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Lewis County Fair moves on without long-time president

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LOWVILLE — While the 194th edition of the Lewis County Fair will be similar to past sessions, there will be one notable omission.

Dr. Harry P. O’Connor, a local veterinarian who served as president of the Lewis County Agricultural Society for more than 25 years, died in October, and organizers say his presence will be missed during the fair, which runs from Tuesday through Saturday.

“The biggest change this year is not having Harry here,” said Douglas P. Hanno, who replaced Dr. O’Connor as society president. “But we have a great fair board, and everybody has picked up a little piece of the pie.”

Also noticeably absent this year will be Richard P. Bush, who has served as auctioneer for the fair’s annual cheese auction. Mr. Bush died in May. His son, Joseph P., will take over.

The society has added a gazebo near the Bostwick Street entrance to the Lewis County Fairgrounds using a $2,000 grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation’s George R. Davis Fund, and a tree is to be planted next to it in Dr. O’Connor’s memory, Mr. Hanno said.

After opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. Tuesday, plans are to hold a short ceremony renaming the grandstand in Dr. O’Connor’s honor, since he put so much time and effort into a restoration effort of the historic structure, Mr. Hanno said.

“He certainly loved this fair. There’s no doubt about it,” he said, noting Dr. O’Connor’s sons remain actively involved in the fair planning effort.

Another change at the fair this year also has the former president’s imprint.

The ag society has purchased a new mobile stage unit that will replace the 40-year-old Show Wagon as the grandstand stage for concerts and other events.

While the device looks like a tractor-trailer, it can be converted into a stage relatively quickly, Mr. Hanno said. “It’s kind of like a Transformer,” he said.

The new unit will provide more space for the Friday night concerts and has a roof in case of inclement weather, Mr. Hanno said.

“We hope it will be here for years to come to be used by the community and in other venues,” he said.

The $80,000 project has been funded partly by about $20,000 in donations and a $15,000 match from the Pratt-Northam Foundation, although donations are still being accepted. The balance will be covered by other fair board funds.

A new garden has been added in front of the horse barn for this year’s fair.

“We keep trying to improve the grounds,” Mr. Hanno said. “The compliments that we get show us we’re on the right track.”

Fair organizers also are excited about the return of Rosaire’s Royal Racing Pigs after being unable to book the act for about 10 years because of a scheduling conflict, he said.

“We’ve waited a lot of years for them to come back,” Mr. Hanno said.

Other free acts include Sylvia Fletcher, the Comedy Ventriloquist, with her Magic Trunk, and Ditsy the Clown, both of whom are returning from previous years.

The fair will continue to offer free admission to the grounds, but there will be a charge for grandstand entertainment Wednesday evening through Saturday and for parking on fair grounds. On-grounds parking will cost $5 per vehicle or $15 for a weekly pass.

The theme of the fair is “Where farming and fun are rolled into one.” It was the winning entry, submitted by local pharmacist Jennifer Lovenduski, in the fair’s first theme-naming contest.

Midway rides and games once again will be provided by Coleman Bros.

Grandstand shows will include a 4-by-4 truck pull Wednesday, a truck and tractor pull Thursday, country singer Jon Pardi in concert Friday and a demolition derby Saturday.

Mr. Pardi is certainly an up-and-coming artist, with two top 40 songs on the country charts, Mr. Hanno said.

Opening for Mr. Pardi will be Utica resident and Boonville native Shawn “Big Sexy” Smith, who was a contestant on the NBC singing competition “The Voice.” Mr. Smith’s father, Robert Smith, is a security officer at the Lewis County Courthouse.

A free concert will be offered Friday night by the Doubleshot Polka Band.

No dogs are allowed on the grounds, except for during the annual dog show at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The fair will begin Tuesday with a 9 a.m. 4-H English horse show and 10 a.m. opening ceremonies.

The annual cheese auction — during which 20-, 10- and 5-pound blocks of Cheddar cheese donated by Kraft Foods are auctioned off — is slated for 10:15 a.m. Tuesday in the Dairy Industry Building, although the starting time may be pushed back because of the extended opening festivities.

New York-Vermont Stakes harness races will begin at 12:30 p.m., the village band will perform at 6:30 p.m. at the grandstand and the annual fair parade will be at 7 p.m., followed by a fireworks show at 10:30.

For more information about the Lewis County Fair, visit its website at www.lewiscountyfair.org or visit the fair’s Facebook page at http://wdt.me/YeCEph.

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