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First Street Gallery © Tracy Powers

Storm, oil on linen. First Street Gallery. Copyright © Tracy Powers 2009-2012

It’s fair season in Connecticut as well as at the First Street Gallery in New York’s Chelsea art district, where Tracy Powers is showing paintings of whirling amusement rides and games flashed with prizes. Of course the subject matter caught our interest right away. Seeing the show evoked strong memories of working games on the Connecticut fair circuit as a child. Wolcott Fair, which is the artist’s muse, was last month, but the Guilford Fair is coming up this weekend, followed by the Durham, Harwinton, Berlin and Riverton Fairs.

While sideshow and circus subjects are popular among artists, it’s rare to see rides and games like the Rock N Roll and the Whac-A-Mole depicted in works of art. Powers is an empathetic observer of fair-goers and workers alike. There are also some very charming six inch square oil studies of a Scrambler, a carousel and a Teacup ride.

Tracy Powers, Utopia, through September 29, 2012. First Street Gallery, 526 West 26th St, New York, NY. 646-336-8053

First Street Gallery. Copyright Tracy Powers

Toy Box, oil on linen. First Street Gallery. Copyright © Tracy Powers 2009-2012

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Parking permits from the last years of the Westchester County Fair. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Parking permits from the last years of the Westchester County Fair. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The ride trailers parked behind Nathan’s in Coney Island came out of storage and still have the 1996-2002 parking permits for the Westchester County Fair. It’s a sad reminder of a fair that was cancelled in 2003 due to the construction of video lottery terminals at the Yonkers Raceway. Today the Raceway’s Empire Casino has 5,300 video slot machines which operate year round. The fading parking permits made me feel nostalgic for the county fair that never came back. I’m not the only one. The fair has a Facebook fan page with 3,712 fans and a recent discussion thread “who wants the fair back?”

Conklin Shows played the Westchester County Fair for as far back as I can remember. It was one of Amusement Business’s top 50 fairs. An AB article about the fair’s cancellation noted Conklin “posted a record $1.5 million gross for the 2002 fair, which came in at No. 38, up four spots, in AB’s 2002 list of top fairs.” Yet I could find only a few ride photos on flickr, here and here. Perhaps because the demise of the fair predates the rise of flickr! Does anyone have any memories or photos of the fair they’d like to share?

The president of Yonkers Raceway, who happens to be the same person who brought in the video gambling, is credited with starting the Westchester County Fair & Exposition in 1981. It was billed as “the first complete county fair in the New York metropolitan area in more than 30 years.”

George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

According to the Yonkers Historical Society, an earlier incarnation of the Westchester County Fair existed in 1888 on 50 acres at Tarrytown Road and Hillside Avenue…

“Here was a rack track—one of the best half–mile tracks in the country—bordered by a grandstand holding 3,000. Besides displays of cattle, pigs, needlework, fruits and vegetables, great tents held cowboy shows, bicycle races and baby shops; balloon ascensions were among the special events. The fair was climaxed by the Westchester County Ball, held at the Verein hall at Chicken Island. Six special trains brought the merry–makers to Yonkers.”

No mention of amusement rides, but I recall some wonderful old photos of a Bicycle Merry-Go-Round, sideshows and games in the Library of Congress Photo Archive.

Bicycle merry go round at Westchester County Fair. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Bicycle merry go round at Westchester County Fair. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Westchester County Fair, Wild Rose and Rattlesnake Joe sideshow. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Westchester County Fair, Wild Rose and Rattlesnake Joe sideshow. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

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