The 99th annual Durham Fair is set to open Sept. 27, bringing in more than 200,000 people throughout the weekend. Here’s a few things to know before you attend.
The fair will include traditional activities such as tractor and animal pulls, demolition derby, fried food, non-stop live music and livestock, craft and food exhibits.
It will also feature unique offerings like giant pumpkin growing, wood carving, pig races and an animal costume parade.
“Living in Durham, (the Durham Fair) is kind of like a national holiday,” said Debbie Huscher, marketing coordinator for the fair association. “There really is something for everybody.”
More than 1,700 volunteers and 30 or so executive volunteers make the fair possible. Over $100,000 in prizes are awarded to exhibit winners and nearly $500,000 is spent on public safety.
“Everybody on the Durham Fair is doing it for really the love of the fair, really love of the community,” Huscher said.
Hours and Where to Park:
Thursday, Sept. 27, 4 to 10 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 29, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tickets are available online for a discounted price or at the fair entrance. Ticket prices range from $9 to $14 and multi-day tickets are available. Children 11 and under are free, as are active military members and attendees in wheelchairs.
Sunday is Military Appreciation Day. All active military members, as well as veterans, enter free.
Parking costs $5 per day for a single entry at the parking lots, which include Strickland Farm, Greenbacker Farm, Wimler Farm, Strong School, Coginchaug Regional High School and White Farm. Shuttle buses are provided to transport people from the parking lots to the fairgrounds. Thursday parking will only be available at Strickland Farm.
Handicap parking will be available at the Frank Ward Strong School on Thursday and at CRHS Friday through Sunday.
New this year is the Connecticut Craft Beer and Cider Tasting, which will run Thursday through Sunday. The festival costs an additional $10, with add-ons available.
Huscher said the fair committee found a lot of demand for beer and cider.
“It’s gotten a lot of buzz, no pun intended,” Huscher said.
The new feature will also include educational components and offers people a chance to try local breweries without having to travel to each one, Huscher said.
The tasting will be open 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Participating breweries include Alvarium Beer Co. in New Britain and Connecticut Valley Brewing Company in South Windsor.
“I find the discovery tent fascinating because it’s always new every year. There’s always different exhibits in there,” First Selectman Laura Francis said.
“And then of course the animals, it’s not something that you see everywhere,” she said. “Nowhere can you see the display of livestock as you find at the Durham Fair.
Huscher agrees, saying going through the barns is a quintessential agricultural fair activity.
“For a lot of people, seeing a cow up front and personal is a new experience,” Huscher said.
Melissa Etheridge will headline the Durham Fair’s Friday concert.
Etheridge’s 30-year career includes hits “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” for which she won a Grammy Award in 1995.
Wendy Manemeite, entertainment coordinator, said she has wanted to bring Etheridge to the fair for the past few years.
“This year we were early enough,” she said. “We were able to get onto her schedule.”
On the main stage Saturday, Scotty McCreery is scheduled to perform. McCreery won American Idol in 2011 and went on to win ACM Best New Artist, CMT Video of the Year and ACA Breakthrough Artist of the Year.
On Sunday afternoon, the USO Show Troupe will take the main stage for the fair’s second annual Military Appreciation Day. The troupe performs a variety of music, including Top 40s, Broadway, Big Band and some patriotic pieces.
“It’s very patriotic and it’s appealing to all age groups,” Huscher said.
Throughout the weekend, local artists, including the Coginchaug Regional High School band, will bring live music to the Center and Green Stages.
This year the fair will debut a cityHUNT scavenger hunt that will take participants throughout fairgrounds in search of clues.
“We give hints and they can go around the fair and learn about different things,” Huscher said. “That should be really fun and engaging.”
This year’s Discovery Center will include speakers like UCONN master gardener Gail Reynolds, discussing exotic pests and biological controls, Mark Evans of Geology of CT, and Beth Payne from Dudley Farm.
Another new feature is Kindness Rocks. People can paint rocks and then exchange them with other attendees to promote kindness.