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Barry Lewis

The Hometown Fair

Barry Lewis
Posted 8/19/22

Folks ask, “Do you miss living in the city?”

Sure. Sometimes it’s too quiet in the country.

And things are a bit too far.

I’d love to just hop on a train to see the …

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Barry Lewis

The Hometown Fair


Folks ask, “Do you miss living in the city?”

Sure. Sometimes it’s too quiet in the country.

And things are a bit too far.

I’d love to just hop on a train to see the Mets. Or walk down the street for a slice of pizza — or an everything bagel — instead of driving 20 minutes.

Miss the city? Sure. But then comes the third weekend in Au- gust. Fair weekend.

When I know I’m home.

When I can roll out of bed and drive the traffic-free six miles
on country roads to the covered bridge in Grahamsville to see old familiar faces, get my fill of fried whatever and feel as much at home walking the midway as I would at a family backyard bar- becue. Probably even more so.

Happens every time I visit what is affectionately called “The Little World’s Fair.”

Unofficially, it’s Sullivan Coun- ty’s country fair, and I say you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rural setting than this traffic- light-free, agriculture-rich town that borders two major New York City reservoirs and goes by the quaint name Neversink.

Our summer fair is a showcase for simpler times.

There are midway barkers who’ll shame male teens into spending their summer green- backs, have them toss a small ball through an even smaller bas- ket so the beau can win a dime- store doll for his fair maiden.

You’ll see folks fly on the tilt- a-whirl and Ferris wheel while rubber frogs take to the air when the freckle-faced kid slams down the mallet.

The smell of fried dough will challenge the aroma of cotton candy.

But for the past 141 years, the bread and butter of this country fair, sponsored by the Neversink Agricultural Society, has been the open beef and dairy show, the large and small animal judging and the milking time. Depending on where you’re standing and

the way the wind is blowing, the smell of caramel-coated apples will lose out to the scent from the animal barn and your soles may end up with a souvenir from Bes- sie Bingo.

At the Neversink fair, it’s not whether you win or lose, but where Bessie deposits her natu- ral stuff.

Using paint, a show ring is divided into 200 squares, each a few feet in diameter. Folks bet $5 on a certain square.

Out walks Bessie. The first square where she leaves her call- ing card is the winner.

The agricultural version of playing craps.

The Sullivan County 4-H pro- gram nets 90 percent of the pot, the person who picked the win- ning square gets the rest. And Bessie is relieved of her duty.

Bessie is as much a fabric of the Grahamsville fair as the materials that make up those home-crafted quilts, blankets and afghans on display, each one vying for “Best in Show” ribbon.

You can’t miss them. They’re right next to the potatoes, peas and peppers, the pies, preserves and those perennials. Don’t want to forget the paintings and pho- tos. All posturing for a prize.

The 4-H kids show off their

sheep and swine, the goats, rab- bits and cows. It’s an education I never knew while growing up in the city. Come to the fair, and you see how they clean, feed and love these animals. Then you watch with a lump in your throat as many of these same kids, with a tear in their eye, auction off their animals.

That’s not to say the fair in Grahamsville doesn’t have its share of rides that’ll eat away at a family’s budget. Or carnies that’ll guarantee you can win your sweetie a 4-foot stuffed animal for just a buck.

Hey, it’s a fair - that last sum- mer fling. Nights get a bit cooler. Kids look over their shoulder for the start of school.

And for me, it’s the affirmation that there’s something very com- fortable about living in a small town where you don’t have to stop for a light.


Barry Lewis is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife Bonnie in the Town of Neversink. He can be reached at barrylewisscdemocrat@gmail.com.


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