Editorial: Fair wouldn’t be possible without a strong community behind the scenes

  • Patrick Voss of Greenfield waves to his mother on the ground while riding the Yo Yo ride at the 168th Franklin County Fair in Greenfield last year. RECORDER FILE/Matt Burkhartt

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Franklin County Fair is arguably the single largest community event of the year for the readers of the Greenfield Recorder.

Tens of thousands of the county’s residents swarm to the venerable Wisdom Way fairgrounds over four days each year. Thousands more spend weeks or months preparing for the fair, whether organizing or participating in the many competitions by, for example, growing beautiful string beans or humongous pumpkins for display at the Roundhouse, or by preparing the perfect junker to smash in the demolition derby.

The fair is run by the nonprofit Franklin County Agricultural Society and its small army of volunteers who work behind the scenes year-round so that the rest of us can enjoy the classic, small town country fair.

Two long-time volunteers were honored this year as grand marshals in the Thursday night opening parade through Greenfield’s downtown. The two, Mary Benedetti and Helen Gould, are both lifetime members of the Agricultural Society well known among the area’s farm families, and they deserve the accolades, as both, now in their 90s, have spent countless hours volunteering at the fair over the years.

This year, the Society marks the 100th year of construction of the fairground’s iconic twin towers gate, which was built by Frank Oren Wells, a major civic leader of his day, who also built the historic Roundhouse, the fairground’s other landmark structure. Back in the day, the bottom floors of the towers were used to sell admission tickets. At one time, the Recorder even used a small upper floor room in one of the towers as a press box of sorts.

A key characteristic of this county fair, like so many other events in Franklin County, is its strong local flavor. Fair food, for example, includes Leyden Church’s homemade meals, Mohawk High School seniors’ pie fundraiser, Hager’s Farm’s famous fried dough, Bernardston’s Four Leaf Clover restaurant and the Bernardston Kiwanis food vendors.

Local performers, like Zydeco Connection, local line dancers and DJ Bobby C, add to that hometown flavor. Events like a fried dough-eating contest hosted by Bobby C and stocked by Hager’s and a hotdog-eating contest sponsored by Tom’s Famous Long Hot Dog and Grill in Whately, make clear that it’s fine for a few days to eat to your heart’s content (and maybe well beyond).

Youngsters and adults participate in exhibitions, including displays of vegetables, fruits, eggs, knitting, arts and crafts, photography and pretty much anything else a county resident can build, grow or bake.

4-H kids and grizzled farmers alike bring their domesticated sheep, cattle and other animals to contend for blue ribbons or compete in oxen draws while entertaining the rest of us.

And for those with a taste for something on the wild side, the midway carnival rides and games of chance throb at the heart of the fairgrounds late into the evening.

It’s a big show and lots of fun, but also lots of work for those volunteers who make it all happen. It’s hard to imagine not having the fair to cap our summer and inaugurate our fall, and so we all owe a big debt to the Society and its many volunteers for continuing a tradition that has become part of the fabric of Franklin County.