Tri-county fair features new rides on a bigger midway, a wine festival, and the same fixed price

Enterprise file photo — Russell Pokorny
Stretching out across the fairgrounds, The Altamont Fair, shown here in 2013, showcases a plethora of rides, a circus, vendors, and agricultural demonstrations each year. The fairgrounds, which span over 138 acres, host events year-round.

Enterprise file photo — Anne Hayden Harwood
A poodle balances across two ends of a ladder during a performance in the circus at The Altamont Fair while its handler gestures up at it. Circus Hollywood will be featuring three new acts this year, in addition to staples such as trapeze artists and clowns.

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Passing the crown: Little Miss Emma Isdell, left, was crowned last year by the outgoing Little Miss, Abby Leszczynski. This year, the Miss Altamont Fair pageant will begin Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Enterprise file photo — Tyler Murphy
Fair-goers swing high above the ground at The Altamont Fair, with dozens of games below them. This year, the midway, where all the rides are located, has been expanded to include room for new rides and an additional entrance.

Enterprise file photo — Tyler Murphy
An exotic guest looks down at visitors to The Altamont Fair, while his tongue flails at something tasty. Twiggs the giraffe will be visiting the fair again this year, where fair-goers can feed him as well as goats, llamas, ponies, and other animals.

ALTAMONT — Always a summer staple, The Altamont Fair returns this year with established favorites and new activities to try.

Marie McMillen, director of The Altamont Fair, recently told The Enterprise about what to expect from the six-day festival, which runs this year from Tuesday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 17. The fair serves Albany, Schenectady, and Greene counties.

The carnival midway, where all the rides are situated, will be expanded this year to make room for five new rides, for a total of over 40 adult rides and over 30 rides for kids. Also, many of the existing rides, as well as the new ones, have been updated with new light and color shows, McMillen said.

The midway area will also feature more benches and lighting, as well an additional entrance.

“We felt as a pay-one-price [fair], we had to increase the area,” she said, “so [visitors] have more to choose from and more space to do it in.”

This is the fourth year the fair has run as a pay-one-price event, which has led to increased attendance, McMillen said.

“It’s a real savings for families,” she said, “This is making it affordable for them.”

Admission at the gate is $15 on Tuesday and Wednesday, and $17 Thursday through Sunday. Additionally, on Wednesday until 4 p.m., all armed forces members, veterans, seniors, and Grange members get in free as the fair celebrates its Armed Forces Day.

Tickets bought on the fair’s website are $15 regardless of which day they are for.

The admission fee covers parking, rides, the circus, music performances, the many museums, and most everything else the fair has to offer.

Music is popular at the fair, and McMillen said all the performance slots are booked by January some years.

This year, The Grove will have shows by 17 different bands, as well as the Battle of the Teen Bands on Tuesday, with the first performance at noon.

McMillen said she likes to have a mixture of acts for fair-goers to enjoy, and organizers get feedback from attendees to find out what they want to see, and hear, in future years.

This year, the fair will feature The LateShift, Jet Crash Billy, and Funk Evolution, among others.

New and notable

The fair is adding a llama exhibit and demonstration on Friday, hosted by Wunsapana Farms, which is located in Guilderland.

In Llama Land, patrons can feed, pet, and even ride a llama as well as check out education exhibits. Llama Land will only be at the fair on Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the pavilion.

This is also the first year the fair will host the Altamont Fair Wine Festival, which will take place Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m. (See related story.)

An extra five dollars can get fair-goers access to the wine festival tent near Gate 3, where six different wineries from New York will each offer five to seven wines to taste.

McMillen is excited about the wine festival, and thinks the fair is a great place to have it.

“Our mission is agriculture,” she said of the fair. “I thought it was a natural fit.”

“Now, we can include farmers who are growing grapes instead of milking cows,” McMillen said with a chuckle.

Cars have been a fair attraction for years, and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club of New York Capital District Region will bring around 15 antique Cadillacs and street rods to the Cars: Past, Present and Future exhibit.

“They’re very active,” McMillen said of the club, “and do a great job of changing out the display each year.”

Animals won’t be in short supply this year with the return of Giraffic Menagerie, where visitors can feed Twiggs the giraffe, as well as goats, llamas, ponies, and other animals.

Giraffic Menagerie is a part of Circus Hollywood, which is featuring three new acts at the fair this year.

Farms and food

The Agriculture Tent will be in full swing at this year’s fair, with demonstrations at various times throughout the week, and opportunities for attendees to see some farm activities such as milking cows or shearing sheep.

The fair will also feature oxen pulls and horse pulls, as well as pony, sheep, and goat shows.

In addition to all the food vendors at the fair, guests can visit the Blue Ribbon Cooking Center each day to make and take their own treats.

Friday evening will feature a soup cook-off, while kids 12 and younger can decorate confections on Wednesday and Friday, and make pizzas on Thursday.

There will also be an egg-flipping contest and pound-cake baking contest on Saturday.

Young and old

McMillen has been with the fair since her youth, in one way or another. She exhibited there as a teen, as did her mother.

Her own children showed at the fair in the 1970s.

The fair director said she has a “long history of being involved.”

Her involvement doesn’t stop when the fair ends each summer, however — that’s when planning for the next year starts.

At all times of the year, she often gets up in the middle of the night and writes down ideas and to-dos on a notepad she keeps by her bed.

“For me, the fair never goes away,” McMillen said.