My husband, David and I just spent some time back in our hometown of Castile, NY for family reunions. An added bonus during our stay was the start of the Wyoming County Fair, or as the natives call it –Pike Fair. It’s been held in the small hamlet of Pike for many, many years. The fair began in 1843 and moved around to a number of different towns, but finally became a permanent fixture in Pike years later.
Nothing much has changed at the fair since I was growing up, or when our daughters were young. There are some new rides—The Tornado is one of them, which would probably ruin my day if I attempted to ride it. But, overall, it’s the same. I know where to find the maple syrup booth, where the school exhibits will be, and that there will be plenty of livestock in the barns. Walking the fairgrounds will connect you with people you haven’t seen in years, and much time will be spent catching up. Childhood neighbors, classmates, longtime friends are all part of the social scene.
The barns are noisy with mooing cattle, huge fans moving humid air, sheep and goats bleating, along with horses stomping impatiently in their stalls. Watch where you step or you might be sorry. Cattle judging was in progress when we entered the cow barn. Lots of 4-H kids were wrestling reluctant heifers into place for judging. Others were clipping their bovine charges to get a smooth look for the ring. The horse barn was busy with riders and mounts making their way to the show ring. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait for these shows. You have to be prepared to be at your best after putting your horse in neutral for a spell outside the ring. It’s not always easy, and the horse may not be very cooperative about cooling its hooves.
The smells of the fairway are tantalizing. Catch a whiff of the waffles, sausages with peppers and onions on the grill, cotton candy, candy apples, fried dough … and the list goes on. Bells ringing and the pop of balloons punctuate the afternoon with the music of the merry-go-round in the background. Milling families line up for the rides, others check out the huge tractors for sale in the front of the fairgrounds, and there’s a steady stream of visitors to the Pioneer House. Women in pioneer garb cook all manner of 1800s fare. Sally Lunn bread and Esau’s pottage were just two of the dishes they were preparing when we visited.
Evening parades, the Fair Queen competition, the Talent Show, and tractor pulls draw the largest crowds. It’s the country experience. Enjoying summer with the richness of farming traditions, and celebrating the rural lifestyle. Pike Fair—still going strong after 173 years, still making great memories.