Town and Country: Chemung County Fair needs help to celebrate its history
Children enjoy the giant slide Sunday on the last day of the Chemung County Fair at the county fairgrounds in Horseheads. Fair organizers said attendance may have been up a little over the 2007 numbers, and they want the James E. Strates Shows to provide more rides in 2009. / JEFF MURRAY / Star-Gazette
by Jeff Murray
Apr. 6, 2012
I've always been reluctant to visit county fairs because for me, the main attraction is always the food concessions.
But I've been to many fairs over the years with my kids, who always enjoyed the rides, games, farm animals and other attractions, and I'll admit it is easy to get swept up in the excitement.
In Chemung County, that excitement has been happening for 169 years, and fair organizers are asking the public for some help as they prepare to celebrate the 170th anniversary this summer.
Specifically, fair officials are looking for historic items from past fairs that can be donated or loaned for display at this year's event.
"One of things we're looking for is photos taken at past fairs, old brochures, posters, that kind of stuff," said Mike Taylor, a Chemung County Fair director.
"Basically we'll take anything, but we're looking for posters, fliers, any kind of stuff like that. We decided this year we'd do a display at the fair. We thought if people had old fair stuff in their attic or whatever, they could lend it."
Fair officials haven't decided where to display whatever historical items they collect, but it will have to be some place both public and secure, Taylor said.
"We'll put it in some kind of glass case; somewhere the public can't handle it. It will be in a secure area," he said.
"They can come to pick stuff up after the fair. It probably could be in the farmer's museum or the commercial building."
This year's fair will take place July 31 through Aug. 5 at the Chemung County Fairgrounds in Horseheads.
Country music star Josh Turner will be the headline musical act.
This year's fair will also feature a new twist -- an official Chemung County Fair princess.
Fair organizers are also looking for any items associated with the James E. Strates Show, which provides the rides and midway for the fair.
Strates was replaced for a time by the Coleman Bros. Shows, but came back in 2004.
Not only does Strates have a long history with the Chemung County Fair, but it also has another local connection.
"They started out in Horseheads, N.Y. It actually started out behind Grand Central Plaza. The current owner was born and raised in Big Flats," Taylor said.
"Before the Strates shows started in '68, we had a carnival called O.C. Buck Shows. I think they've been out of business for a long, long time.
"Strates started in 1923. They were at the fair from 1968 to 1991. They left for a period of time," he said.
"The Strates show still travels by train. If you go to our website and click on rides and midway, it will say the Strates show is the only railroad carnival traveling in the United States today."