PLATTSBURGH — The Clinton County Fairgrounds was abuzz with activity Monday afternoon as workers prepared for the opening today.
Carnival rides were rising against the sky, goats bleated as they were reluctantly led to their stalls, food vendors washed the windows of their booths, and the smell of french fries drifted through the air.
“It’s been busy,” said George Seymour, president of the Clinton County Fair Board and superintendent of maintenance. “We’re making sure everything is in line.”
The fair has to be ready to go by 11 a.m. today, in time for the opening of the carnival rides at noon, Seymour said as he helped replace a broken hot-water tank that will be used to wash cow milking equipment.
“You never know what’s going to pop up for repairs,” he said.
A resident of Schuyler Falls, he has been coming to the Clinton County Fair since he was a boy. He has served on the Fair Board for 12 years, and this is his fourth year with maintenance.
“I enjoy doing it,” he said.
Seymour was looking forward to eating sausage with peppers, onions and cheese, his favorite kind of fair food.
The chicken judging was complete by mid afternoon Monday.
It’s done before the fair opens because it takes most of the day, and an entire barn would have to be roped off, said Poultry Committee member Melissa Sayward.
Rachael Scarborough, 11, of Peru won Best Bantam Reserve for her Silky named Miracle, the name picked because the fluffy white chicken hatched during below-zero weather last winter.
This is Scarborough’s third year showing chickens.
She doesn’t have much time to enjoy any of the rides or games at the fair since she works shifts at the Dairy Barn in addition to tending to the family’s six chickens and two rabbits on display for fair-goers.
Scarborough hopes to become a veterinarian.
“I want to try to get a scholarship to Cornell (University),” she said.
Five children earned perfect scores on a written test for poultry showmanship, winning blue ribbons.
For showmanship, the judge looks for the person’s ability to handle the bird, knowledge of the breed being shown and breed standards, Sayward said.
A BIT HECTIC
Matt Carter, 17, of Ellenburg Center was helping eight calves and cows get settled in the Dairy Barn. Six more would be coming from the A-MI-DA-SA farm in Champlain, where he works.
“I’ve had a couple winners in the past,” he said.
This is his fifth year showing cattle at the fair.
He has won showmanship awards and showed cows in last year’s New York State Fair in Syracuse and the National Fair in Indiana.
Judges look for nice feet and legs and good stature in bovines, he said.
On Thursday and Friday, Carter and the cows he cares for will compete against about 10 others and their animals.
Things get a bit hectic once everyone has arrived and all the animals are in the barn, he said.
And in the mornings, there’s always a rush to the cow washing station.
“It’s crazy to try to get a spot,” Carter said.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
Caleb Peach of Gibsonton, Fla., was helping six other men set up the ferris wheel. They would be working into the night but promised the signature ride would be ready for the opening.
Peach enjoys the frequent change of scenery that comes with the job.
“You’re somewhere new almost every other week.”
After the Clinton County Fair, he is heading to the New Jersey State Fair in Augusta.
It took Terry Farmer of Connersville, Ind., just two hours to set up the Water Race booth.
He has worked at fairs and carnivals for nine years, and the Water Race is his favorite.
“When people play my game, they have fun,” he said. “I entertain the kids.”
It costs $3 per person to play that midway game, but Farmer said he’s willing to negotiate.
“If people come up and they have five kids and not a lot of money, I let them play for a dollar each,” he said.
“They have a blast.”
Stephanie Blair, co-owner of Murphy’s food stand, said she and the other workers finished setting everything up Sunday.
“It’s a lot of work.”
The permanent location of Murphy’s restaurant is Peru, and she sees customers at the fair who she also serves there.
“A lot of local people know us,” she said.
All in all, things seemed to be coming together nicely, Seymour said.
“It’s going to be a good fair this year. We try to get better and better every year.”