LOWVILLE — It was 201 years in the making but the 200th edition of the Lewis County Fair opened Tuesday.
Just before the annual parade was about to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, heavy rain began pouring down, canceling the event. Lewis County Fair board members confirmed it would not be rescheduled.
But the rain didn’t dampen spirits roughly 1,000 people gathered at the fairgrounds for the fair’s opening day.
Caitlin Ward Lee played the bagpipes as a crowd of about 100 gather at the fairgrounds gate off Bostwick Street. Lewis County Agricultural Society Board of Directors President Douglas P. Hanno in his opening remarks noted it was a great accomplishment to reach the bicentennial of the fair.
“It’s amazing the number of people we have here for opening ceremonies,” Mr. Hanno said. “I don’t think we have ever had this kind of a crowd.”
He promised this year’s fair was “worth the wait — this year’s fair is better than ever.”
Mr. Hanno asked for a few moments of silence in remembrance of former fair board members, the late John Burr and Nancy Patton.
“They wanted to be here but ... they are here in spirit,” the fair board president said, holding back tears.
A proclamation from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was read by fair board member Susan M. Berrus. The proclamation stated the fair has been a “centerpiece for the highlighting the region’s wonderful farming and agriculture heritage” for two centuries.
During the opening ceremonies, Anna Western, Future Farmers of America state secretary, spoke and a print of a 1930 painting of the Lewis County Fair was unveiled. The print will be on display throughout the week under the grandstands.
Mr. Hanno noted that although there was not a fair last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board was busy making improvements to the building and grounds including replacing the floor in the pavilion, rewiring the antique building and planting trees.
In keeping with the theme of “A celebration of generations,” Mr. Hanno was assisted in the ribbon cutting to officially open the fair by his grandchildren, Hazel, Leo, Lucas and Lauren Hanno.
Following the ribbon cutting, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, presented Commendation Medals to Mr. Hanno, local attorney Michael Young and Ashley Waite, Lewis County Public Health director.
After the opening ceremonies, the much of the group headed to the Dairy Cattle Show Ring for the annual cheese auction.
Auctioneer Joseph Bush of LJ Bush Livestock and Trucking took bids on 38 selections of mild and aged cheddars in five, 10 and 20 pound blocks.
In its 27th year, the cheese auction was presented by the Lewis County Dairy Industry Building Committee to raise funds to support events and activities for local youth involved in agriculture.
Cheese went for anywhere from $25 to $425 per pound in the charity auction.
Gary Rosiczkowski, superintendent of the Dairy Industry Building, said in the first year, the auction only raised about $400 and has normally increased annually. But this year, the amount raised took a grand leap to $24,870. The increase was due in part to the addition of four variety packs along with the $8,500 bid on the “big cheese,” a 20 pound block of sharp cheddar, which went to the Lewis County Republicans and Dairy Friends. Kraft Heinz matches the bid for the big cheese.
Prior to the auction, the Lewis County Farm Bureau presented the Young Farmer Award was to Jeremy and Laura Gracey and Senior Farmer honors went to Dave and Jackie Peck of Marks Farms.
The Graceys are second-generation farmers.
Nominated by their peers, the Pecks were said to be active in agriculture their whole lives and on a multigenerational level. They are described as a “farming family which takes great pride in environmental conservation, community support and progressive change in agriculture.”
In addition, Shannon L. Bush Waldron was inducted into the Agricultural Society Hall of Fame posthumously. Ms. Waldron, who died in January from COVID complications, was said to support the community, the fair, the agricultural society and the Lewis County Dairy Industry Building.
“She enjoyed being at the fair, greeting the visitors with a big smile, plus proudly representing employees and retirees during the 28 years she worked for Kraft Heinz,” said Brian Western, materials manger at the plant and a member of the Dairy Industry Committee.
Throughout the week, there will be performances by TJ the Magicman, the high wire act The Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean and spray paint muralist ARCY. There will be tractor pulls, a demolition derby, dog shows, livestock and poultry showings, harness racing and a draft hose show. The baby show will be held virtually. Rides will be available on the Coleman’s Brothers Midway with wristband specials each day and a variety of “fair” food.
The Oak Ridge Boys will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday followed by Fritz Polka Band. The fair concludes Saturday — family day.
For more information about the fair, visit www.lewiscountyfair.org.