I could see the focus and determination on my daughter’s face as she and my husband alternated pulling the 2-person saw back and forth. Shrush! Shrush! Shrush! Success! They cut through their log in just under 44 seconds to win their heat of the cross-cut saw contest at the Long Island Fair!
The Agricultural Society of Queens, Nassau & Suffolk Counties has had a fair on Long Island since 1842. The Long Island Fair continues the society’s long-held annual county fair tradition with a wide assortment of agricultural and horticultural displays. We saw a few enormous pumpkins that the fairy godmother could have used for Cinderella’s coach to the ball as well as all sorts of prize-winning tomatoes, squash, gourds, herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, eggplants, and other locally grown items.
There was also entertainment throughout the fairgrounds including puppet shows, magic shows, brass bands, traditional fairgrounds music, bluegrass bands, old time baseball games (without all of the fancy modern equipment), Contra dancers, jugglers, storytellers, and even an elephant! The elephant show and a petting zoo complete with domesticated animals to feed was courtesy of a small family-owned business. The elephant was well cared for although my daughters questioned the nutritional value of the marshmallow treats she was enjoying.
Perhaps the most exciting entertainment was a platoon of Rough Riders that had set up camp to demonstrate their skills in honor of Teddy Roosevelt who had lived close by in Sagamore Hill. These re-enactment soldiers wore uniforms and used horses and weaponry like the actual Rough Riders cavalry did over 100 years ago. The riders took turns running through an obstacle course of gourds, hay bales, poles, and balloons to practice fighting with sabres and shooting with pistols. As part of the crowd, we shouted “Yay!” every time riders were successful and “Boo!” every time they missed.
In addition to enjoying the fair, we walked around the Old Bethpage Restoration Village and realized just how fortunate we are to have all of our modern conveniences including central heating, electricity, and refrigerators not to mention televisions and cell phones. Our daughters particularly noticed the external bathrooms. The outhouses’ various 6 and 8-legged inhabitants and lack of lighting truly made the girls appreciate the wonders of indoor plumbing!
When we realized that visitors to the fair could compete in the cross-cut saw competition, both our 8 and 11-year-old daughters wanted to compete, but only our older one cleared the height requirement (probably just under 5 feet). She chose her father for the other half of her team (although the organizer said that sometimes the moms are better at it than the dads). The competition gave us a new level of appreciation for how hard people used to have to work to do things as simple as cutting up wood! Our victorious team received blue ribbons for their efforts – the same one that the grower of the enormous prize winning pumpkin received. To top it off, we just got two $6 checks in the mail for their big win! My family can’t wait to go back next year to try to win another pair of blue ribbons in the cross-cut saw and maybe we’ll try the corn husking contest too!
Skills: Visual acuity, gross motor, curiosity
Preparation: Dress in appropriate layers for the fall weather and wear comfortable shoes.
Cost: Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 5-12. There are Groupon promotions for discounted tickets. If you arrive before noon on the weekends, tickets are $7 per person.
Time & Energy: The Long Island Fair is an annual event in September-October. It’s a 30-minute drive from our house. We spent about 3 hours there.
Contact Info: The event has a website (http://www.lifair.org)