Summer time is fair time

Summer time is fair time, county fair time, that is. The first fair to be held in Albany County dates back to 1819. It was called the Agricultural Jubilee or Ploughboy’s Holiday and it was sponsored by The Albany Agricultural Society.  The event was a big success and from 1819 until 1892 the location of the fair rotated around the county until 1892 when a new, permanent site in Altamont was proposed. 

The first fair held at the Altamont location ran September 12-15 1893; the admission charge was $.25 cents and the total proceeds were $884.13.  The Board of Directors for the fair traveled to other county fairs to see how the buildings were constructed and the fairgrounds at Cobleskill was used as a model.  The Exhibition Hall was completed in 1896 and is now known as the Flower and Fine Arts building and it has recently been named to the State and National Register of Historic Sites. Back in the 1800s, and for much of the 1900s, the Altamont Fair enjoyed huge crowds of people who enjoyed a day of viewing agriculture’s best specimens of animals, flowers and vegetables.  Arts and crafts and cooking skills were displayed and young and old alike enjoyed the competition for a blue ribbon at the fair.

Over the decades the Altamont Fair has undergone many changes reflective of the times.  In 1922 Schenectady County joined the Fair and that year General Electric sponsored a special radio concert.  It was now easier to get to the Altamont Fair as the D&H Railroad began running special trains from Albany and Schenectady to the fairgrounds.  In 1924, the power company installed lights on the seven poles of the fairgrounds and the night-time fair was born; fireworks also began that year. During 1942 and ’43 the fair was not held due to World War II.  In 1945 Greene County became part of the Altamont Fair making it the only tri-county fair in New York State and one of the few in the entire country.

The Altamont Fair, also known as the Sunflower Fair, is dedicated to the preservation of agricultural history and it is home to many unique farm-related collections that are permanently housed in different museums.  One of the stars of the fair is its collection of antique farm machinery.  Today’s Fair Board continues to emphasize agriculture and places a high value on making the fair a family atmosphere for people of all ages.  Their goal is to make the fair the best educational and entertainment experience, but always a showcase for the history and traditions of this upstate New York agricultural area.

To be a part of the great tradition of the County Fair, visit the Altamont Fair’s website at to learn how to submit your prized chicken, goat, or any of the many other animal categories, along with flowers, vegetables, artwork, crafts and recipes.  All the information about what you can submit for judging, how to label and submit your items, and when and where to submit are all found online, as are forms for submission. The dates for this year’s Altamont Fair are August 12-17.   It is easy to be a part of the great American tradition of the summer fair and you can still win a blue ribbon!

Susan Pezzolla, horticulture educator, is Community Educator for  Cornell Cooperative Extension Albany County. To reach Sue call 765.3516 or email


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