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Altamont Fair Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 16, 2007

A stroll about the fairgrounds reveals a humongous bath

By Tyler Schuling

ALTAMONT — On Tuesday morning, the Altamont Fair was underway.

In mid-morning, three sisters, with the fairgrounds temporarily to themselves, walked down a road as fair-goers trickled in through the entrances. The youngest of the sisters, dressed in pink, kept pace with her mother and grandmother and took charge by pushing her stroller.

Across the fairgrounds, a bearded man with tattoos on his forearms and a "Bike Week" hat stood with his hands in his pockets, pivoting to different vantage points for some direction. It was almost 11 in the morning. It wasn’t yet time for lunch, and it was a little late for breakfast.

Workers busied themselves by driving golf carts, talking through their radios.

"What is your favorite movie" And why is it your favorite movie"" asked the emcee of the Altamont Fair pageant, which kicked off at the Reid Northrup Stage at 11 a.m.

In the poultry barn, roosters crowed, their caws filling the long building — a call to fair-goers to rise and shine.

"Easy, Beulah"

On her day off, Beulah, a 40-year-old Asian elephant got a bath.

Using a high-pressure washer, Jerry Eeziel circled around the large animal that eats between 300 and 400 pounds each day. While Eeziel sprayed her down and three others used scrub brushes on the animal’s thick skin, fair-goers congregated around the enormous animal and took snapshots with their cell phones and cameras.

Beulah belongs to the Connecticut-based Commerford and Sons, a traveling petting zoo, which offers pony, camel and elephant rides. The traveling attraction stays around the East Coast, and is also appearing in a show in Buffalo this week, said Eeziel.

While hosing down Beulah, Eeziel spoke to the elephant often, telling her to be steady. He also convinced her to lie down. On command, she knelt then rolled over on her side, like a giant, docile trained dog.

"We give her a bath pretty much every day," said Michael Irish, who worked with Eeziel, Christina Straway, and Natalia Borowy, washing Beulah. To cool her off, Eeziel sprayed water in her large mouth.

"She’s very popular everywhere we go," said Eeziel. "She’s also very spoiled — a very spoiled elephant."

Beulah eats about five bales of hay each day, and anything else she can get — apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, and cookies. Anything but meat.

"They’re not too different than a horse when they get sick," said Eeziel, who likened Beulah to a household pet. "When she’s not feeling good, we know."

Down the Hill

This year marked the fifth year of horse competitions for the Baldaufs, and a first for Tayla Baldauf. Baldauf competed for the first time in horse shows at the Altamont Fair.

By Tuesday afternoon, Tayla Baldauf had won a number of awards. She first won fourth, fifth, and sixth place awards, and then won three firsts and one third. Her awards were on display at her small stable.

"Now, I just need a second," Tayla Baldauf said. Baldauf competed in the Starter Rider Walk/Jog class, which is open to anyone from 11 to 29 years old in their first two years of showing.

Tayla’s brother, Devon, has competed before, and her mother, Lynne, has been riding horses for years. Devon Baldauf sat atop his horse on Tuesday, practicing for his main competitions on Wednesday.

The Baldaufs’ horse has two names: Mak is its barn name, and Maakai is its show name, the family said.

They didn’t have to travel far away to attend the fair — "literally down the Hill," Tayla Baldauf said. The Baldaufs live on about 30 acres in East Berne.

"It’s competitive," said Tayla Baldauf of the tri-county fair. She described competition as being "like Simon Says," a game in which children follow Simon’s directions. Her friends, she said, were also competing, and she wanted to show them that she can ride just as well.

"It’s hard," Tayla Baldauf said. "That’s why I have my mom whose been riding since she was this big," she said, holding her hand waist-high.


The Church Restaurant, a long-time fair staple, was up and running again Tuesday morning. Two young girls took orders at the entrance, and another took charge of the latest addition to the restaurant — the water window, where snacks and beverages are sold.

Operated by volunteers, the restaurant is a fund-raiser for two churches — Saint Lucy’s Church in Altamont and Saint Bernadette Church in Berne.

The restaurant’s menu includes cheeseburgers, hamburgers, fries, salads, and hot dogs. The restaurant also offers breakfast, deserts, and refillable sodas.

Steve Marciano, 19, started the week off as the restaurant’s shift manager Tuesday morning. Marciano began working at the restaurant when he was just 3 years old.

"I’ve been doing it forever," he said. The restaurant, Marciano said, is a way for him to gain work experience and to hang out with his friends. He is attending Siena College in Loudonville, majoring in accounting. This summer, he spent two months in New York City as an intern with an investment banking corporation.


"I’m a suburbanite, but I love the history of how people lived," said Elizabeth Tomlinson. A Schenectady resident, Tomlinson volunteers each year to staff the Farm House Museum, which is filled with farming artifacts from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"There were vast differences in their way of life," she said.

Tomlinson has been returning to the fair each August for about 30 years. Tuesday, she walked around the museum, pointing out items hanging on the walls and recalled fond memories of times at the fair.

Old washing machines, butter molds, a bed, a rug-beater, and a prototype vacuum are just a few of the items that fill the building. Many of the items have been damaged and donated. Determining the date the artifacts were manufactured is difficult, she said, and many tags on items have blown away or been lost. Some items at the museum are on loan from historical societies or individuals.

Wearing a long blue skirt, sandals, and a white blouse, Tomlinson looked the part of someone from a bygone era. She spoke to young boys and mothers about old washing techniques and explained the worn antiques.

After making her way to a corner of the museum, she showed an antique bed, which used criss-crossing ropes as supports instead of a box spring and mattress.

Tomlinson also told of customs different from our own. To invoke the curiosity of others and let them know they had exotic stories to share, people would place pineapples in their windows or a boot at the end of their driveway. Thus, pineapples have become a symbol of hospitality.

As an economy measure, families often made and bottled their own juice, root beer, beer, and wine. Sometimes the juices would ferment and the bottles would explode, she said, sending the father to the cellar to clean up the mess.

In the past, the museum had different themes each year.

Tomlinson laughs when recalling a mock wedding one year in which the groom didn’t make it to the altar, and a married man who fit the outfit was plucked from the audience to play the part. During the fake wedding, the priest came to the moment when he asked whether anyone objected to the union.

"That’s my husband!" yelled the groom’s wife.

Tomlinson also displayed "one of the most terrifying objects at the fair" — an old vacuum cleaner called the American Wonder.

She also showed an old "washing machine" — an object much like a modern plunger that was used to wash clothes in a bucket. "You did not buy this unit. You bought the patent to use it," she said. The plain-looking plunger, with baffles and holes on its cone-like metal end, sold for no less than $3.50, a large sum at the time. Tomlinson said that, adjusting for inflation, it cost more than what someone would pay today for an electric washing machine.

"You get way more for your money these days," she said.

As she explained the contraption to a small group, a woman passing by said, "I’m glad I was born now and not then."

Baking bread to combat cancer

By Rachel Dutil

ALTAMONT – Six years ago, Adria Ermolenko’s turkey-Spam wontons took the first-place ribbon at the Altamont Fair – Dave Campbell still remembers them.

Campbell is a culinary instructor at Cobleskill, and has been judging the baking competitions at the fair since the 2001 Spam contest.

This year, in a Fleischmann’s Yeast competition, bakers united for a cause – breast cancer awareness.

For each entry, ACH Food Companies donated $10 to a breast cancer foundation.

There were only three entries this year.

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening, bakers and their families gathered with their creations and recipes in the Arts and Crafts Building.

"I try not to look in advance," said Campbell, who waited in a side room until he got the word that all the contestants and baked goods had arrived.

He sipped on water as he waited, and spoke to The Enterprise about being a judge. "I enjoy it quite a bit," he said. "Usually, the stuff is really good," he added.

He prefers the "non-sweet" entries he said, remembering the challenge of a Land O’ Lakes competition where he had to sample 21 cookies.

"I just had dinner maybe two hours ago," he said, indicating that he doesn’t generally arrive with an empty stomach. He just takes a "representative taste" of the entries, he said.

"I think it is neat to see this small-town atmosphere here," Campbell said of the fair, adding that he enjoys all the "corny" stuff too, like the diving pigs. "I look forward to it every year."

Poker-faced judge

He came out and introduced himself to a dozen or so onlookers. Before digging in, Campbell told a story of a previous competitor that had entered a type of pizza. Campbell had asked the man how he had kept it warm. The man answered that he had wrapped the pizza in aluminum foil and placed it on the engine of his car.

"Once we wiped the soot off, it was really good," Campbell joked.

The contest rules indicate a judging formula for Campbell to follow. For this competition, it was 40-percent flavor, 40-percent presentation, and 20-percent texture.

Campbell began with an Irish baguette, submitted by Colleen Moller. She presented the bread in a wicker basket with a bottle of wine and a pair of wine glasses.

Next, he sampled Ermolenko’s submission of ribbon rolls, cherry-flavored dough rolls arranged on a plate and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

He then tasted a raspberry-almond ribbon, submitted by Susan Bauer. It was shaped like the ribbon that symbolizes breast cancer awareness, and decorated with pink-frosting flowers, and the words "Love Hope."

Campbell didn’t speak or make any indicative facial expressions as he sampled. He simply looked over the contest criteria and marked his judgments on a clipboard.

After he judged three entries for a Fleischmann’s one-dish bake-and-rise contest, he announced the winners.

Moller’s baguette was third, Ermolenko’s ribbon rolls were second, and Bauer’s raspberry-almond ribbon came in first place.

Winners all

All three women received pink ribbons and a Fleischmann’s "Bake For a Cure" apron, as well as a cash prize.

Moller has been involved in baking contests at the fair for about 10 years, she said. She opted to enter an Irish recipe this year in honor of her heritage.

She always tries her recipes at home before entering them, and sometimes might change things a bit, she said, depending on her family’s suggestions.

Moller’s mother-in-law died of breast cancer, she said. "That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do it," she said of entering the contest.

Bauer said that she used to enter her baked goods in the fair when she was a teenager. Her mother reminded her of that a few years ago, she said. Her daughters – Megan, 14, and Laura, 10 – entered a gingerbread house this year.

"They critiqued me," Bauer said of Megan and Laura.

Bauer has competed at the fair for the past three years, she said. "I took a special interest because it was for breast cancer," she said.

Ermolenko said she decided her entry "should be something healthy" in support of breast cancer awareness. Her ribbon rolls were made from soymilk, eight-grain cereal, and cherry preserves.

"I tried hard to make something healthy, that still tasted all right," she said.

She also entered a salmon-spinach brunch square that won the first-place ribbon in the Fleischmann’s one-dish contest. Her sister, Vanessa Keitel, entered almond-orange crumb.

"It’s all in good fun," said Keitel of competing against her sister.

"All of it was really good today," Campbell told The Enterprise after the contest, as everyone was enjoying the entries.

"You always feel weird doing it," he said of the sampling process. Everyone notices when you take a sip of water after a taste, or, if you take a second taste, he said.

Talking cross-country for all kinds of fun

By Tim Matteson

ALTAMONT — Sylvia Markson never travels alone.

She has been all over the United States, yet she always has company — and not just her husband, Chris. Markson is also joined by her friends Smolder, Franchesca, and many others.

Sylvia Markson in the Magic Trunk ventriloquist show is performing at the Altamont Fair this year. Three times a day — 2, 4, 6, p.m. — through the end of the fair on Sunday. All of Markson’s friends will be there.

In the first show of the fair, the audience was introduced to Smolder, a dragon like puppet, and Franchesca, a bird from Las Vegas.

Those characters might not be seen at the next show.

"We have different things that we do," Markson said. "We have 10 or more characters. We haven’t actually counted them. We do different bits like the cup and we’ll get people from the audience."

Child’s play

The cup dates back to when Markson — whose real last name is Fletcher — first got into ventriloquism as a child.

"It was my hobby as a child," she said. "We’ve been doing it professionally for 15 years."

The cup is the first thing she used as a prop when she was a child, and she still uses it in the show.

"You can make anything talk," Markson said. "The cup and babies were the first things I did. We dress two people up like babies and put them in a bassinet and we do all the things that a baby would do."

Markson and her huband take the show on the road all year. They perform at fairs, schools, and even on cruise ships.

"We travel all over the country," Markson said. "Chris and I are always together. He’s the producer, manager, and he does the writing."

The couple has done 189 shows in the last two months. They recently spent 15 days in Mercedes, Texas doing three shows a day.

"It is on the border of Mexico," Chris said. "It was 4,200 miles round trip."

"We have a Spanish opossum that we use in our show," Sylvia said. "They loved that."

The Fletchers live in Ballston Spa in Saratoga County and will also perform at the Washington County and Columbia County fairs.

"We’re part of the entertainment," Sylvia said. "They asked us to come."

"There is a fair convention in January," Chris added. "Fairs from all over the state come and you show them your stuff and they decide if they want you at their fair. We pick the ones we want to do. We like to pick the ones closest to home."

"It’s nice to be able to choose," Sylvia said.

Career change

It hasn’t all been puppets for Sylvia Markson. She had another career at one point in time.

"I was in corporate America," she said. "I decided to try and do a show and see if that would work. I didn’t want to be in corporate America any more.

"The show became popular and took off," Sylvia added. "I’m able to work all year long at different venues and do different things. We go to colleges as well. We get to do more adult shows. They’re not blue, but they are for adults."

"Every season, there is a different venue," Chris added.

Sylvia and Chris also have a website — www.mylipsdon’tmove.com — where a demo of a DVD that they made can be viewed. And, they also have a video on Youtube, the popular video website.

There are certain characters that get used at different shows, mostly depending on the audience.

Some characters, like Franchesca, can be used for different audiences.

"Smolder is a fun character," Chris said. "He comes out in bits and pieces at every show."

"Franchesca is more for adults," Sylvia said after Tuesday’s show. "There were some kids here today so we brought her out."

Though she made a career change for her own good, Sylvia also said that there are many other reasons for performing the ventriloquism show.

"We do a lot of school shows," she said. "And those are educational, which is great. We talk to the children about reading and get them excited about it. We tell the children the only way you can learn ventriloquism is by reading. That’s what I did."

"I enjoy it," Chris said. "I like getting up in the morning and going to work."

"Our office is at our house," Sylvia added.

Sylvia also likes sharing a few laughs with the audience.

"I like to make people laugh," she said. "That’s the ultimate thing. If I have the audience laughing then I have done my job. I wanted to do something that makes people laugh. That’s the best."

Kendle cows can do: A glimpse of a rural American family

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — Ed Kendle, of Kendle Farm in Knox, sat on the floor against double-stacked hay bales listening to his daughter’s chatter.

The excitement of the Altamont Fair’s opening day was catching for Kaitlyn Kendle, 10, and her friend Emily Gaige, 11, of Gallupville. The girls, students at Berne-Knox-Westerlo Elementary School, had just returned from the midway rides.

Kaitlyn Kendle arrived that morning at 5:45 a.m. She and her father are showing three cows this week: Mickey, a three-year-old Ayrshire; and Jersey cows Goody, two years, and Impreza, seven months.

Gaige arrived at 8:30 a.m. She and her family live at Li’l Rich Farms, a commercial beef farm. Gaige is spending the week at the fair with Kendle, just "hanging out," she said.

The girls sit with the animals, clean up around them, and enjoy the sights of the fair.

"We bathe them for the show," Kendle said. She and Gaige lead the cows out of the community stall in the cow barn and wash them down with a hose — an activity Kendle said is done for the show, but not often at home.

Two years ago, Kendle took the Reserved Junior Champion award for her cows. She did not show last year, but she is back to display her animals at the judging Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

Ed Kendle said that the animals are judged on dairy quality. Characteristics of the animals, like their size and structure, are examined. Judges look at the animals’ legs and, for cows, their mammary systems.

Kendle used to farm commercially, and he is considering going back into business again. Currently, he and Kaitlyn have 24 cows on their farm.

"We just raise heifers, and milk a few," he said.

Kaitlyn Kendle mucked the stall around snoozing Impreza while Gaige described her farm, with help from Ed Kendle. Li’l Rich Farms, being commercial, has at least four times the number of animals as Kendle Farm, they decided.

Gaige and Kaitlyn Kendle know their way around the fair barn and their own animals.

"I take care of them at home sometimes. Not all the time," Kendle said.

"Weekends," Ed Kendle said. "The only time when I see her."

Kaitlyn Kendle had a clear answer when asked why she came back this year after missing the fair last year.

"My dad took off work, and I wanted to spend time with him showing," she said.

Gadgets grind anew at the grange

By Jarrett Carroll

ALTAMONT — If you’re looking for that labor-saving and efficient gadget or appliance for your kitchen, you might want to check the Sears catalogue — from the 19th-Century.

In the 21st Century, the Shaws have brought the same gadgets and gizmos from the pages of history books to the Altamont Fair.

It all started eight years ago when Mary and Allyn Shaws love for each other grew into a marriage, and their love for old-fashioned machines grew into a lifestyle. Collecting antique machines together, the couple have moved their hobby from the basement to the garage.

"I’m his apprentice. I teach him the kitchen gadgets and I learn how to work on the gas engines," said Mary Shaw.

"I’m the only guy who has the nerve to spend his wife’s paycheck before she even comes home," Allyn Shaw said pointing to a 19th-Century meat cutter on display. He bought the antique gadget for his wife several years ago.

"I knew it would be something special," Mary Shaw said with a smile, recalling the event.

The Shaws have brought meat choppers, grinders for seasonings, paring machines, butter and cheese churns, sewing machines, and other gadgets loaded with springs and cast-iron gears to the fairgrounds.

They demonstrated a sample of their old-fashioned treasures inside of the Grange building on Tuesday. Both Mary and Allyn Shaw are members of the Ravena and Bethlehem Grange and live in Greenville in Greene County.

"This is our first time bringing these out to the fair"These are labor-saving machines used before electricity," Mary Shaw said. "I actually use some of these at home"We encourage people to try them for themselves and see what it was like back then."

When fair-goers walked up to the row of meat-chopping machines, their eyes lit up as they cranked the handles, causing cast-iron gears to spin and small metal beams with chopping blades to rise and fall into a large metal cauldron.

Many of the machines use "walking beam mechanisms," the same used in the big oil pumps. Adults and children alike were quickly mesmerized by the mechanized wonders that the Shaws have revitalized.


The couple not only collect the antiques, but they also restore them to their original condition.

Allyn Shaw restored a butter churn once used in 1800s. He took gears apart and oiled them, cleaned out the inside of the churn, and repainted and relabeled it.

"It was completely covered in rust"There was no paint on it and we reprinted the label," said Mary Shaw. "You could tell where the original label was from the rust spots"Allyn did a wonderful job on it."

The only thing that’s not original is the new paper label, she said.

"It’s done in stages," Allyn Shaw said of his work. "You can do anything; you just need a little time."

The Shaws said that they find their antiques anywhere they can, including antiques stores, relatives’ basements or attics, the Internet, and yes, eBay.

"I’ve been collecting a long time," Allyn Shaw said. "Wherever we can find them, that’s where they come from."

Same of the Shaws gadgets purred away quietly Tuesday as metal gears spun, while others made loud metallic clacks and bangs. However, Mary Shaw said, all of the machines have withstood the test of time.

Machines that last

That is part of the reason she enjoys displaying the machines. In a modern society apt to throw away short-lived appliances, these old-fashioned machines retain a piece of American history and rekindle people’s interest in their own past, she said.

"When they started going to nylon gears and light metal aluminum gears, they didn’t last as long"Sure they were lightweight and easier to use, but where are they now"" asked Mary Shaw. "Many people tell us they still see those meat grinders with the big handles hanging in their parents’ kitchens."

The chopping machines displayed by the Shaws were used for chopping every type of food, not only meat, but were not likely to be found in every household.

"It will chop anything"including anything you don’t want, like fingers," Mary Shaw said. "But the choppers were not as common. We suspect they were created and used in areas where large amounts of food was needed,"—places like resorts and hotels, lumber yards and work camps, ships and ports, and military forts.

Sewing machines were more common, Shaw said, but were still not found in every household.

"The most common sewing machines were the treadle machines"but it was between $12 and $15 for a plain sewing machine, and that was a lot of money back then," she said. "In some communities, they would pool their resources to buy one"and have sort of a time-share system where you had the sewing machine on certain days."

The Shaws had a Jones sewing machine on display, but said that it was not a common machine sold on the East Coast in the United States.

"You don’t find Jones machines in the eastern part of the country because Singer had a hold on the East," said Mary Shaw. "So Jones, an English company, went West. But, as the economy got better and people could afford more, they made their way over."

The Shaws have shown their equipment at other events in the area, but both said they would like to come back to Altamont next year to bring some different gadgets for people to enjoy.

The oldest piece of equipment that the Shaws own is from the 1850s, according to Allyn Shaw, who added that he just likes having a hobby that others can enjoy, too.

"This is my hobby." he said. "When I go home at night, this is what I do."

Watching wool from sheep to shop

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — From green pastures to the golden fleece, wool takes many forms, most of which are on display at the Altamont Fair.

In the Howard F. Ogsbury barn, sheep wear their own woolly coats, but just next door, ribbons hang next to knitwear made from yarn that no doubt sprouted on the back of an ovine. The in-between steps involve sheering at least once a year, washing the wool, and carding it before it’s spun into yarn.

"We’ve domesticated sheep," said Elaine Larsen, from behind her spinning wheel at the fair on Tuesday. "We have to take care of them and sheering is part of that."

Having kept sheep for about seven years on her Helderberg land, Larsen hires a professional to sheer her sheep every nine months. It costs between $5 and $10 a head, she said, but a shepherd is lucky to get 25 cents a pound for the fleece if it’s sold commercially.

For 35 years, Don Otterness, of Altamont, has been sheering sheep.

"I’ve done them in three minutes," he said. "But I average five minutes a sheep." During a sheep-shearing contest once, Otterness was next to a man who sheered 15 sheep in 11 minutes, he said. "Don’t put me next to him," he said. "I’d like to watch and learn something."

The 75-year-old farmer took a month-and-a-half trip to New Zealand last year, where he learned ways to improve his technique from a group of international sheep-sheerers.

The most important thing when sheering a sheep, Otterness said, is how you hold the animal. He balances the sheep between his legs, with its back leaning against the front of his shins and his toes underneath its bottom, so he can move the sheep with his knees.

He got started with sheep when his kids wanted something to show at the fair, he said. "The boys did cows and the girls wanted something smaller," said Otterness. After the kids were grown, he still wanted to keep the sheep, he said, and now he has 55 Cotswold sheep.

He switched to that breed five years ago because of the fine, long wool that they produce. The crimp in the fleece from Cotswolds is more of a curl, he said. The crimp in wool fibers, like curly hair, is what makes a wool sweater stretch and spring back to its original shape, unlike an acrylic sweater, he said.

Wool from the Cotswold sheep is also good for felting, which, he said, "I’ve zeroed in on."

The Romneys that Larsen keeps produce about eight pounds of wool each and she likes to knit with her own yarn.

"My first love is knitting," she said. "I’m a little conflicted because I like spinning, but it cuts into my knitting time."

As a child, said Larsen, both of her grandmothers taught her to knit; each with a different technique. Larsen got her sheep as weed-eaters when her neighbor was selling them, she said, and the wool started piling up in her basement, so, two years ago, she learned to spin.

Sheeps’ fleece have been used for more than keeping cozy, though. Centuries ago, when the Greeks were looking for gold, they would put fleece in a stream and, if it picked up enough gold flecks, they would start mining in that area, said Otterness. This practice is likely what led to the mythic tale of the golden fleece, sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

Today, a local spinning group has taken the name, the Golden Fleece; they meet on the first Sunday of the month at the big white church next to the town hall in Schoharie, said Larsen. The Mountain Treadlers, another local fiber-arts group, meet on the second Sunday of the month at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Altamont, she said, and all are welcome.

"Sheep people are easy to get along with," said Otterness. "If you do this, you’ve got to be patient."

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