High fuel prices, fewer workers affect local fairs and festivals

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It’s time for fair season in the north country, but gas prices are high and staff numbers are down. We take a look at the steps local fairs are taking to survive.

Preparations are underway for the Jefferson and Lewis County fairs, Ogdensburg Seaway Festival, as well as the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair.

Jefferson County is up first. The week-long fair starts on July 12.

“Everybody goes off their diet this week and just really indulges in fantastic food that tastes good. Maybe isn’t so good for you but tastes good,” said Bob Simpson, fair manager.

Rising gas prices will force the fair to make adjustments. For example, some of the acts won’t come to Watertown from so far away.

“To drive 400 miles here to play for a week and drive 400 miles back is pretty expensive at the cost of diesel fuel,” said Simpson.

After things wrap up in Jefferson County, it’ll be the Lewis County Fair’s time in the spotlight. It goes from July 19 to 23. This year’s theme is Sew It, Grow It, Show It, and Tow It.

“Showing, whether that be your pies or your cows, your sew it which is quilts, tow it. That brings in all of the 4x4 trucks and the tractor pulls which are really popular here so we’re excited about the theme,” said Lewis County Fair Manager Rachel Lisk.

Lisk says that the fair’s greatest struggle so far has been finding volunteers to help with tasks like parking guidance and shuttling the elderly.

“Fair week is very busy. It takes a lot of hands to make it work and volunteers are very important,” she said.

Ogdensburg’s Seaway Fest starts on July 23. One big change will be seen this year: no rides. That’s because organizers can’t find people to run the rides.

“We don’t have any of the conventional rides. We will be having some things for children in the park,” said Laurel Roethell, co-chair of the Ogdensburg Seaway International Festival.

Despite these concessions, Roethell is still optimistic about the festival, especially after COVID forced it to scale down last year.

“It is amazing to be back. So good to see all of the people that come for the reunion. Families all come together to watch the parade, see fireworks. You see people that you haven’t seen in quite some time,” she said.

The Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair is August 1 through 7. It will have rides, but rising gas prices have brought about higher costs, and shorter operating hours for its carnival.

“So they’re starting an hour later. They’re going to be running an hour less and the price of wristbands and rides did go up a little bit but not a lot,” said Don Peck, fair manager.

This year, a ride wristband will cost $35 as opposed to last year’s $25. Peck says that anyone who orders a band online will receive a discount.

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