There is something magical about preserving the old time feel of a county fair while keeping it relevant for tomorrow. Step through the gates of the 53rd annual Washington County Fair this August 14–18 and feel like a kid again – relive the sights and sounds you remember fondly and let the homegrown atmosphere bring you back to a simpler time.
Still, expect to be wowed by modern day excitement. This local tradition that welcomed more than 100,000 attendees in 2018 provides the best of both worlds by honoring the past and paying close attention to what keeps people happy today.
“People will say they haven’t been to the fair in fifteen or twenty years, and then they come back and say, ‘Oh, well, it’s just how I remember it.’ ” Washington County Fair Entertainment Manager Mike Camacho said. “It’s an old fashioned fair, but we try to up the game every year and keep people entertained and coming back.”
Camacho books all of the musical acts each year and does his best to bring the best of country music to the fairgrounds. Big names like Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood, Cole Swindell and Randy Houser have all graced the fair stage in the past.
“We try every year to make sure we have a nice mix of not only the legacy country artists who have been around and have lots of hits,” Camacho said,
This year’s headliners include Hardy, Jimmie Allen, Lonestar, Danielle Bradbury and Matt Stell.
Camacho, an avid music fan, remembers saving his seat in front of the fair stage long before he worked behind-the-scenes. Though he is a Rhode Island transplant, his wife was born and raised in the Ocean State and grew up going to the fair, just like her parents.
Like many patrons, the Camacho’s and other committee members can trace their connection to the fair back generations. The 100% volunteer run organization is made up of a diverse group of doctors, accountants, plumbers, electricians, builders and people from all different professions who volunteer their time to make the fair come together. It’s apparent how much of their own passion and values have generated fuel for the fair’s successful, long-term run.
What began as an agriculturally focused, one-day fair in 1967 has evolved to include some enticing new attractions, such as the largest traveling roller coaster in New England and a tented circus featuring clowns, jugglers and traditional acts.
Hungry for more than excitement? Perfect! Fairgoers can satisfy their appetites for every specialty imaginable by stopping by one of 35-40 not-for-profit food vendors. Choices range from steak sandwiches and turkey legs to french fries and strawberry shortcake.
From pie eating and sunflower seed spitting contests to tug-of-war, egg toss and arm wrestling, it’s with the best of intentions that the fair grows better every year while staying true to its time-honored roots.
“Doing something that’s bringing a sense of community, which is the whole foundation of our fair, and remembering the roots of agriculture and keeping things like that alive,” Camacho said, “It makes you feel good.”
Something good the Washington County Fair and Rockwell Amusements will be doing again this year is raising money to benefit Hasbro’s Children’s Hospital. Each party matched the first $2,500 raised in 2018. With last year’s fundraising totals exceeding $26,000, the goal is to do even better this summer.
“The hospital is focused on the fight against childhood cancer,” Camacho said. “It’s something everyone in the county fair committee and Rockwell amusements feels very strongly about.”
When you’re on the hunt for food at the fair, you can help make the difference, too. Last year, the food vendors all took part in a contest to see who could raise the most money for Hasbro. The 2018 winning food vendor was Hope Valley Fire Department with $9,895.82.
Along with the fundraising efforts of the food vendors, fair patrons can opt to donate a minimum of $2.00 to Hasbro at the fair gates. Those who donate are invited to ride the special carousel which is dedicated solely to the people who have made a donation.
Something else the fair committee has long thought about doing is offering military discounts, and this year they will finally be implementing that effort on Thursday, August 15th.
“Obviously, the military is extremely important to everyone in the country,” Comacho said.
All active and military veterans will receive admission for five dollars on Thursday, more than half off the standard eleven-dollar rate. What’s more this year, kids from ages 6-17 participated in a 500-word essay writing contest answering the prompt, Why I am proud of our military.
Winners from three different age groups will read their essay aloud on the first day of the fair.
The Washington County Fair runs rain or shine from Wednesday, August 14th through Sunday, August 18th. Admission into the fair is $11.00 while children under ten are free.
Admission includes access to all daily concerts, special acts and events, the giant midway and kiddy land area (all ride tickets and games separate), all agricultural events and shows, exhibits and displays, tractor and horse pulls and the farm museum.
“The whole goal is to keep it an affordable, family friendly place where you can come and enjoy your day,” Camacho concluded.
By Melanie Pellowski – August 8, 2019
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