Thursday August 30, 2012

Columbia County Fair

The annual Columbia County agricultural fair in Chatham, N.Y., has been a mainstay of the late summer calendar for the past 171 years, as farm folk and community members proudly display prized livestock, flowers and produce along with the fruits of their domestic labors, from preserves to quilts.

Over the years, the fair has expanded to include live entertainment and sideshows, amusement rides, a midway and much more. It runs now through Labor Day.

Animal exhibits range from farmyard-friendly oxen, cattle, swine, sheep and goats to exotic specimens such as panthers and kangaroos in the Two by Two Zoo, as well as a perky posse of pigs racing round a track.

There are Flying High Frisbee Dogs and Border Collie herding demonstrations for canine fans, and the Painted Pony Rodeo and Horse Show for equine enthusiasts. In the poultry barn, chickens of all varieties sport plumage from iridescent cascades to fluffy pajama legs, with quacking ducks, gobbling turkeys and bunnies very large and small next door.

Artisans host daily demonstrations of old-fashioned handcrafts in the Heritage Village, including wood and ironwork, blacksmithing and tinsmithing, basket weaving and fly tying.

Magic shows, farm-themed children's songs, gymnastics and a firefighters' parade vie with monster tractors, country music stars and a demolition derby.


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Hungry fairgoers can savor wholesome milkshakes and baked potatoes by the 4-H barn, or indulge in cotton candy, corn dogs and fried dough on the midway.

View the whole colorful scene from atop the Ferris Wheel or astride a carousel pony, then hang on to your hat in the spinning Zipper cage. Daily admission costs $ 10 ( or $ 12 on Sunday) and is free for children 12 and under. Young people 18 and under get in free today. Entertainment and parking are free, and all-inclusive ride passes are available. Information: www. columbiafair. com, ( 518) 392-2121.

Mass MoCA

At this former factory turned contemporary museum in North Adams, admission is always free at the family-friendly Kidspace gallery. But tomorrow, courtesy of the Highland Street Foundation's generous Free Fun Fridays program, the entire museum is open to the community at no cost, allowing free entry to an adventure playground of some of the most exciting artwork exhibits around. A celebration of art from our neighbor to the north is currently on display, showcasing coast-tocoast Canadian creativity to spark curiosity and boggle the mind.

Outdoors, an overgrown industrial garden complete with an oversized swing set overlooks the concrete encased iverway, while sound permeates an atmospheric antiquated boiler room open to the elements. Climb high above the rooftops to visit a most unusual Airstream trailer "spacecraft" filled with all the essentials of interstellar travel.

One of the most unique aspects of the museum is the phenomenal Sol LeWitt installation, an extraordinary retrospective of more than 100 custompainted, wall-sized panels that fills three floors of the building. The bold colorblock grids, intricate geometric patterns and swirling shapes never fail to fascinate museum visitors of all ages.

After artistic appetites are whetted, visitors can satisfy more earthly tastes with some delicious ice- cream from the onsite café, Lickety Split.

Mass MoCA is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the Kidspace gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p. m.. Information: www. massmoca. org, (413) 662-2111.

Pleasant Valley

While children prepare their backpacks and get ready to return to school, Berkshire beavers are shoring up their lodges for the arrival of fall and the dark winter beyond. On Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, join knowledgeable volunteer Florian "Butch" Ptak for an evening at the beaver ponds and visit the sturdy stick and mud dwellings that dot Yokun Brook on this expansive Audubon property.

Learn about the local history of these industrious oversized rodents and how their presence has impacted the natural landscape since they were reintroduced to the area 80 years ago.

The program is suitable for ages 3 and up, and registration is not required. The cost is $7 adults, $ 4 children. Information: www.massaudubon.org, (413) 637-0320