Activities, events abound in Boonville
BOONVILLE — From Ferris wheel rides and funnel cakes to yellow cake bake off judging and viewing pieces of farming’s past, there’s always something going on at the Boonville-Oneida County Fair.
The 126th annual fair will continue today through Sunday. Today’s festivities will conclude with a performance by Wanted at 9 p.m. Saturday will include a truck pull and the 4-H Parade of Champions, with a fireworks finale at 9:30 p.m. The 2014 fair will end with Fritz’s Polka Band playing old favorites and the demolition derby at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Over at the Grange Exhibit Building Thursday, Nancy Trainor, Alice Pritcher and Bronwen VanNamee were focusing their tastebuds and baking know-how on who in Oneida County bakes the best yellow cake.
“I’m concerned it’s flat,” said VanNamee as she and her team of cake judges pushed and poked the top of the 9-inch round cake. Then came the cut and taste.
VanNamee commented on the “lack of crust” and the cake’s density, guessing that perhaps the recipe was a little heavy on shortening. She said a thin layer of crust on a cake is necessary so that the pastry doesn’t “crumb” or break up when trying to frost it.
“They give us guidelines or a list of certain standards for a scratch cake to go by when we’re judging,” said VanNamee, a Grange member who has volunteered to judge baked goods at the fair “for years.”
“There is also a list of standards that the farmers pick up” at Boonville-area grocery stores “so they know what we’re looking for in a cake,” she said. “So the bakers aren’t judged against each other, they’re judged based on the standards.”
An avid baker herself, VanNamee admits her sweet tooth is pretty much over desserts by the time her judging duties come to an end.
“I’ve baked cookies for here in the Grange Building in my own kitchen and in the kitchen here and I can tell you I’m done with cookies,” the cake and pie judge laughed. “I don’t plan on baking any more cookies until at least the fall.”
“I’ve done this for years, and they used to get different judges” for different categories, added Trainor. “Years ago they also used to take the top three contestants and have a bake off.”
The team admitted that judging pies is a little more interesting than cakes. Apple pie judging was scheduled for today, followed by peach pie on Saturday.
“It’s actually more difficult to do the pies because there’s so many more variables,” VanNamee said. “There’s different apples you can use, different spices, and we also look at whether it has a lattice crust or some other type or style of crust.”
But cake judging wasn’t the only sweet thing going on at the fair. Over at the Midway, Robert Stevenson and his Deep Fried Heaven trailer from Orlando, Fla., was serving up deep fried Twinkies, Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, Oreos, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, funnel cakes and chocolate-covered bacon, as well as dill pickles.
“I use homemade batter that is sweet and whatever is inside gets soft, melty and chocolatey,” Stevenson said. “I’ve even tried frying butter once. I took a frozen stick of butter, concocted a homemade batter and it was actually still chewy on the inside.”
And Stevenson said if fairgoers are game at trying his fried treats, they shouldn’t worry about packing on the pounds.
“It’s only 2 calories you know,” he laughed. “Hey at the fair, anything goes.”
Those looking for more traditional fair fare, Bob Taylor, over at Taylor Concessions, was serving up hotdogs, sandwiches, fried dough and other goodies. Taylor, who is owner of Taylor Construction and General Contracting in Rome, just started his side concession business and the Oneida County Fair was his first gig.
“This is my maiden voyage,” Taylor said. “This is something I always wanted to try and play with. For me, working this week at the fair is my vacation. I have my 10-year-old daughter helping out, and my wife and family have been stopping by, so it’s become a family thing where we can go together to all different types of events. This is me branching out, but I’m having fun. It’s my hobby.”
Once stomachs were full and fairgoers tried their luck at the Midway games, caught a magic show or checked out the Grange exhibits, some took the time for a brief history lesson over at the Oneida County Fair Museum. Opened in 1988 to commemorate the fair’s centennial celebration, the museum features pieces of fair history, from old posters to photographs, a Miss Oneida County Pageant trophy from 1972 — “An official Miss America Pageant” — and pieces of carnival glass once given away as prizes.
Within three hours of the museum being opened Thursday, it had received 26 visitors — some from as far away as Pittsfield, Mass., Watertown and Central Square to as close as Frankfort, Herkimer and Rome.
Long-time Boonville resident Beverly Wheelock was volunteering at the museum to show visitors around.
“I used to go to those shows,” said Wheelock as she pointed to a Joie Chitwood Thrill Show poster. “But the horse pull was always my favorite.”
Marilyn Trainor was at charge of the museum and boasted about how the collection has grown over the years. The building itself, she said, once served as the ticket office.
“This 1900 bracelet we got a couple years ago,” said Trainor as she pointed to the glass showcase. “People from the area just kept things from the fair that they found stored in their attics that they gave to us. They came up with things like this red and brown carnival glass (red from 1903 and brown from the 1930s). People would pitch a penny, nickel or a dime into the glass and if the coin stayed, they won that as their prize. Sometimes they would stick polish inside to make it slippery so the coin was less opt to stay in there.”
Thursday’s events also included a short visit from state Department of Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, who stopped by the cattle barn to speak with local farmers and view some of the county’s best bovines. Oneida County’s fair was the second the commissioner visited on what will be a tour of fairs held statewide throughout the remainder of the summer.
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