LOWVILLE — From early Tuesday morning, empty chairs, blankets and other place holders lined streets in the village in anticipation of the county’s biggest parade, after “the voice of the fair” and the iconic Cheese Auction officially set the 199th Lewis County Fair into motion.
John Burr, 79, “the voice” who has been the main announcer for fair events like the demolition derby for decades, cut the ribbon launching the five-day festival celebrating all things dairy and “Lewis County pride...county wide.”
Mr. Burr said he has been the Society’s and the Fair’s official announcer for 47 years and was inducted into the State Association of Agricultural Fairs Hall of Fame in 2015.
“He’s been with the fair forever,” said County Agricultural Society President Doug Hanno by way of introduction. “And he was not going to miss this opening ceremony.”
While the Easton Corbin concert Friday night and other grandstand shows and events get the most attention, it’s the fair’s accessibility for everyone Mr. Hanno appreciates most.
“The free acts, like the High Flying Pages acrobatic act and the musicians and performers all over the grounds that make the fair special to me,” Mr. Hanno said. “Seeing the kids go around, checking out the machinery, families enjoying the place, the nice shaded areas, the exhibitions, the performances, that’s what I like to see.”
Unique and special at the Lewis County Fair every year is the Cheese Auction, now in its 25th year.
While it may not be the best bargain in town with prices settling between $25 and $2,500 per pound, it may be the most fun way to buy big bricks of the stuff for good causes.
More than 100 people gathered in the cattle show ring to witness 270 pounds of cheese bought piece by piece, bid by bid, for what totalled over $16,000, said Elaine Rosiczkowski of the Dairy Industry Building Committee, auction sponsor.
Included in that amount was the $4,100 paid by Kraft-Heinz to match the winning bid for the “Big Cheese:” the 20-pound block of sharp cheddar won by state Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, on behalf of himself, the Lewis County Republican Committee and the Republican candidates seeking office in the November elections.
Blocks and wheels of 13 different types of cheese weighing from five to 20 pounds sold for between $100 and, other than the Big Cheese, $450.
“It was a little less than last year because the Big Cheese didn’t go for as much, but we are still very happy with how it turned out,” Mrs. Rosiczkowski said of she and her husband Gary, master of ceremonies for the sale.
Auctioneer Joseph Bush kept the patter going as his father had done for over 20 years before him, while Lewis County Dairy Princess Kelsey Beyer and her court served samples and walked the cheese around the ring for the crowd to see.
The cheese was donated by the 135 farm families that belong to the Lowville Producers Dairy Co-op.
New to the block at this year’s auction was a cutting board hand-crafted by Herbert Stacy with a big block of cheddar and a metal basin filled with artisanal products made throughout the county.
The auction event began with a parade of calves and young cows awarded to youths through the Dairy Enhancement Calf Program funded by the event.
Other auction beneficiaries have included local FFA and 4-H clubs, youth agricultural programs and scholarships.
By the 7 p.m. parade start, crowds were many people deep behind the filled chairs and blankets set up in the morning saving the front-row seats. The parade featured marchers from local organizations and clubs, farm equipment, fire engines, floats and many candies flying through the air. It was followed by the “fireworks display at the fairgrounds.
There is no admission charged for the Lewis County Fair which continues through Saturday.
For a complete schedule of events, visit www.lewiscountyfair.org.