homegrown and homemade foods at the Schaghticoke Fair, a nearly-200-year-old
On a Wednesday
morning before the Schaghticoke Fair officially begins at
noon, three boys on bikes ride on paved paths, looking like
an ad for childhood. The place is a quiet buzz of final preparations.
Fair staff in fluorescent shirts whiz along in golf carts.
A box truck from the Glens Falls Produce Company brings food
to concession stands. The buildings that hold the displays
have most of their doors shut, with one open to allow exhibitors
to bring in materials. The animals are in their barns, and
the campers that farmers call home for fair week are set up
the Family Living Center and School Display building, the
final judging is underway. John Huth from the Mens Garden
Cluba national organization that has female members,
toois assessing the fruits and vegetables entered in
this years competition. Huth props up some pears to
compare them. Apples, pears and peaches are arranged in groups
of five on plates on two tables. Hes checking for blemishes,
uniformity of size, and trueness to type.
other words, you get picky when youre judging,
staples the ribbons to the winners. Shes been helping
with the fair for days already, accepting entries as kids
and adults bring them in. All of the fruit, she says, are
from two men from Kristys Barn, competing against each
other. This is their tradition. Theyve done it
a jar of honey up to the light, examines a plate of raspberries.
Both are solitary entries in their divisions and get blue
ribbons not just because they stand alone, but also because
they meet the standards.
are displayed against a layer of wood chips on a tilted table.
Alphabetically, the two work through the list of entries.
Beans, then beets . . . Huth turns dark red beets over to
inspect the roots for imperfections, pinches to check firmness.
peas arent ready yet, but getting peas in this kind
of weather, thats great! he says.
vegetable art is on display. A tomato creature rows a hollowed
out zucchini boat. Theres a diorama of either a boxing
ring or a field, with a potato man subduing a corn animal
with green-bean legs. Another diorama shows a carrot couple
enjoying domesticated wilderness at a campsite.
of other entries, canned and baked goods, has already happened.
Slices of pie and cake, cookies, and decorated cupcakes sit
under netting or behind glass. Jars of pickles and jams are
on shelves, almost like citizens themselves, proudly bearing
foods, homegrown and homemade, are testaments to old foodways
that are simultaneously disappearing and experiencing a revival.
While supermarkets increase the shelf space they give to processed
foods, more and more people are processing their own, too.
Organized groups, such as Canning Across America, and more
informal ones, such as the virtual canning jams organized
by the blogger Tigress, give windows into the world of home
vegetable judging continues, the concession stands are preparing
to feed an estimated 100,000 people who will come through
the fair. The Johnsonville Fire Department is heating up its
grills, ready to serve hot dogs and hamburgers, and sausages
with peppers and onions. A celery-scented cloud puffs out
from Antonios clam stand. The Hoosic Valley Booster
Club has dough ready to fry, and blenders ready to rattle.
Pancake Man Kopp is already serving all-you-can-eat
pancakes for six dollars. This is his 21st year in Schaghticoke,
and his homemade maple syrup, from Patrick Hill Maple Farm,
is in squeeze bottles on picnic tables. Kopp probably will
go through 35 gallons of syrup by Labor Day.
digs into a plate of four cakes and a pair of sausages. He
holds out a fork and insists I try a bite. Ill
probably have four more, he says, and then Ill
be set until dinner.
County Fair invited him, Kopp says, because people said he
had the best pancakes in New York State. So he just finished
a week there. He does another fair week, too, in Cobleskill,
serving light, flat pancakes he makes from New Hope Mills
years, Warren and Marion Wells sold the New Hope Mills mixes
inside the New York State Products building, along with their
full line of maple products. Last year was their swan song,
however, and they wont be opposite the ice-cream bar
this year. The dairy princess committee runs the stand, and
farmers take turn dishing up cones and cups.
Countys fair is in its 191st season. There used to be
two fairs, one in Schaghticoke and one in Nassau, but the
fairs merged years ago. How many years? Not even the director,
David Moore, can remember, and hes been coming to the
fair since he was a kid. No need to ask how long ago that
is a big part of the fair, says Moore. The 4-H building is
full of entries, and many kids have raised animals for competition
and auction, which will happen the last day. By then, farmers
young and old will have shown their animals.
think the ribbon means more to the kids than the premiums,
Moore says of the competitions. The award winners get money,
in addition to ribbons. More to the adults too. Its
a point of pride within the community.
the vegetable judging, the work continues. Grab and Huth are
near the giant pumpkins, which sit on hay near a scale, where
they were weighed when they were carefully delivered.
if the fair encourages agriculture, Grab and Huth are enthusiastic
in their responses.
seen pumpkin growers come in here and check out what people
are growing, what varieties, says Grab. Get ideas
kind of a bridge between the grower and the consumer,
opens in an hour, and the big pumpkins and field cropsjars
of rye, Ziploc bags of silagestill need ribbons. There
are more than 400 entries, which is more than last year, because
it was a better year for growing. Each person enters about
10 or 15 items, and those people will soon be through this
building to see if theres a ribbon on their food.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
course we·re a co-sponsor·it·s
about local stuff. And so, along with Honest Weight
Food Co-op, we·re pleased to announce the
Second Annual Local Harvest Festival, taking place
from 1 to 6 on Sunday (Sept. 19) at Albany·s
Washington Park Lake House. Enjoy a farmers-market-style
event featuring local vendors, restaurants and
artisans, local bands and more. Among the participants
are the Beancake Company, serving akara, a Nigerian
beancake; nuts from Delmar-based Our Daily Eats;
Elderberry Mary·s home-grown and homemade
jam; cookies from Vegan Creations (a Troy Farmers
Market favorite); milk from Battenkill Valley
Creamery; cheese and probiotic ice cream by Amazing
Real Live Food; Catskill-based Grandpa Pete·s
gourmet pasta sauce; Bettie·s Cup Cakes,
and such local restaurants and businesses as Bros
Tacos, New World Bistro, Casa Visco and Honest
Weight Food Co-op. . . . Carney·s Tavern
& Irish Pub (17 Main St., Ballston Lake) will
hold its annual Halfway to St. Patrick·s
Day party from 11:30 AM through the evening on
Saturday (Sept. 18). The party features Irish
Music by St. James Gate, Carney·s corned
beef and cabbage, Reuben sandwiches, and Irish
potato soup. Wear some green to offset the fall
foliage. More info: 399-9926. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland.