about. They goat owner can factor that into his or her breeding decisions to help compensate for the weakness of the animal.

What made the difference between first and second place in the Teen Showmanship Competition was which goat was the best prepared, Spitzer announced after lining the animals up by rank.

Erin Myhre, 17, of Greenville won first place because her goat, Jo, had no hair between her hooves, Sptizer said, and her ears were well clipped. Myhre only had a few errors in maneuvering and knew the parts well, Spitzer said.

Myhre said she started showing goats at age seven with 4-H and Future Farmers of America. She especially enjoys clipping the goats, she said. She said she likes goats because of their strong personalities. Of her goat, Jo, Myhre said, "She’s a bottle baby, so she likes attention."

Altamont Fair: A Golden Treasure of fun

By Holly Grosch

ALTAMONT — The fair was bustling on opening day Tuesday with grandparents and their grandchildren. Another frequent sight was mothers accompanied by their toddlers.

One such tot, Nicholas Ashley, ran around in circle in the Agriculture Building until a fuzz ball of a chick caught his eye. He peered into the metal cage on tiptoes as he tried to reach out and touch the yellow newborn.

At the same time, a brother and sister team wandered through the one-foot-high maze that starts in the building and moves out into the corridor between museums.

Later, a talkative four-year-old blonde headed girl in pigtails strolled into the Circus Museum with a skip in her step. A gray-haired grandfather tagged along. The entrance to the museum has a statue of a male lion growling.

"You can pet it; he won’t bite," the girl said, giving permission to her elder as she reached out stoke the mane.

"You sure he won’t"" the relative said, playing along. The girl nodded definitively with all seriousness and her pigtail bobbed.

The fair, is an attraction for young children and the young at heart.

If fair visitors are up for watching daring stunts rather than pretend, The Star Family Circus is thier venue. The crowed cheered during the 2 p.m. show as José rode a motorcycle circling upside-down in a metal globe of a cage.

Treats for all

Ten-year-old Taylor Provost, was at the fair with her pony Golden Treasure. She calls him "Dunc," short for the nickname Duncan. They won a trophy on Tuesday for the walk, jog, and pleasure championship in the pony ring.

Provost said that being in shows is a lot of fun.

Taylor’s horse stays at her Aunt’s house, but she visits the pony regularly to feed him, replace fresh shavings, and water and brush his coat, she said. Also, she takes lessons, where she has learned how to direct a horse, how to ride properly, and the correct way to talk to a judge.

Provost’s friend, Abby Testo, who was in the same competition, said that, whenever the judge tells your horse to stay, it is up to the rider to keep the horse straight. Rather than allowing the horse to turn or movesideways, the rider must keep her mount in line. "I lost a lot of points because of that," Testo said.

Provost likes Western-style riding, where a contestant loses points if she bounces while riding, she said. She also likes Western because of the costume she gets to wear. She was dressed in black with a leopard-print vest, garnished with a silver oval-shaped cowboy belt buckle.

While Dunc can be bratty at times, Provost said, if she sticks her hand out, he’ll lick her instead of biting. Provost enjoys the bonding they share when she gives Dunc a treat such as carrot or a cookie.

Humans are lured with treats as well. Vendors at the fair sell smoothies, fried dough, lemonade, barbecued meats, hamburgers, taco bowels, and chicken and steak sandwiches.

The Country Store, in back of the Circus Building is filled to the brim with candies. Proprietor John Burk said that the old-fashioned candies are what is moving off the shelf. The most popular purchases on the first day of the fair were vanilla bulls eyes, the circular caramels with a cream center; Mary Janes; fire balls; and the old candy cigarettes renamed and labeled "candy sticks" to be politically correct, Burk said.

Blocks of fudge are stacked in cases with a wide variety of traditional and unusual flavors: maple, chocolate rum nut, butter mint, rocky road, watermelon raisin, pumpkin pie, and black forest, to list a few.

Besides the commercial food for sale, there is also a fair-sponsored Food Building that houses and displays all the wining entries in the baking contest.

The decorated cake sitting under a best-of-fair ribbon was created by Bonnie Draisey and depicts Harry Potter’s Hogwarts campus, with stone castle, a Quidditch field and rings, and Hagrid’s hut house.

Another eye-dazzling cake looked literally like a cooked 25-pound turkey. Decorator Eldeen Gifford craftily created the look of a butter plattered — perfectly browned turkey with the colors of the icing. She created stuffing out of frosting, too, and attached cakes pieces shaped like drums and thighs to the body.

One of the fluffiest, thickest-looking slices of bread on display was baked by Claire Barra. Her carrot banana bread, was put in the running for best in fair.


One senior citizen couple, Joan and Harry Croote, found shade under the grove of hardwood trees near the performance stage in the late afternoon. They said they come to the fair every year for the farming and the food.

When asked which exhibit they make to sure to hit each year, Harry Croote responded, "The French fry truck," as he munched down on one such salt-sprinkled potato sliver.

Joan Croote said she enjoys walking through the museums, even though they are the same every year. "My grandfather was a great farmer... and Harry worked on a farm in Guilderland for Frank Polak," she said. They enjoy reminiscing as they look at the farming tools, machinery and animals.

The Farmhouse Museum, with a theme of life and living in the 18th and early-19th centuries, has historical artifacts including furniture, dishware and clothing. One new exhibit is from the Foundation of the New York State Nursing Association, with headquarters are on Western Avenue in Guilderland.

The foundation’s mission is to strengthen the nursing professions services and increase public knowledge about nursing. The foundation’s archivist, Rachel Donaldson, has put together a showcase of the nursing profession through America’s history.

Cathrine Welch, a nurse, and the director of the Bellevue Alumnae Center for Nursing History was also on hand.

The Red Cross nursing service was founded in 1909, Donaldson said.

Originally, before nursing grew as a profession, it was performed by religious men, Welch said, and then passed on to nuns. Nursing was first a volunteer effort, she said.

Many people don’t know it, but Walt Whitman was a volunteer nurse during the Civil War, Welch said.

The profession as we know it today in America is modeled after Florence Nightingale’s approach, she said, and Bellevue’s School of Nursing in New York City was the first school in the United States to use Nightingale’s principals, Welch said. The school closed in 1969, but Bellevue Hospital is still running.


Besides agriculture, which dominates the fair, pockets of crafters showcase their talents.

Dick Moran and Carl Borst of the Mohawk Valley Wood Carving Association, were whittling away at hand-held ornaments on Tuesday.

Moran said he has been carving for 12 to 13 years. He got into it accidentally, he said. He was going to sign up for a woodworking class and a friend talked him into taking wordcarving instead.

The three-dimensional statues displayed on the table are called "carving in the round," Moran said.

"I had never done anything like this before," he said; being artistic wasn’t part of his younger life. Because he is more interested in working with wood than the art aspect, Moran said, he often uses a pattern to start his work. He enjoys making religious carvings and statues of Santa Claus, he said.

Borst does a variety of projects including charicatures. He had one of President George Bush sitting out.

"It incorporates comedy into your work by making outstanding features," he said.

Borst said that he changes his interest and type of carving project every couple of years.

He also just completed a commissioned project, carving an Uncle Sam for the city of Troy, which was one-and-a-half times the size of a person.

From the Cricketers Arms to the Altamont Fair

By Matt Cook

The lawn-mower racing at the Hillview Tavern in Esperance is no backyard affair.

Instead of grass, dirt flies, as souped-up machines—stripped of blades, chutes, and, for some, any resemblance to leisure-paced weekend trimmers—whip around a tight oval track at speeds rivaling that of the cars going by on Route 20.

Beyond the track, lawn mowers, pickup trucks, and trailers are spread out on the grass, as drivers and their friends frantically try to fine-tune their contraptions before their race begins. Friday-night bar patrons line a rope barrier, beer in hand, some gawking at the spectacle, others cheering for their favorite drivers.

To the members of the Northeast Lawn Mower Racing Association, this is serious stuff.

"I get people busting me all the time," said Brian Burkhart, a driver and vice president of the association. "They say, ‘Why do you waste your time" Why aren’t you racing cars"’"

To these men, the answer is that the excitement of lawn mower racing is like any other motor sport, minus the pricetag. "On any given week, I’ll spend about $20," Burkhart said.

Veteran racer Albert "Albie" Williams, who says he used to drag race at Fonda, said he just likes racing.

"I like competition," he said, before the deafening racket of a dozen lawn mower engines’ starting drowns out any further attempt at an interview.

Later, in his first heat, a mechanical problem forces Williams to miss the start of the race. He roars into action several laps behind the leaders, just to get on the track.

"Number 99 is back in the race," shouts announcer Daryl Cummings into the track’s loudspeaker.

Though the group members claim the Hillview Tavern as their home turf, they’re taking their show on the road this week and racing at the Altamont Fair. The race is on Saturday, at the grandstand, starting at 1 p.m.

Genesis at Cricketers Arms

Racing yard machines is a national phenomenon.

"Lawn mower racing has been in existence in America for a while," said Diane Butler, association president.

According to the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association, lawn mower racing began in England. At a pub called the Cricketers Arms, in Sussex, a group of men thought up the idea in 1973 after complaining about the cost of entry into the world of auto racing.

After a visit to England, an executive for the Gold Eagle Company, the maker of STA-BIL fuel stabilizer, held a race in Chicago in 1992 as a promotion for the product. Since then, the sport has spread across the county. Dozens of regional organizations have sprouted up.

Northeast Lawn mower Racing, Butler said, "was developed mostly for fun, and to raise money for fire departments." Lawn mower races were held as fund-raising events in the place of fire-department field days, she said.

In 1999, the racers broke away from a larger upstate organization to form a local association, drawing from the Capital Region and points west.

Not to be mistaken with go-kart racing, in which lawn mower engines are often used, lawn mower racers use the engine and chassis of a standard lawn mower.

"They have to be a stock mower as it comes off the assembly line," Butler said.

Out of the weeds, onto the racetrack

It’s unlikely, however, that any of these racers bought brand-new machines for racing purposes, or even bought them at all.

When asked where his lawn mower came from, racer John Aron said, "probably somebody’s backyard, stuffed in the weeds somewhere."

Other racers have found their vehicles at yard sales, junkyards, and along the side of the road with "free" signs. Then, to prepare their machines for racing, they do everything from widening the wheel base and installing faster transmissions, to painting racing decals on the sides.

"All they really need is an engine and a body," Butler said.

Depending on the size of the engine (from eight to 13 horsepower, Butler said) and how much the mowers have been changed, the association races in three divisions: stock, super stock, modified, and super modified.

Aron races the fastest class, super modified.

"The only thing left in this is the rear-end and the actual frame," Aron said. Though he hasn’t tested his current lawn mower, he said, his last machine was clocked at a top speed of 72 miles per hour. Before the race that night, he anticipated reaching only about 35 or 40 miles per hour on a track damp from rain.

Burkhart races in the super-stock division, where, he said, the mowers go about 25 to 30 miles per hour. A few years ago, he switched up to the modified division, but found he was happier with the stocks.

"Been there, done that," Burkhart said. "I didn’t care for it. I wasn’t competitive in it."

He is competitive in the super-stock division.

"I won the past two races," he said. Friday, Burkhart was looking for a third straight victory. In between his own races, he was manning the checkered flag.

Tall, thin, and tippy

Like any motorsport, lawn mower racing has its danger factor. Lawn mowers are tall and thin, and subject to tipping while going around turns. All the drivers The Enterprise talked to said they have tipped over more than once.

Racers lean against turns to stay upright, and wear helmets and neck braces in case of a fall.

"It’s all safe in how you do it," Burkhart said.

The racers keep safety in mind on the track, the men say.

"They’ll do anything they can to help each other stay safe," Williams said.

This is all part of the camaraderie the men share. Even though the races are very competitive, off the track Friday, the mood is light as drivers check out each others’ machines, and share beer and joking insults.

During a race, a rookie driver, in his first race, is forced off the track after his mower breaks down. He was leading until then.

"Good job, kid," says Cummings, the announcer, as the clearly disappointed rookie follows his machine as it’s pushed away.

"We’ll be seeing good things from him," Cummings tells the cheering crowd.

Teamwork and agility count with fun and games for dogs

By Tim Matteson

ALTAMONT — The fair is going to the dogs this week. Agile dogs, that is.

Canine Performance Events, Inc. will be holding an agility dog show at the Altamont Fair on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The CPE strives for the dog and handler to have fun while successfully competing for agility titles, achieved through positive training and teamwork.

Canine Performance Events was founded in 1998 in South Lyon, Mich. but is recently new to the area, according to Donna Young, who is organinzing the show at the Altamont Fair.

"It will be more for fun," said Young. "It will be treated like a demo. We’ll go throughout the day, from 10 to five, so everybody can have a chance to see."

Canine Performance Events have three unique games and classes in addition to the better-known standard and games classes.

Games classes are classified as handler, strategy, and fun.

Classes offered by the CPE are the standard agility class; handler games like colors and wildcard; strategy games like jackpot and snooker; and fun games like fullhouse and jumpers.

Rules of the games

The standard class requires the dog and the handler to successfully perform all of the agility obstacles in the order set by the judge.

Colors requires that the dog and handler successfully run their choice of one of the three overlapping mini-agility courses on the same field. The field will contain 12 to 20 obstacles, divided into three equal mini-courses of six to eight obstacles each. Colored markers will label each course.

Wildcard requires the dog and handler to successfully complete the course, including enough wildcards to qualify. A modified standard course is the base for wildcard. There are 10 to 12 obstacles and three wildcard obstacles. A dog must have the correct number of wildcards in its level to qualify.

In a traditional jackpot, there are two distinct parts. In the first part, the handler must maneuver the dog among the obstacles in any order that he or she chooses, earning points for each obstacle performed correctly. After the whistle blows, the dog can earn bonus points by working independently away from the handler through a series of obstacles, while the handler stands behind a designated line.

Non-traditional jackpot is a judge’s choice and will be explained at the show.

Snooker has two parts. In the opening sequence, the dog must successfully complete a red jump to do an obstacle of choice. That sequence must be done a total of three times, then the dog begins to run the sequence of obstacles in order, two through seven.

Jumpers is a course comprised only of jumps and tunnels, which the dog and handler must navigate successfully.

Fullhouse requires the team to accumulate at least the points required for its level, which includes a pair, three of a kind, and a joker, before the whistle that ends the time for accumulating points. The team then has up to five seconds to stop the clock by having the dog place at least one paw on the pause table. For each full second over game time, one point is deducted.

Young said that all classes will be demonstrated each day and colors will appear twice on Sunday.

Seven levels

There are seven levels of competitors, ranging from beginners to specialists.

Level one is for beginning dogs or handlers. The standard course does not include the teeter-totter or weave poles.

Level two is for dogs who may have earned at least the beginning title in another organization.

Level three is for dogs who may have earned at least the first title or higher, in one or more other agility organizations.

Level four is for dogs who have earned one of the highest titles in another agility organization. A copy of the title must accompany the CPE registration of the dog.

Level five is for dogs who have earned the respective class legs in level four. No dog may begin CPE in level five.

Level C, or champion, is for dogs who have earned the respective class legs in level four. No dog may begin CPE in level C.

Level S, or specialist, is for any dog at any age over 15 months. The dog must jump eight inches lower than its permanent jump height.

All classes are level-three courses. Specialist titles are seperate from the other title requirements.

Young said that titles will be given out during the three days at the fair.

"The major goal of CPE is to have fun," Young said. "But there also will be titles in it."

Judging Altamont’s fairest

By Liz Funk

ALTAMONT — A lot of judging goes on at the Altamont Fair: judging cattle, judging pies, and — judging women"

Billed as an "Altamont Fair Tradition," the Miss Altamont Fair Pageant went on Tuesday at the Altamont fairgrounds for the second year in a row, after a four-year hiatus from the pageant’s 20-some-odd years of history.

Pageant Director Larry Fronk, who took the initiative two years ago to try and restart the pageant, explained, "people were asking about it," after the former director moved out of town, ending the pageant.

Although forced to contend with the noise of the pig races about 50 feet away, this year’s pageant had more entrants than last year, and a sizable crowd to watch the competition.

The scoring in the Miss Altamont Fair pageant was composed of two major parts. First, an interview took place this past Sunday, during which contestants were asked questions about their ambitions, activities, and friends, among others. This counted for 60 percent of the final score.

The actual pageant proceedings, for the remainder of the score, were comprised of a "sportswear" competition, where contestants wore their on-the-go clothes; an evening gown competition; and a one-question interview.

Fronk described the ideal winner of the pageant as "one who could best represent the fair" the kind of girl who could greet the people, and go right to being with the cows."

He explained that, last year, the fair had a "picture perfect" contestant who entered the pageant, but judges felt that she couldn’t represent all aspects of the fair. The beauty queen’s duties involve participating in the Memorial Day Parade, and being present at other various community functions.

Last year’s winner, Jessamie O’Brien, a Hudson Valley Community College student, felt that honesty was an important quality in a winner. She made a face, imitating a conceited woman at "some of the other pageants."

"It’s not like that at all here!" she laughed.

Last year’s Junior Miss winner, Corrin Schultz, a rising senior at Clayton A. Bouton High School, detailed the camaraderie she felt between last year’s contestants.

"I still talk to a lot of them on-line," she said.

Many winners

The pageant was subdivided between categories for different age groups, with some of the girls young enough to need their mothers to help them dress between sections of the pageant, and others old enough to be in college and maintain nine-to-five jobs.

The winner of the Little Miss Altamont Fair Pageant, a sector of the event for especially little girls, was six-year-old Elena Nino, who giggled over Scooby Doo, her favorite television show, in her interview.

Winning the Young Miss Altamont Fair pageant, for school-aged girls, was Eden Becker, who pranced around the stage with a remarkable amount of poise for an eight-year-old during the "Party Dress" portion of the pageant.

And the winner of the Junior Miss Altamont Fair Pageant was Sabrina June, who teared up when embracing her mother after she found out she had won.

Twenty-year-old Elizabeth Mosall, the winner of the Miss Altamont Fair pageant, comported herself in a quintessentially beauty-pageant-winner fashion, looking shocked and cupping her hands over her mouth on learning that she had won. Describing herself as "plus size," she explained that she didn’t expect to win the pageant, considering that she didn’t fall into the paradigm of a typical beauty queen.

Ironically enough, she was inspired to enter the pageant after watching the F.A.T. Pageant on the Style Channel (an acronym for "Fabulous and Thick"). A graduate of Guilderland High School, and current drama major at the State University of New York at Potsdam, she said, "My sister and I entered together for some sisterly bonding."

She explained that she felt the climate for beauty pageants was changing. "I think it’s opening up to more women. I mean, the average dress size for a woman in this country is 14; I think pageantry is starting to reflect that."

And the winner of the Ms. Altamont Fair Pageant (a new category for women over the age of 22) was Shannah Ernst, an aspiring probation officer. For her on-stage interview, she detailed the time she had pepper spray spritzed in her face, as part of training for her job in law enforcement.

This year’s pageant was sponsored by A Touch of Country Florist, Carol Donato Photography, Hoffman’s Playland, Beaux Visage Day Spa, Delmonico’s Steakhouse, and Wal-Mart.

Is pageantry sexist"

By Liz Funk

ALTAMONT — Although the Altamont Fair pageant was a success, and the contestants and audience appeared to have enjoyed themselves, there are some underlying political issues in the pageant that call for some attention: Is pageantry one of the remnants of a sexist society from the past" Does this pageant bring sexism to a community level"

Sexist" Yes, and no.

Publicly criticized by the feminist community since the first protest of the Miss America pageant in 1969, pageants today are under extreme scrutiny from those unappreciative of the idea of "scoring" women on a scale of one to 10.

The Miss America pageant, which traditionally takes places every September, is currently without a network to broadcast it. With its future up in the air, many feel that beauty pageants should stay where they started — in the past.

"Not only do pageants uphold certain beauty standards that are dangerous and nearly impossible to attain, they pit women against each other," asserts the National Organization for Women (NOW) in a fact sheet.

Postings from members on NOW’s website (now.org) included women remarking that contestants in today’s national beauty pageants "look like they haven’t been fed in a few years."

Those involved in the Altamont Fair pageant Tuesday had some thoughts on the issue. The swimsuit portion in the Miss Altamont Fair pageant is gone.

"Some people complained about it," said Larry Fronk, the pageant’s organizer. "I guess they wanted to see the girls in a bathing suit."

The contestants interviewed didn’t feel the Altamont Fair Pageant is particularly sexist. Abbey Schultz explained that she entered for a confidence booster.

"Just being able to get up there and be confident is a good thing," she said.

Although Schultz agreed that grading women is disempowering, she felt that the Altamont Fair Pageant was far more innocuous than others, and that "pageants based solely on looks would be sexist."

When prompted with the idea that Hooters pageants are based solely on physical appearance, last year’s Miss Altamont Fair, Jessamine O’Brien agreed that such a pageant would be sexist.

Corrin Schultz, who became this year’s first runner-up in the Miss Pageant explained that the pageant was more a display of "being comfortable in your own skin"If it wasn’t that way, I would have won a false contest," she said.

She went on to explain that, although the Altamont pageant is a beauty pageant, "It wasn’t just exterior beauty." All contestants interviewed agreed that the interview was definitely the most important—and most heavily-emphasized portion of the pageant.

This year’s winner, Elizabeth Mosall, is "so excited to represent the fair!"

She will be there to greet crowds and be present at events, and would be glad to talk to anyone about her experience in the pageant. So, if you see someone there in a blue sash and jeweled tiara, it’s unlikely that it’s anyone except her.

Editor’s note: Liz Funk writes a column on teen issues for The Enterprise. She is the founder of a local NOW chapter for high school students.

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