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Altamont Fair Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 19, 2010

The Altamont Fair is ready to roll on opening day
with acts that defy death and welcome new life

By Zach Simeone

ALTAMONT — You couldn’t ask for better weather. A few thin sheets of cloud splatter across the sky like white paint on a bright blue canvas.

It’s once again opening day at the Altamont Fair, though the midway isn’t quite as crowded as it sometimes gets. On a Tuesday afternoon, many are stuck at work.

The garage sale near Gate 4 is in full swing, as it is every year. Among some of the more novel items, spread throughout the mounds of toys, are a pair of cushiony purple boots; a wooden director’s chair with a lime-green cloth seat and back; and a cracked, miniature sailboat.

The scent of grilled burgers and hotdogs, fried dough with powdered sugar, and massive blooming onions with horseradish sauce invade the nostrils. French fries and Italian sausage abound.

It’s a vendor’s paradise. Whether you’re looking for $10 sunglasses, a solar panel for renewable energy in your home, or a shape-shifting wooden trivet that can become a basket, patrons have a number of ways to empty their wallets.

“I’ve been coming to the fair for 40 years now,” said a mother from Duanesburg, her child hitching a ride in a little red wagon behind her.

Mel and Mary Cater have been coming to the fair for the past 15 years. It’s “the grandkids and food” that keeps them coming back, Mrs. Cater said.

The fresh cider and doughnuts at the Lake Side Farm Cider Mill, just beyond the row of horse stables, are a perfect follow-up to the nearby Sap Bucket’s thin and crispy hamburgers.

“It’s excellent,” says one man, who has come to the fair from Schenectady with his wife and kids. It’s 3 p.m., and they’re about to watch a complex game of fetch at the Pawstars Frisbee Show.

The first canine to display its mouth-catching skills is Taboo, a six-year-old border collie that got some exposure recently in commercials for Electrolux Appliances with Kelly Ripa.

On Tuesday, Taboo ran circles around her human partner, before dashing across the dog-sized arena to catch the flying discs and didn’t miss a single one, even backflipping to catch a few.

Next up was Java, another border collie. The stunt-dog dove off owner Erich Steffensen’s back and chest to catch the discs.

The announcer warned the crowd that Fuze was the goofball of the dog group, and onlookers learned the truth in that statement when he bolted from the tent and caused a commotion among nearby fairgoers. He was eventually caught and carried back to the tent, only to make another break for it. Apparently, Fuze came to the fair for the food stands, not for the celebrity associated with being in a dog show.

Death-defying tradition

Over in the grandstand, the Nocks carry on their death-defying family tradition in the Nerveless Nocks stunt show.

The MC for the show is Michelangelo Nock, who also performs. His father, the late Eugene Nock, was a renowned stuntman. He headlined the Ringling Brothers Greatest Show on Earth in the 1950s, which is where he met his wife. Eugene Nock was also on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, the same night The Beatles performed. That was the year he did a command performance in England for Queen Elizabeth, who coined the company’s name when she told him he was “truly nerveless.”

Then there’s Michelangelo’s uncle, Pio Nock, a famous clown who was in the 1964 film Circus World, starring John Wayne.

Carrying on that tradition at the Altamont Fair is Michelangelo’s son, 12-year-old stuntman Cyrus Nock, who kicked things off at the Altamont Fair by taking a ride in the “giant spacewheel,” which is essentially a 40-foot pendulum with a massive hamster wheel at the end.

Cyrus hopped in the wheel and, by running around the inside of it, he caused the massive structure to rotate. But his father’s use of this large apparatus was a bit more life-threatening.

Rather than getting inside the wheel, Michelangelo Nock climbed up and stood on top of it. As he walked along the top of the rotating wheel, the entire structure swung around and around. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what would have happened if he took one false step.

Once Nock descended from the spacewheel, Irene Espana hopped into a circular, hanging trapeze, where she displayed her tremendous strength by striking a series of body-bending poses.

Then, Michelangelo effortlessly climbed the 70-foot swaypole, with the speed and style of a monkey scaling a tree to acquire a banana. As the name of the stunt suggests, the pole swayed to and fro like a ribbon blowing in the wind.

But with little hesitation, Nock did a handstand when he got to the top of the pole. He then hung upside down, and slid face first towards the ground at a speed that made the audience squirm.

The Nocks’ other shows, performed at 2:30 and 8 p.m., feature a motorcycle highwire trick, with Michelangelo riding a motorcycle, balancing on a wire, as Espana hangs beneath by her toes.

Beyond the grandstand

Throughout their performances, screaming can be heard from behind the grandstands as fairgoers ride the Super-Himalaya, a miniature roller coaster.

Following on the heels of the Nerveless Nocks show was Too Shy, an ’80s cover band that played with crystal-clear sound quality on the Reid Northrup stage, a stone’s throw from the Lake Side Farm Cider Mill.

Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” was a surprisingly energetic opener, and, as they sang, “I’m Keepin’ My Baby,” a mother danced around with her child.

The soul of their vocalist really showed in their second song, Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and her bandmates consistently hit their mark with the harmonies.

A second helping from the cider mill makes for a better listening experience, so long as you’re able to stop yourself from running back and buying six more doughnuts. To your right is the nearest onion blooming in a deep fryer.

Moments like this beg the question: Are the contestants in the inner-beauty pageant competing with each other, or with the food?

Go see for yourself.

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