My Lifelong Experience with the Chenango County Fair – Mary Weidman
Hi, my name is Mary Weidman. I’m from Oxford, New York. And I’ve had a lifelong experience with the Chenango County Fair, also the Chenango County Agricultural Society, which actually promotes the Fair the one week of the year.
I’ve been a lifelong participant in that organization and in 4H which I started probably in 1954. I was a member of the South Oxford Hot Shots and did the traditional baking and sewing competitions, and actually won a blue ribbon at the Chenango County Fair one year and went to the State Fair, where I have no idea what I got but I hope it was a blue ribbon.
Also the band participation in the county parade was always a big, Firemen’s parade, was always a big event of the Fair. We used to parade down through the city and down East Main Street and then on to the fairgrounds and later years that’s changed, it’s more reduced because of oh, New York state rules and regulations and the likes of the, it actually just go the parade just actually goes through the fairgrounds now.
But at those competitions, I was, played saxophone for a couple of years, and then also served as a drum major. This was a great event. Everybody liked to participate. And it was good for the youth to be involved in that.
My dad, Vincent Weidman actually became involved with the Chenango County Agricultural Society and Fair in 1968. There were some activities of the board at that time where there was discussion about selling the fairgrounds and moving it to a location outside of the city. There was an interest in doing some community development of the 30 acres that is the fairgrounds, and some of the local agricultural community actually joined the Ag Society and stopped that effort. And so the grounds has been retained in the city of Norwich as the current location.
They also restructured from a stockholders corporation to a membership corporation in the 60s, which had an effect on the management and the types of the events that the Fair would continue to promote. So I was involved as my dad was the secretary, sorry, the president. And whenever I was home from college, or in my later years, when I was working in Norwich, he would have me selling tickets, I’d be checking passes at the Maydole street gate, looking at all of the carnival passes, I had to come in checking the fences when people were trying to sneak into the Fair, doing all the chores and different things that happened, that he needed an extra hand for.
We were volunteers, there was not a paid staff at that point. There’s not, we always enjoyed that aspect of it because it gave us a chance to get together, I had a chance to see my friends. As did everybody, I don’t think there was a particular age group that didn’t enjoy getting together with others, enjoying fair food and brew, and just get, and rekindling friendships and talking about old times and new times and things that might be going on.
And actually, at that point, I did meet my partner there for 31 years, he was a farmer, and tractor pulls were a huge aspect of the Fair. And Albert Evans, who was involved with the County Fair for a number of years as the president, and early on in his years as a 4H person also. But he taught me a lot about the Fair. And he also had me clerking the tractor pull. So that’s how I got involved in that aspect of it. And it became an important part of my life.
My dad did pass away in 1977. And that’s when I was elected to the board to serve out his term. And I did serve as a secretary for a number of years. Became the president, I think it’s about 10 years ago, I honestly can’t remember how long I’ve been doing it. But it’s, again, it’s part of the lifelong experience of managing the agricultural society and teaching people about promoting the Fair.
The Fair itself is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization. We’re privately owned. A lot of people think it’s part of the Chenango county government, but we’re not, we’re privately owned. We do occupy 30 acres in the city of Norwich. And since my retirement, I’ve been spending some time working on succession and trying to get new board members, of which there are nine, we’re all volunteers. And trying to get people interested in the community and in preserving the agricultural aspects of what we do, and working with the government at the local level and with New York State on premiums and exhibits and continuing youth participation and involvement with 4H and FFA.