The Dutchess County Fair is unique in its unwavering commitment to its agricultural roots; its organizer, the Dutchess County Agricultural Society, has as its mission "to preserve, promote and protect the agricultural integrity of this great Fair." It accomplishes the task this year with horse and livestock shows, a dairy birthing center where visitors can witness a calf being born, grange exhibits, wool-spinning demonstrations and a milking parlor. There's also a stick pony show for kids and hundreds of displays and demonstrations offered by members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America. And, of course, there are the vegetable competitions, where gardeners from throughout the County showcase their biggest, tastiest vegetables in pursuit of elusive blue ribbons.
Historically, county fairs were an opportunity to put the endless farm chores aside for a few days and have a good time. This year's Fair is no different, with a full slate of entertainment to keep patrons having fun. The schedule of headliners is robust. On Tuesday, August 19 at 7:30 p.m., Jason Michael Carroll and Jake Owen will perform their repertoire of country songs. On Wednesday, August 20 at 8 p.m., the current version of the Beach Boys will belt out the traditional surf-song hits - and some new tunes. Thursday the 21st brings Blake Shelton to the stage, whose tunes have hit the Number One slot on the country music charts multiple times; the show begins at 8 p.m.
American Idol finalist Bucky Covington and engineer-turned-country music star Keith Anderson perform on Friday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, August 23 at 8 p.m., the band Little Big Town will deliver a performance that draws on country traditions such as four-part vocal harmonies. The Fair's entertainment lineup concludes with three rounds of bull-riding on Sunday, August 24 at 1, 4:30 and 6 p.m.
All of these performances feature free seating in the grandstand on a first-come, first-served basis. Paid track seating for all musical performances is $15 in advance and $20 the day of the show. Advance tickets are available online; see below.
Plenty of other fun will be served up daily at the Fair. Roving performers - including Hilby the Skinny German Juggler and Oscar the Roving Robot - will bring smiles to crowds throughout the grounds, while clowns, violinists, martial artists and woodcarvers will all demonstrate their skills in Building E. There's also a petting zoo, a marionette performance and a Talent Tent, under which budding local celebrities will compete in talent contests, including "Hudson Valley Idol." All these acts take place against a background of carnival fun: a midway full of rides and games, plenty of vendors serving up festival foods and whirring bright lights and music.
The Dutchess County Fair takes place daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday, August 19 until Sunday, August 24. Admission to the Fair is $12 at the gate, $9 in advance; children under 12 are admitted free of charge. Food coupons cost $10, or $8 when purchased in books of ten. A sheet of 12 ride tickets costs $20. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds are located on Route 9 in Rhinebeck. For more information about the Fair or to order admission or performance tickets in advance, go to the Fair's website at www.dutchessfair.com.