Unionville Fair opens today

86th annual version, bigger, better than ever

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

EAST MARLBOROUGH — For so many folks, today is what Unionville is all about: a day the entire community comes together and shares its rural, farming roots — even if so many of the farms that used to do these rolling hills are now housing developments. This is when that old Unionville from a simpler, and some say, better time, pops to the forefront.

When the gates open this morning at 9a.m., there will be all of the great features fairgoers have come to expect and enjoy for generations: cow pie bingo, milking contests and all of the fun and food that makes this an annual can’t miss event.

The weather forecast for the weekend is nearly perfect, the National Weather Service says a few stray clouds and showers from yesterday’s drenching rains may linger in the early morning today, giving way to sunshine by afternoon and clear skies and seasonable temperatures are expected to dominate the weekend.

Although it’s mostly a good news story, those running the show have some worries for the future of the fair: cuts in state aid to the event mean that more money will have to be found and raised in the community, or there could be difficult choices ahead.

According to Jayne Shea, president of the fair’s board of directors, the state grant for the fair was cut in half in 2010 and now is likely to be cut again in half, down to just 25% of what it was in 2009, as the state struggles to close what could be a $4 billion budget gap next year.

“It’s a little bit of a struggle,” Shea said, noting that the cuts in funding could make it difficult for the fair to continue to have free admission and pay out token cash prizes to the various contest winners, typically $3 for a blue ribbon.

Despite those long-term worries, this year’s fair looks to be the biggest ever, with all of the fair contests everyone gets so excited about. For those of a gastronomical bent, the baking contests are once again a “do not miss” event, especially the much-coveted Apple Pie and Chocolate Cake contests. And of course, for those who prefer to eat rather than bake, there’s the annual pie eating contest.

Plus, there’s the beloved combination of skill contests and races, ranging from Egg Tosses to sack races and the new peddle tractor pulls for kids weighing less than 90 pounds.

While there’s lots of the things that have made this fair beloved for generations, there’s a few new twists, too. The attractions in the Giggles & Grins area will now be single price — with parents able to buy a wristband for their kids, instead of having to pay for each individual attraction.

There’s also tighter integration with Unionville High School’s homecoming — in part because of construction at the school, there will be no homecoming parade, although the school’s band will march in the Fair Parade before Unionville’s football game, Saturday afternoon against Coatesville. There will also be a special “block party” at the fair for students, organized in part by Unionville students. Shea said she hopes that there will be more integration between the school’s homecoming events and the fair in future years, but is excited about the plans for this year.

And that just the tip of the iceberg — there will be all kinds of live music and performances, animal and farming demonstrations, food of all kinds, craft sales and more throughout the three days.

General entries for the fair begin Wednesday — with the technical assistance of the County Technical College High School in Jennersville, some 3,5000 to 4,000 entries will be processed by computer students. Technical College culinary students were involved in the desert contest at the Denim and Diamonds dinner, as well security students offering free fingerprinting of children during the fair. Horticultural students will also be showing off landscaping displays.

The main show opens today at 9 a.m. — and once again will feature school tours, with many area schools having students attend the fair as part of field trips — and remains open until 9 p.m. While the hours are the same on Saturday — the fair opens a bit later on Sunday, 10 a.m. and builds to one of the most anticipated events of the fair: Cow Pie Bingo, set to go off at 3 p.m., followed by closing ceremonies at 4 p.m.

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