Brooklyn Truthful returns after a COVID-related hiatus
BROOKLYN – Brooklyn Fair organizers, vendors and exhibitors were in full prep mode on Tuesday as they worked to welcome thousands of visitors back to one of the country’s oldest agricultural shows after a year-long hiatus.
The late summer event, one of the many canceled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, runs Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening and features a variety of live entertainment, from tractor trains and music to animal shows, carnival rides, and the like from Stick-to -your rib food that is seldom found outside of a fairground.
Ryan Vertefeuille, president of the Windham County Agricultural Society – the organization that has been running the show for decades – said it was a pleasure to open its doors this year after a tough 2020 season.
“We made the decision to hold the fair in April, and we made that decision in consultation with the Connecticut State Fair Association and its members,” he said. “The cancellation last year was difficult and became a major financial problem for us as we still had bills to pay.”
Most of the profits from the fair go straight back to the event, although some of the money goes to a scholarship fund that covers all of the city’s financial inquiries. Vertefeuille said the call for cancellation in May 2020 was correct as the society had already agreed to give the museum building a new roof.
More:See this farm bring milk from the field to the fridge (it involves a very early start)
“We’ve made some arrangements for this year, including making our large venues – including the cow stalls and the Better Living Building – one-way streets and asking vendors to sign or check in outside our smaller buildings so it doesn’t get crowded.”
Vertefeuille said hand washing and hygiene stations will be set up across the site, although face masks are not required. Wristbands instead of hand stamps allow renewed access to the fair.
Brooklyn is one of four cities in Windham County listed on the state’s “Red Alert” or with 15 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday. Windham County has been rated “significant” by the state health department for community transmission below the “high” level.
The fair marks the prelude to several upcoming major outdoor events in Windham County, with the Woodstock Fair taking place September 3-6 and the Killingly Great Tomato Festival September 11th. Patricia Kelly, President of the Woodstock Agricultural Society, said the Woodstock event also introduced several new safety precautions.
“We’re asking attendees to be socially distant and will have more signs indicating hand-washing areas and toilet stations,” said Kelly. “Our suppliers will be more spread out this year and we have local instead of the big headlining bands performing. We are excited and a bit nervous, but also happy. “
Sue Starkey, director of the Northeast’s Department of Health, said representatives from her agency worked with trade show organizers on various security measures.
Starkey said she encourages everyone to wear a face mask and social distancing, whether indoors or out.
More:Eastern Conn. Farmers fight against obstacles from weather to pandemic to produce
“We want everyone to feel safe and enjoy the show and we hope everyone out there is wearing their favorite face mask,” she said. “
The Brooklyn event, which is at its core an agricultural fair, will feature many of the same types of entertainment that have drawn crowds for years. The barns are teeming with oxen, chickens and sheep, while tractor trains and lawnmower races take place in the ring areas. Home-made Afghans and vegetables grown in the garden share the jury with submissions for fudge, pastries and pies.
On Tuesday, carnival workers tightened the screws and deployed vehicles while grocery vendors put up awnings and draped bunting over counters serving funnel cakes, french fries, hot dogs and a variety of fried goodies.
Ken Gardner, who worked at Pete’s Roast Beef Sandwich stand for 25 years, prepared for long lines under hot and sunny skies. Gardner said if any other places he’s been working lately are any clue, he’s got a busy weekend ahead of him.
“When I first heard that these fairs were all coming back, I felt a little different when I came back,” he said. “But once I did my first one, I remembered how much I missed that.”
More:Horror film shot in cities to the east of Conn.
The fair will again serve as a major fundraising opportunity for several local community groups, including Boy Scout Troop 44, the Brooklyn-based group that will again be offering grilled chicken dinners this year.
David Lee, a member of the Troops Committee, rolled over a handcart stacked with lemonade and lemonade on Tuesday before a chicken delivery. He said the fair was “the” fundraiser for the troop and helped subsidize boy scout registrations, summer camps and other activities.
“The only good thing about the fair didn’t happen last year was that a lot of the things we’d use that money on, like summer camps, didn’t happen either,” he said. “Every Boy Scout will be out here working at least two four-hour shifts on the serving line or doing heavy lifting.”
Janet Exley, the show’s concession manager, said a member of her family has worked at the show for the past 64 years, with 12 family members, comprised of four generations, being on the site this week.
“It was heartbreaking when we had to cancel last year,” she said. “I remember not having to do anything right when it was usually the busiest time for me. I am happy to be here again now. “
More:PHOTO GALLERY 61st opening day of the Lebanon Country Fair
Sandy Eggers, vice-president of the association and an integral part of the fair since her work as a poultry overseer almost 50 years ago, said that the cancellation of the fair last year was a “big deal” for everyone involved.
“There’s a lot of emotion in this event,” she said. “And this fair is only there because of the volunteers and department heads who are so proud and committed to making it happen. This is your opportunity to shine. We always say: ‘We are only as good as the future.’ “
John Penney can be reached at [email protected] or at (860) 857-6965