Friday, October 10, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — You know it’s a hot, sunny day at the Three County Fair when the stand selling fresh-squeezed lemonade runs out of lemons.
That’s what happened Monday afternoon, when temperatures hit 87 degrees, and the lemonade stand owned by Gino Orlandi of Cummington only had corn dogs left for sale.
“It’s hot,” said the owner’s wife, Michelle Orlandi, while working the last shift of the fair at the stand. She said she could not estimate how many cases of lemons they went through before running out.
“It’s been good this year,” she said of sales. “Not better than last year, it’s just all been crammed into a couple hot days.”
Sitting in the shade on his golf cart near the Polish Kitchen, Bruce Shallcross, general manager for the fair, said he expected attendance would hit 40,000 by the end of its four-day run Monday night. The final tally won’t be done until Tuesday morning, he said.
By the end of the third night of the fair, attendance had already exceeded last year’s total of approximately 33,000 to 34,000. “So today is just a bonus,” Shallcross said Monday.
The weather is a big part of strong attendance, he said. Friday and Saturday were sunny and warm, while Sunday was cloudy with a few showers, and Monday was a scorcher with clear skies.
But attractions including monster truck shows, tractor and truck pulls, and other events also draw people to the fairgrounds. On Monday, typically the slowest day of the fair, Shallcross said he was pleased with the people he saw crowding around two stages on the fairgrounds for the inaugural Northampton Fair Fest. Organizers added the music festival to the schedule in the hopes of increasing the crowds on Monday afternoon and evening.
“This is the first year, so hopefully it will grow as it goes on,” Shallcross said.
Around 4:30 p.m., the Northampton funk band Groove Shoes jammed on a stage under a tent in front of a crowd of about 30 people, some of whom were working up a sweat dancing.
Tom Schack said he and bandmate and friend Nate Martel booked the bands for the Fair Fest by putting together “all the acts we thought were sizzling.”
“There’s such a vibrant music scene in the Valley — it’s just what the fair needs,” Schack said. He thinks the shows brought new folks to the fair. “I’ve talked to many people who said it’s their first time here, or they haven’t been here since they were kids.”
At the indoor stage in the arena, about 80 people stood listening to Northampton band Lux Deluxe. While Shallcross was hoping to target young adults with the shows, there were also many gray-haired heads in the crowd.
Georgia Teensma, 20, of Northampton, held her camera up high to capture the band over the heads of the audience. She said she comes to the fair every year, and Fair Fest was an added bonus.
“I feel like it definitely brought out some new people, but it also made people like me — music lovers — really happy,” she said.
While the livestock, dog, poultry, and rabbit shows had all wound down by Monday afternoon, many people were still strolling through the farm museum, exhibit halls and midway.
At one game booth, 5-year-old Chelsi Demers of Easthampton aimed a water-gun stream at a clown’s face to win. But instead of claiming her prize, she let her older brother, Mark LaClaire, 10, pick out a plush stuffed dog, “because I already have one,” she said. She held a pink stuffed butterfly toy.
Kristy Demers said she and her husband, Bruce Demers, bring their children to the fair each year. In addition to Chelsi and Mark, they are Jordan LaClaire, 12, and Liam Demers, 3.
“It’s the last day before school starts so we thought we’d do something fun together,” Kristy Demers said.
In the vendors’ barn, John McCarthy of Ware said he had a good — if long — weekend selling his honey and beeswax products.
“It’s four days and 10 hours a day — usually I’m selling at farmers markets and that sort of thing — but in the end, it’s just a great institution,” he said of the fair. “I remember coming to the fair as a boy when they had horse racing. It’s good fun, and I’ll be back next year.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at email@example.com.