Rodeo, auction round off Columbia County Fair's 176th year


CHATHAM, N.Y. — Dave Leonard has been selling chocolate for the last 25 years at the Columbia County Fair.

"I used to do upwards of 50 fairs a year," the Dracut, Mass., man said. "But now I only do this one."

Leonard's business, Mrs. Leonard's Candy Shoppe, made 1,200 pounds of chocolate for the event. Stock was running low in the early afternoon on Monday as a sizable crowd wandered in and out of the exhibition pavilion.

The Chatham, N.Y., event wrapped up its 176th annual two-week stint of entertainment, games, farming, and fun Monday. Fairgoers watched as riders from across the region competed in a rodeo on the grandstand out by the east parking lot. Others bid on livestock in the 4-H arena to the north of the fairgrounds.

On the north side of the fairgrounds the 4-H youth auction brought a lively crowd. Patrick Stark and his father John, from Willow Dell Farm in Ghent, auctioned their steer Dozer off to the crowd in the early afternoon.

Not all the animals at the fair were being auctioned, though. Many were there for show. In the cattle barn, Summer Kiernan cuddled with one of her family's award winning cows. Kiernan, of Copake, smiled as she tried not to doze off in the midday heat.

Outside the barn, Greg Doust helped Maggie Grace hose off a small Holstein.

"We're showing for Hollyrock Farm," Doust said. "We camped here the whole time."

In the Heritage Barn, Liz Fowler of Pittsfield and her daughter Elsa played with yarn by the Carapace Farm Puppetry booth. At the end of the hall, Frances Culley and her daughters Ingrid and Ermengarde spun wool on a wooden spindle.

"We've been coming here for a few years now," Frances said. "I love it — it's when I get to spin!"

Maia Conte of Great Barrington has been coming for about the same amount of time, she said. On Monday she brought a "posse" of children to the event.

The rodeo drew the biggest crowd. Men and women from across the northeast were at the fair to compete. Rett Emerson of Strafford, Vermont, sat on the railing and watched the competition wrangle cattle.

In the parking lot outside of the gates, Lisa Barone and Julie Perbola kept their horses fresh with loops around the space. Both women came from Pennsylvania, Barone from Gettysburg and Perbola from York. They made the trek for the rodeo, they said.

"It's worth it," Perbola said. "This is a good fair."


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