We're officially in the swing of county fairs and many are offering some great new food, shows and even rides. But organizers at the Jefferson County Fair are making sure the history and tradition don't get lost amid all the new attractions. As our Brian Dwyer tells us, agriculture and animals are getting the same spotlight they got 195 years ago when this fair first started.
WATERTOWN, N.Y. --There's no big show under the big tent at the Jefferson County Fair. No circus, no thrill ride and no fried Oreos.
Instead, the stars of the oldest continuous fair in the nation are animals. The cows, rabbits, goats, pigs and more that have helped provide Jefferson County with thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars and fresh local foods for as long as this fair has been around.
"People don't get to a chance to interact with farm animals and see them anymore. Not like they used to 50 years ago," Jefferson County Fair President Bob Simpson said.
"So many times I have kids say to me, where does the milk come from and their response was 'from the store'. Let's take that back a step because that's not the case," local farmer Katrina Ellis, of Ellis Farms, said.
In a time where larger farms are scaling down or closing, the fair offers people a chance to see, up close, the power agriculture has played in their past and can play in their future, even on the smallest of scales.
"Especially with it being a transient society with our huge Fort Drum population, someone can raise a few hens, have their own eggs," Jefferson County Fair Poultry and Rabbit Superintendent Laura Dorr said. "Raise a few rabbits to learn about livestock."
For many, that learning can be rewarding in a different way. Most county fairs have livestock competitions and groups like 4-H help get youngsters involved in all aspects of raising animals.
"It's a great learning experience. It teaches responsibility, dedication and it's a lot of fun here," Ellis said.
"Also there's a reward for caring for your animal and raising a good quality animal," Dorr added.
Many of the winners here will get the chance to bring their animals to Syracuse to compete at the state fair and possibly national and international events.
The fair runs through Saturday.