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October 2000 - Posts

  • 91st Annual Riverton Fair - October 2000

     Town Diary - October 2000

    Sunny Weather and 22,000 Visitors for the 91st Annual Riverton Fair

    As luck would have it, October 13, 14, and 15 were unseasonably warm, sunny days with high temperatures in the 70s.  It was perfect weather for drawing 22,000 people to the Riverton Fair.  And perfect weather for the old-fashioned country fair entertainment like the ox pull and the pie-eating contest.  These events took place on Saturday, while a band played military songs and old standards.  For the kids, the midway offered a ferris wheel and several other rides.  Inside the barns of the fair grounds, visitors could check out chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs and wander through the winning entries in the numerous arts and crafts contests.  For the civic-minded, there were booths to meet members of the Democratic and Republican parties, including 6th District Congresswoman Nancy Johnson, and a booth to learn more about the work of the Barkhamsted Land Trust organization.  To keep visitors energized throughout the day, an array of vendors offered several kinds of food and drink.


    Photo above- The center of Riverton bustled with lots of activities for visitors to the Riverton Fair.  In the parking lot on the right and the residence straight ahead, local residents held tag sales.  To the left, the Village Sweet Shoppe was open for business and attracting lots of customers!



    This view from the ferris wheel shows the midway rides, the booths lining the main strip, and the barns that contained contest winners and livestock such as chickens, rabbits, pigs, and goats.


    Even after seeing everything the fair had to offer, visitors had more to see and do in Riverton that weekend.  Local residents held tag sales in the village center, both at private residences and in the parking lot across from the General Store; the Village Sweet Shoppe was packed with customers waiting for ice cream cones.

    The attractions of the Riverton Fair haven't changed much in the past 50 years, which is probably part of its appeal.  Accounts of the fair from October 16, 1950 mention horse drawing, wood chopping, and wood sawing contests as attractions second only in interest to the politicians of the day using the fair as a stumping ground just three weeks prior to the election.  In 1950, Senator William H. Benton arrived at the fair by helicopter.  Francis Jacquier of Oaklawn Farm in Barkhamsted, then president of the Union Agricultural society, escorted him around the fair.  The helicopter caused quite a stir in 1950.  Miss Ann Hicks and Joyce Jacquier turned down an opportunity for a helicopter ride; according to the Winsted Evening Citizen, they were apparently having doubts about the practicability of travel in "flying windmills".


    Farmers came from throughout the area to compete with their oxen in various age classes.

    That same newspaper noted that the fair suffered from bad weather 25 years ago, although it didn't seem to deter too many people, judging from the crowds.  Unfortunately, it did make the horse drawing competition a little more difficult, a buildup of mud forced a change in location midway through the contest.

    About the only thing that seems guaranteed to change about the Riverton Fair is the number of people that attend.  The 1950 fair drew 11,000 people; half the number of people who attended in 2000.  The 22,000 attendance figure was up from 20,000 who attended just last year.



    Plenty of decadently delicious fair food was available.

    The Union Agrigultural Society of Barkhamsted, Colebrook, Hartland, and Winchester was founded in 1909 and has sponsored the Riverton Fair ever since.  According to town historian Doug Roberts, the fair was not held every year; the first World War and concurrent influenza epidemic, as well as the second World War, pre-empted the fair.  The great flood of 1955 wreaked havoc on the fair grounds, damaging many buildings and livestock pens.  

    This year, Joanne Hammond served as fair president, Christine Schmidt as secretary, and Bob O'Connor treasurer.  Dot O'Connor arranged locations for the 60 vendors that set up on the 13-acre fairground opposite the Hitchcock Chair Factory.  Christine Schmidt took care of entries and membership for 400 people, as well as coordinating the contest judges.


    This sawing contest, along with the wood chopping contest, have been managed by Doug Roberts of Riverton since approximately 1946.


    Would any fair be complete without pony rides for the youngest visitors?

    Sources:

    • Riverton Fair Entertains 22,000, Dina Walker, Winsted Journal, October 20, 2000
    • Last Fair of Season Continues in Riverton, Joyce Peck, Waterbury Republican-American, October 10, 1999.
    • It's a Great Time of Year for Riverton's Mr. Roberts, Joseph A. O'Brien, Winsted Journal, October 9, 1998.
    • Assorted photos and captions, Winsted Evening Citizen, October 13, 1975.
    • Report Attendance for Riverton Fair at 11,000 Persons, Winsted Evening Citizen, October 16, 1950.



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    Posted Oct 15 2000, 09:28 AM by Paul with no comments
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