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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2011

New at this year’s fair — Performing Bears and a Two-By-Two Zoo…
Along with the tried and true — Farm animals and thrilling rides, too

By Zach Simeone

ALTAMONT — With the arrival of bears, birds of prey, disc-catching canines, and a million-dollar pendulum ride, all is fair in the village.

Whether it’s a rollercoaster, a lesson in wildlife, or a fresh blooming onion you seek, it can be found at this year’s Altamont Fair, Aug. 16 through 21 at the Altamont Fairgrounds.

The board of directors got an early start putting together this year’s fair. Members got the ball rolling in October; by January, all the entertainment was booked, according to Marie McMillen, operations manager for the fair. Then, they moved on to what vendors they would be bringing in this year, lining up the latest set of occupants for the little brown huts that typically dole out fresh cider doughnuts, grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, and a myriad of other meal options.

Reithoffer Shows has been setting up the rides since last Wednesday, but water testing, and electrical testing and upgrades, have been ongoing for the last month, McMillen said. She declined to reveal the total cost of setting up the fair.

“The bears are coming in from the state of Washington, so they’re making their way here, and they’ll be here Sunday,” McMillen said, referring to The Hall’s Bear Mountain Wildlife Show, which will bring the hulking mammals out of the forest and into the village for all to see. The bears, a new act for the fair, will entertain at the grandstand this year.

“Some of the large animals like to come here and get settled before everything starts,” McMillen said.

What begins as a 12-person operation eventually grows into a 200-volunteer machine, and McMillen and the rest of the fair’s workers have spent the last nine months getting ready to welcome “well over 100” attractions, including 33 rides, McMillen said. Last year, the fair brought in 10,000 to 12,000 more people than the previous year’s 29,000, and organizers hope for even more this year.

Live, learn, and ride

New attractions at this year’s fair include the $1 million, Italian-born ride called “The Stinger.” (See related story.)

“There are only 11 of these rides total in the world, 10 of them in Europe, and one in the United States, and that’s the one that’s here,” said McMillen of The Stinger.

A new set of pigs will race to entertain, only this time, they’re not running. They’re swimming.

Lawrence Frederick’s Disc-Connected Canines are dogs that have been rescued from shelters and trained to be champion Frisbee catchers, performing an array of tricks, and gravity-defying dives, all choreographed to music.

“These are internationally acclaimed Frisbee dogs,” McMillen said. “Over the past 19 years, he’s been in France, Chile, Venezuela, Canada, Japan,” she said of Frederick; he and his dogs have even been on David letterman’s Late Show.

“Another thing that’s new this year is the Raptor Project, which is an educational display of eagles, hawks — birds of prey,” said McMillen. Of their handler, Jonathan Wood, she went on, “He’ll bring them out, and people can get up close to them; they obviously can’t handle them. He’ll explain their habitat and explain all things about them. He wears leather gloves and has them on a chain that goes from their leg to his hand, so they’re not going anywhere. A lot of them have been rehabbed, as a project. These are birds that have been injured and, maybe, can’t fly properly; they’ve been picked up along the road, or have been sick; for whatever reason, they can’t be turned back to the wild. So, he’s brought them into an educational format.”

Also joining the fair this year will be the Two-By-Two Zoo, showcasing pairs of various wild species, including two Asian spotted black leopards, Samson and Delilah; a couple of alligators named Andy and Gully; and a variety of others, including, lemurs, capuchin monkeys, kangaroos, and tortoises.

“Three or four times a day, they will have educational presentations where animals will be brought out of their cages,” said McMillen of the zoo.

Both the auto museum and farm-machinery building will have a number of new participants as well, one of which, McMillen said, is of particularly important historical value: the green bone crusher.

“It was an old antique that was used by early farms to harden the eggshells by grinding up bones in this thing and feeding them to the chickens,” McMillen said. “Evidently, when they first started packaging and sending eggs off the farms, they found that the eggs were too soft, and they couldn’t move them. So, they came upon crushing up old animal bones and feeding the powder to the chickens, which gave them the calcium they needed, and it hardened their eggshells.”

Also on display will be a motorcycle that was built by the famed Orange County Choppers, exclusively for Howe’s Caverns.

And, fair-going children will have a chance to participate in this year’s fair with the Amazing Kids Circus.

“The children create the circus,” McMillen said, “and each one of these children gets dressed up as a particular animal or participant. They all have their little parts where the ringmaster cues them to do their thing. It’s like an orchestrated circus using children to play out the show.”

And just about all of the bands performing at the fair this year differ from years past, she said.

It’s always a challenge, said McMillen, “Making sure all the loose ends are tied up, that the tents get inspected, and the permits get purchased, and applications get filed, and making sure everyone has their paperwork in order.” But the board of directors’ decision to move its annual meeting from January up to October allowed McMillen and her team to get an early start, which made planning the fair easier this year than ever before, McMillen said.

“I think it’s a hidden treasure, and we always strive to expose our fair to more people who haven’t thought about coming,” she concluded. “We’ve got a lot of great things, and a lot of educational things for children. It’s a real fun day.”


Tickets for the Altamont Fair are available for $14 online at www.AltamontFair.com, and for $15 at the gate, and at any area Price Chopper. Each ticket purchased means unlimited rides for one person.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, senior citizens ages 65 and older get in free until 4 p.m.

Children three feet tall and shorter get in free, but cannot ride unless the ride company permits the child to sit with the parent on the ride, or unless they wish to board a kids’ ride.

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