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The Goldfish is a Lie

Schaghticoke Fair 2012

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The Schaghticoke Fair ends with a bang on Labor Day weekend-- and what fair would be complete without bacon-wrapped hot dogs?
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Bands play all evening at the bandstand, including Nashville's Sweethearts of the Rodeo.
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Although it's a fair staple, the carousel doesn't seem to attract many riders-- just a handful at a time. Meanwhile, lines stack up for the more kinetic rides like the Starship 2000, Zipper, Avalanche, and Wild Claw.
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Horses and trainers from all over New York compete throughout the day, in various classes. In this obedience class, riders must execute orders given by judges.
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Amber Bruso, 12, holds her champion Cornish Meatbird in the 4H barn. Livestock competitions like this aim to teach young people how to raise and care for livestock.
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Ashley and Rob Abbot, of Whitecreek, stand by their show cows. Magic, the brown and white one, took the title of Grand Champion Brown Swiss earlier in the day.
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Twenty-year-old Brandon Pena, of Albany, could talk about steam engines all day long. He's been a member of the Schaghticoke Fair Early Engines Club since he was 8. Here he shows off his Sears & Roebuck Vertical Bottle Frame Steam Engine, which he bought in pieces and assembled himself.
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The Cirque Zerbini is a hit with kids, with "performing" animals and impressive acrobatics.
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The Cirque Zerbini is a hit with kids, with "performing" animals and impressive acrobatics.
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Politics rule under the grandstand, where siblings James and Jael Dick rep for the Marchione campaign with give-aways and handshakes-- while just outside cars smash each other to pieces.
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Country and bluegrass band Skeeter Creek brings people to the dance floor before Sweethearts of the Rodeo take the stage.
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Twisted metal rides dominate the skyline like industrial horrors, and for some reason, people line up to be strapped inside them.
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The old ring toss-- a fair classic. What's the trick to this game? Find a more winnable game.
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The cotton candy machines whirl on high as the fair winds to a close Monday night. Cars continued streaming in almost until closing time at 10 pm.
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Drivers stand with their friends and families on top of big rigs to watch the final demolition derby of the night.
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The demolition derby is a strange, hypnotizing affair. It's like Nascar without all the pesky racing.
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Watching the demolition derby under the lights.
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Thumping music, dance-club lighting, and two-seat cars make this a teen favorite when the sun goes down.
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Nashville country group Sweethearts of the Rodeo close the concert series Monday night.
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Norman and Alice Chase of Greenwich have been coming to the fair for years, and enjoy it now as much as ever.
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Last night of the fair.
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Eight-year-old Sarah Stowell, of Cohoes, takes home that classic fair prize: a goldfish.

Photos by Kyle Adams (click FS for Full Screen, i for captions)

THIS LABOR DAY WEEKEND, I visited the Schaghticoke Fair. I was there Sunday night, and then again for about six hours on Monday. I watched horse shows and talked to the riders and their families, got to know some championship cows, chatted with travelling vendors, watched the circus, ate some sickening food, and watched cars smash the living hell out of each other. And you may think that at some point I would get tired of all this, but you know what? I don’t. Because by God, I love the fair.

Not this fair specifically. I love every fair. I love the idea of the fair. It’s a place where ordinary life stops and weirdness begins. It’s a temporary portal to a dream world of pleasure and nonsense, a world filled with neon-glow airbrushed t-shirts, deep-fried Snickers, and puke-inducing rides designed to scramble your brains and stretch a smile from ear to ear. It’s a place where monkeys ride dogs and children fly. At night, the festival brilliance of a million burning bulbs sears our thoughts. Our brains are fogged with pure visual stimulation. As we float down the arcade like giddy children, the possibilities seem endless. Around the corner could be a Spider Girl, Snake Girl, or Wolf Boy; an old friend, or– just maybe this time– a fleeting rom-com romance under the midway lights, complete with a kiss on the ferris wheel. All we know is tomorrow this will all be gone, nothing but depression marks in the brown grass and some outhouses left behind to tell of the temporary, wonderful, dazzling portal that was here. And with it goes summer and all its frivolity. We know we only have one night to enjoy this bizarre world– so we eat a slice of fried pizza, cheer at a car crash, and look for the next thrill.

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