TOWN OF WALLKILL — Turnout was light at the start of the 179th annual Orange County Fair late Thursday afternoon as a misty rain and thick humidity weighed over fair-goers.
But things picked up as the drizzle dissipated. Pig racing made its comeback, and knight-jousting found new fans at the fair, which runs through July 28. Animals at the petting zoo seemed so excited they almost knocked over the gate.
Fair workers were appreciative to see dozens of families and car-loads of people make their way to the fair despite the afternoon’s dreary weather.
“Thanks for coming in the mud,” one staff member said.
Kaylin, 9, and Kiley, 5, sisters from Howells, said their favorite attractions were the reptiles and the war horse rides. Their dad, Robby Preddmore, and mom, Christina Doty, strolled around with their 1-year-old son, Kolten, in tow, waiting for the stock car races to start.
“It’s a little muddy, but so far so good,” Preddmore said.
Fans patiently waited in the stands for the race cars to speed around the dirt track, but the conditions were too slick to start on time. As of early Thursday evening, speedway employees were still trying to get a race started.
“Bossman said we’re racing,” one employee said.
Pat Huttenbach, of Houston, Texas, came to the fair with his children and his wife, Yve, as part of an annual family tradition. His grandfather, Maurice Patterson, grew up in Wurtsboro. He said the Patterson descendants get together every few years for a family reunion, and they always try to stop by the fair. It’s a 107-year tradition.
“I’ve been coming here every year since I was a kid,” Huttenbach said.
His cousin, Geoff Teabo, who grew up in Otisville and used to work at the fair in his teens, now lives with his wife, Laurence, and 11-year-old son, Mark, in London, England.
“I used to sell fries here,” Teabo said. “I turned 16, 17 and 18 selling frozen bananas here.”
Teabo said the fair this year still didn’t compare to its hey-day, when he was a kid.
Others echoed similar thoughts, but most were impressed by its recent improvements.
“It’s getting better every year, it seems,” said Tammy Degroat, of Middletown, who added she wished bingo would make a comeback at the fair. “I’ve been coming here for 40 years. When I was a little kid, it was really good.”