October 04, 2006

Riverhead Country Fair: Fun for All

Pony rides and pedal tractor pulls. Farm animals and quilting competitions. Tastes of sumptuous Long Island produce and vegetable decorating contests. Children laughing on carnival rides and vendors of all kinds offering a dazzling array of wares and crafts.

On Sunday, hundreds will pour into Riverhead to experience what has become a beloved town tradition — the 31st annual Riverhead Country Fair.

Organizers Jim and Connie Lull, who have orchestrated the day-long event for the past 24 years, are geared up to offer one of the best fairs ever, one that aims to take advantage of Riverhead's newly revitalized riverfront.

"We're trying to make good use of the new waterfront," said Jim Lull, adding that the area will be dotted with animal care groups and "a lot of boats," which will be entered into a "best-dressed boat" competition.

Lull said that in addition to the more than 400 food and crafts vendors, the fair is famous for its focus on agricultural and homemaking competitions, including quilting, weaving and wood-carving contests, with prizes awarded in over 400 categories.

The event, which is slated to be held on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a rain date on Monday, "pays for itself," from booth-rental revenues. All profits, said Lull, "go back into downtown," with funds utilized for Riverhead's ongoing revitalization, beautification and educational efforts. Over the years, he said, Townscape, Inc., the organization behind the fair, has planted over 5000 trees in town with profits.

Although admission for the event is free, there is a charge for the carnival rides, which will also be open on Saturday.

Lull said that although the vendors are a highlight, what holds most meaning for him are the agricultural, needlework and homemaking exhibits and competitions, which "combine to remind us when farming dominated the East End."

Farm history, he said, comes alive with old-time tractors, farm machinery and corn strippers.

Also a crowd pleaser is the entertainment stage, with free entertainment all day; this year, the emphasis is on local talent, with past Riverhead Idol performers slated to share the spotlight. Years ago, someone dubbed the fair "a community at work on behalf of itself," something Lull said is still true today.

With 24 years of experience under their belts, the Lulls say they cherish their fair memories. The thing that stands out most in his mind, said Lull, is the many friendships that have developed among attendees and vendors over the years. Some people who have come to the fair, he said, have made the decision to move to Riverhead after the event.

"It's a real good time," he said.

For more information, go to riverheadcountryfair.com.

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