The Dutchess County Fair

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It’s good to have a plan when heading to the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck. Every member of my family has their own checklist of what to see, do … and eat. My 15-year-old son wants to go on every ride using centrifugal force to scramble his brain. My 8-year-old daughter wants to pet baby calves and cheer on Rosaire’s Racing Pigs. I ask only for the chance to walk through the horticultural building to see who won the blue ribbon for flower arrangement. And my husband, who has starved himself for days prior, prepares for an onslaught of deepfried Oreos and the milkshakes made by the local 4-H club.

Anything more is just gravy, and at this county fair – the second largest in New York State after Erie County – that’s a lot of gravy. Since the first version 173 years ago, this annual event has grown to 144 acres of rides, midway amusements, animal exhibits, shows, competitions, food stalls and vendors. More than 300,000 people attend over six days.

Ride & Games

If you judge a fair by the rides, then you’ll be pleased with the variety here, which ranges from the mild classics like the carousel and Ferris wheel, to the thrilling speed and heights of Pharaoh’s Fury, Genesis and others. Toddlers and preschoolers get their separate section of gentle, pint-sized rides such as Jalopy Junction and Fire Chief.

Along the midway, you’ll find all kinds of games of chance, from ring tosses to target shooting. Your prize could be anything from a giant inflatable alien to a live goldfish. Several years ago, we won not one, but two goldfish, much to my son’s delight. Don’t believe what they say about these fish being short-lived. “Goldie” and “Fishie” were a beloved part of our family for four long years!

Education & Entertainment

It’s not all mindless fun, though. There are educational displays focusing on agricultural history, including the Antiques Museum Village with a printer’s shop, rural kitchen and auto shop. There’s also an authentic one-room schoolhouse and the Pleasant Valley Historic Train Station, both of which have been permanently moved to the fairgrounds. Your family can also watch demonstrations at the blacksmith shop and cider mill.

There is plenty of free entertainment, from talent shows under tents to bands marching through the pathways. We always look out for Oscar the interactive robot, and Hilby the Skinny German Juggling Boy. In the evenings, the Grandstand Concert Series brings in touring performers with names you’ll recognize. This year, the line-up includes the Spin Doctors, Doobie Brothers, Cole Swindell, Dan + Shay, the Painted Pony Rodeo and Acrodunk, a basketball slam dunk show.

The food choices are impressively vast, especially the deep-fried and “on-a-stick” options. Yes, you can snack on deep-fried pickle chips or spaghetti and meatballs on-a-stick, but you can also find healthy options too, like wraps and salads. Save room – and time to wait on line – for a thick 4-H milkshake. It’s not only delicious, but a great fundraiser for the organization that promotes science, citizenship and healthy living programs for kids.

Plan Tips

Now, back to the importance of having a plan. We try to go on a weekday, because the weekend crowds mean longer lines. Check the weather forecast, because most of the attractions are outdoors and uncovered. We always pack sunscreen and water bottles. Check the daily events calendar of the fair’s website in advance to find out where and when activities and shows are taking place. You can also download a map, although you can get one at the entrance.

I’ve always found this to be a very family friendly event. The New York State Police are present, first-aid stations, clean bathrooms, a lost children center and a “Rock & Rest” nursing mothers’ tent. The grounds are stroller accessible, but there are some steep hills.

Frequent contributor Traci L. Suppa blogs about her family’s travels at

When You Go …

6550 Springbrook Avenue
Rhinebeck, N.Y.
DATES: Tuesday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
ADMISSION: $15 adults (12+), free for children under 12.
TICKETS: Purchased on-site, or in advance with a nominal service fee.
OTHER: There are additional fees for ride tickets and most of the evening concerts.

Updated 12:25 pm, July 21, 2015
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