The Chautauqua County Fair Still Going Strong


Article Contributed by
Stephanie McCraw

138 Years Strong

The Chautauqua County Fair has been an annual summer stomping ground for over a century. From the midway to the animal barns to the once-a-year fair food that makes your mouth water – its all here at a terrific price. County fairs are a strong tradition in most rural communities. It started as a time for the local farmers and agriculture-based businesses to celebrate their harvests and year round work. It’s hard to forget one’s first Ferris wheel ride, or waiting for a plate piled high with delicious French fries. Children trail faithfully by their parent’s side waiting for the next treat, their eyes taking in all the bustling activity.

A stop by the Fair office helps one remember just how long the Chautauqua County Fair has been around. Posters carefully pinned to a bulletin board pay homage to the elaborate shows of the Fair back in 1947, “the biggest fair yet!” along with aerial picture views of the grounds from the 70’s and 80’s on display.

Dave Wilson is a recurring President of the Fair and says that the agricultural aspect means a lot to him. He grew up on a grape farm in Silver Creek, NY and then worked for Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation for 32 years. “My dad was on the fair board for a long time, and he told my brother and I that one of us needed to replace him. We actually flipped a coin for it and that’s how I ended up joining the fair board.” The rest, as they say, is history. He continued by saying that the quality of the animals is superb, along with all the exhibits, and well worth the visit.

Charles Belknap manages the placement of rides on the midway

4-H, Exhibits, and Shows

The Fair is closely synonymous with agriculture promotion and 4-H; the entertainment and rides were added later. 4-H will have over 2,000 exhibits on display this year. The students in the programs create presentations to showcase their hard work. The presentations range from cooking, sewing, artwork to the very popular farm animal shows and daily care. These presentations help the community learn more about the animals in the area. It’s also the place to go with family or friends for food, music, the Demolition Derby, and nightly events in the grandstand.

The long-time standby of the Fair is the 4-H Youth Development Program offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County. 4-H and FFA have shows and classes for steer, sheep, goats, and pigs and are presented in the Warren K Show Arena on the grounds. A visit to the horse show arena or the rabbit and poultry barn is sure to please parties of all ages.

For those who love music and entertainment, each day is packed with activities to enjoy. The Arthur Maytum Family Theater features Abracadabra Magic Show and Farmyard Storybook Barn, which are new this year, offering activities for kids, along with nightly music starting at 6:30. Circus Incredible and various performing arts opportunities are scheduled throughout the week.

Entertainment for All

Charles Belknap of Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment is the rides manager and heads up promotion, tickets, and marketing. He pointed out that one of the great things about the Chautauqua County Fair is the encompassing value for the entertainment provided.

He said, “For a twelve-dollar ticket, you can get into the fair and ride all the rides, see grandstand shows, agricultural exhibits, horticultural exhibits, and other entertainment on the grounds. Many places charge that just to get in!” Advanced sale tickets extend the value even further for seven dollars a person when purchased by July 14th.

Join In!

The 2019 Chautauqua County Fair is held from July 15th-21st on the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds, 1089 Central Avenue, Dunkirk, NY with hours from 9:00am to 11:00p.m. The Midway opens at 1p.m. and features rides for kids and families.

For a full list of the week’s events, visit