What makes a great Fair?

The Cobleskill Sunshine Fair has been a family tradition for us since before I was born. I have often worked in the Domestic/Arts and Crafts Building over the years. I have seen many changes over the years, but I always find something to enjoy. I have heard many comments this year and and recent past years that the fair sucks now. It’s too expensive and there’s nothing there worth seeing any more. So, what I really would like to know is; what would you like to see at the Fair? What were some of your favorite features of Fairs in the past that are not there now? What have you seen at other Fairs that would make a good addition to our Fair? I would really like to know. Please leave lots of comments.

I understand that going to the Fair is expensive. The tickets just to get in the grounds, the rides, the food, the games. The prices at the fair have increased, but so have the prices of everything else. Gas, electricity, rent, groceries, etc.. Have Fair prices really increased that much more relative to the prices of everything else? Or has the failure of our wages to keep pace with inflation given us that much less left over to indulge? Is it an economic problem? Or do people feel they could/would spend the money if _________ were offered?

Things HAVE changed over the years. I remember a huge display of working antique steam engines that would be near the beer tent every year. They haven’t had that in a long time. Why not? Were people no longer interested in seeing this? Did the owners/operators stop participating for other reasons?

There used to be several tractor/farm implements dealers there with tractors and equipment on display and for sale. There were NONE this year. Why not? Has it become too expensive for dealers to rent space on the grounds? Or are farmers not buying enough to compensate them for coming?

I remember candy vendors who had operating taffy pullers making the candy while you watched. Cotton candy being spun as you ordered. Now, with the exception of the local maple cotton candy vendor, everything is pre-packaged. There were a few local vendors there, but not many. What happened to the Hall’s Fudge Booth under the grandstand? They have been there forever, but not this year. Watching the candy being made was always something cool to watch.

For me the main attractions are always the animals. I love going through the cattle barns, the horse barns, the sheep and goat barn, the swine barn, etc.. The animals are still there, but I have noticed there seem to be fewer every year. The beef barn was only half full this year. As was the swine barn. There used to be an entire barn full of chickens and other poultry. Now they all fit into a small corner of the sheep and goat barn. There used to be small sheds outside the chicken barn to house geese, peacocks, and turkeys. This year there was one goose. And every tour Levi and I took of the horse barns turned up a handful of horses and a lot of empty stalls. I realize there are less family farms all the time. Is this the only reason for the drop in numbers? Or have entry fees gotten too expensive?

I remember there used to be trends every year. There was the year of the “invisible dog”. There was the year all us kids were walking our sting puppets up and down the midway. There was the year all the adults had to buy coffee tables made from sliced raw tree stumps covered with poured-on clear acrylic. There were vendors doing info-mercial style shows selling cook ware or knives in Progress Land. And everybody had to have them. I haven’t seen any thing like that in years. Instead, vendors try to accost individuals as they try to walk through the building. It makes me want to rush through without making eye contact or avoid the building altogether. The vendors used to make a show of selling their products and if folks were interested they would stop and listen and maybe buy. Don’t target me and try guilt me into buying your crap! Make a demonstration that will intrigue me into wanting to know more. And where did all the cool novelties go? Seems like all the vendors are selling the same things year after year.

Of course kids always like the rides. And they always have rides. I can take them or leave them, so it’s hard for me to judge. Do they need different rides? Remember they have to balance enough rides for little kids and for teenagers. What should they have or eliminate in favor of something else. For a couple years they had a section between Progress Land and the Domestic Building that was all rides for little kids and the main midway was rides for older kids. I thought that was nice. Should they bring that back?

They also used to have a stage for the Schoharie Valley Cloggers. They did dance shows throughout the day. What happened to them. Does the group still exist? Has the Fair board stopped inviting them? Would having local dance groups be a draw? How about local school bands, color guards, etc.? Would seeing local high schoolers perform be something folks would turn out to see? How about local tap dance, ballet, gymnastics, zumba, martial arts, etc performances?

I also remember when there used to be something going on in front of the Grandstand pretty much all day. They would do most of the harness classes for the horses on the track. Now most of the horse events take place in the small horse ring or the new building in what used to part of the parking lot. You really have to want to see it to make the walk all the way over there. Used to be folks could sit in the stands to eat lunch or just rest for a while and have something to see. Not any more. And that new show ring building is very nice, but it is occupying what used to be A LOT of parking spaces. This means on busy days more people have to park in the overflow lot at the old Guilford Mills and wait for a shuttle or walk down the road.

There used to be an announcer in the booth most of the day, telling folks what is going on throughout the day. If they brought that back would there be better attendance for the animal shows, contests, events, etc. happening on the grounds?

Entries for vegetables, crafted items, sewing, photography, artwork, etc. are down year after year. Are fewer people growing gardens, crocheting, sewing? Or are they just not aware that entering their work is an option? Does the Fair Board need to do a better job of advertising? Was it better before the fair book was on-line, when it was an actual paper book that came through the mail? On-line is less wasteful of paper and has the advantage of being postage free. But is the general public even aware of the web-site?

Used to be there was music playing in the beer tent pretty much all day long. Now it seems like only certain days/evenings have performances happening there. There must be local garage bands around that could perform during the day. The Fair seems to concentrate on country music performers. Would other music help? Local bands performing rap, grunge, top 40? Or maybe oldies, big band, jazz? It’s hard to find music that appeals to everyone. Perhaps keep the big Grandstand shows country, but offer lots of different local bands in the entertainment tent throughout the week?

Folks are saying there’s nothing to see. Please tell me what you want to see? What kind of things would make you want to come to the fair? I really would love to hear. Leave comments. Just bear in mind that the Fair board has a limited amount of money to spend. The less people come to the Fair this year means less money for them to work with next year. Give me some ideas for things that would draw more people without costing huge amounts of money. Bringing big-name performers for Grandstand shows is not the answer. They need everyday things that will make the entire experience better for everyone.

Please give suggestions and maybe ideas of how the Fair board could make them work. Free passes for local performers instead of paying them to be there? Reduced prices for renting a booth for local vendors? Would you support local people over the vendors/performers that travel with the midway rides? Would you make it worth their while for local vendors/performers to invest the money/time/effort to go to the Fair?

I still enjoy going to the Fair. But it seems that many people find it lacking. So, what should they do? Please leave comments/suggestions. My mom is one of the building supervisors. I can pass suggestions on to her and she can pass them on to the Fair board. If I get enough ideas that seem feasible I would be willing to personally take them to a board meeting. So please, fire away!

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