New carnival company sets up for 10-day end-of-summer fling
By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter
A new era has dawned on the Champlain Valley Fair. When “the 10 best days of summer” begin Friday, it will be a new carnival company bringing fun to the fairgrounds.
Fair Spokesman Chris Ashby said Strates Shows of Florida will arrive with more concessions and games than the company the Champlain Valley Exposition ended a 30-year relationship with in March, Reithoffer Shows. Some Reithoffer rides will be gone and not replaced, but many will be similar to what fairgoers are used to, Ashby said. Strates Shows will also bring some new rides to the midway.
Strates Shows’ people and equipment will be arriving directly from the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, N.Y., and will arrive mostly by rail into St. Albans. Travelling by rail allows the company to move the majority of its equipment in one trip, a more environmentally friendly way to go than when Reithoffer was arriving by truck and having to make two round trips to get everything to Essex Junction, Ashby noted.
The new carnival contractor isn’t the only first for this Champlain Valley tradition with its roots as an agricultural exhibition. Notoriously decadent fair food will hit a new high (or low, depending on your perspective) this year with the addition of a bacon stand featuring chocolate-covered bacon, bacon on a stick and other bacon-centric creations. Also, look for the addition of Cajun food and a smoothie stand into the mix of the traditional fair offerings.
Entertainment that is included in the price of admission will include juggler Jason Tardy — a first-timer to the fair — a dog show, hypnotist Steve Bayner and a high-dive show, among other family friendly attractions.
Fair management overcame an unexpected hiccup this summer when one of the headlining nighttime performers, singer Meghan Trainor, cancelled her tour due to a vocal chord injury. The fair scrambled to book a replacement show for the night of Sept. 4 and found indie-pop band Echosmith.
“When something happens to a show, the industry bands together to see if they can help you out,” Ashby said. “Nobody wants to disappoint fans, and when you do, you try to make it up as best you can.”
Other nighttime musical headliners include Jake Owen, Aug. 28; Hotel California (an Eagles tribute band), Sept. 1; the Happy Together Tour (1970s classics), Sept. 3; and Little Big Town, Sept. 6.
The fair’s agricultural heritage will, of course, be a focal point with a variety of livestock displays and competitions. The popular cooking contest returns with an offshoot this year: a home beer-brewing contest. The best brew will make its commercial debut as an offering at 14th Star Brewing Company in St. Albans, according to Ashby.
A full event schedule and more information is available in print at the fairgrounds, 105 Pearl Street, or online at www.champlainvalleyfair.org.