Tonawanda News


August 15, 2013

KEPPELER: In defense of the fair

Tonawanda News — It’s cool to hate on the Erie County Fair.

Admit it. It’s even understandable. It can get pricey, it can be huge and dusty and crowded, the food is ridiculously unhealthy and the sheer gaudy, noisy, over-the-top nature of the midway can be downright unpleasant if you mind that sort of thing. (I sort of like it in small doses.) I hear an increasing amount of grumbling about it from people (who generally don’t plan to attend anyway) about all these things, and they definitely have a point.

Now, me, I like fairs. 

I even like the Erie County Fair. 

And thinking about it, I think it sort of gets a bum rap.

By my best count, I’ve been to seven, maybe eight, of Western New York’s county fairs. Growing up (as the daughter of another fair-lover), they were a summer staple. Cattaraugus County’s fair in Little Valley, 171 years old this year, my “home fair.” Nearby Chautauqua County. What we always called “Pike Fair” (actually the Wyoming County Fair), which I’ve always considered the absolute epitome of little county fairs. 

When I worked in Batavia, I attended the Orleans and Genesee county fairs. Then I moved to Lewiston, and visited Niagara County’s fair. I’ve even visited the State Fair in Syracuse once.

And as diverse as they can be in size and location, the type of their midways and the cost of admission, they all have elements in common. (And I’m not talking about deep-fried anything.)

Now, bear with me ... I’m not changing the subject.

One of my most prized wedding gifts was a beautifully made quilt from a family friend, a woman who pulled in champion-after-champion ribbon for her work at the little Catt. County fair. In my admittedly biased opinion, her work could have been displayed at any number of museum’s I’ve visited — but the fair is where she loved to showcase it.

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