by Rachel Hunter
Last week the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. This week the 2016 Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair.
The legendary country musician Charlie Daniels was ready to entertain the capacity crowd Tuesday on opening night of the 2016 Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair. He stomped on the Gouverneur grandstand stage, and went right to work – sawing on his fiddle and playing it hot.
And the crowd went wild.
The Charlie Daniels Band was a favorite, as many of those who attended tell it, because “Charlie Daniels put his heart and soul into the music he was playing.”
Hits performed included Southern Boy, Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye, Tangled Up In Blue, The Legend of Wooley Swamp, El Toreador, (What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks, In America, Black Ice, Long Haired Country Boy, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, Folsom Prison Blues, How Great Thou Art, The South's Gonna Do It (Again), The Devil Went Down To Georgia.
Charlie Daniels (fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo) took to the grandstand stage with his band – bass guitarist Charlie Hayward, lead guitarist Bruce Brown, drummer Ron Gannaway, guitarist Chris Wormer, and keyboardist Shannon Wickline.
Even the heavy-at-times rain could not keep people from tapping their toes and slapping their knees in rhythm with Charlie Daniels’ performance. Many commented that it was worth it to see the legendary country musician who will be inducted in the Country Hall of Fame later this year.
The 2016 Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair had its official opening ceremony at about 7 p.m. at the packed grandstand, following a performance by Canton-based band, the Waydown Wailers, and before the Charlie Daniels Band took the stage.
The Rev. Howard Maxson of Fowler Baptist Church gave the opening prayer, and Danielle Stevens sang the national anthem.
The Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair Association’s Second Vice President, John “Scooter” Wetmore then introduced Fair President Lyle Hotis as “the man who keeps us on track and keeps us organized and very much responsible for the fair getting bigger and better every single year”.
This is what Mr. Hotis told the crowd:
“Welcome to the 158th annual Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair. We certainly appreciate you being here.
“This kind of a big deal for us having a concert of this magnitude. We signed this concert back in January, February and we had two main worries. Worry No. 1 is “Will it rain or not?” This summer, well, I guess it is never going to rain so that hasn’t been an issue.
“The other worry we had was “Will the community come out and support us?” The answer to that is obvious here. We have a good crowd and people are still coming in. We certainly thank you for being here and supporting this effort of bringing you a better show at the Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair.
“If you look around the fair you will see a lot of improvements this year, none more obvious than the stage that is in back of me. The stage was about half the size it is now. We decided to improve on that, build the stage forward and lift it up – mainly to give you folks better visibility and also to make it safer for our firemen during the demolition derby.
“There is one person here who spearheaded the whole concept behind this, designed it, and did most of the work on it… John “Scooter” Wetmore. So if you like the looks of this stage, let’s thank Scooter for that.”
A hearty handclap ensued.
“We have about 40 volunteers here – all of our directors, our associate directors, and those who just volunteer to help us,” Mr. Hotis continued. “We have about 40 volunteers here, but we are always looking for more. We certainly appreciate all of the work that the volunteer people do to help us. If anyone in the future wants to help, we are always looking for more folks. Come and find one of the directors and we’ll certainly find a place for you to do something.
“I invited all of the directors up here, but you only see four up here because they are out on the grounds doing their thing. They’re busy.”
Mr. Hotis then introduced Fair Manager Don Peck by saying the following: “A couple things I want to tell you about Don you’ve probably never heard before. Don has been coming to the fair since he was a little kid, picking up stones before the horse races and showing his sheep. He knows more about the details of running this fair than anybody else.”
Mr. Hotis then encouraged Mr. Peck to take the microphone and tell some highlights about this week’s fair.
“We’d like you to come back all week,” Mr. Hotis said as Mr. Peck moved to center stage. “We have a really good fair. We’ve got a lot of stuff to do.”
Applause sounded, and Mr. Peck told about some of the upcoming event – including the following:
Glorious Sons take to the grandstand tonight (Friday, August 5) at 8 p.m. (Gates open at 6 p.m.)
On Saturday, August 6, there is Professional Tough Trucks, Quad and UTV Racing 7:00 p.m. (Gate opens at 5:00 p.m.) – Plus Amateur Racing.
Also on Saturday will be the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Coleman Bros. Shows which will bring a fireworks spectacular to the Fairgrounds at 10 p.m.
Another much-anticipated event still ahead is the annual Demolition Derby. This year it will start at 1 p.m., and the gates open at 11 a.m.
Tickets for grandstand events are available at the fair office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Sunday.
Mr. Peck in his speech also encouraged everyone to visit the livestock area.
“Something we are very, very proud of is that this is an agricultural fair,” Mr. Peck said. “Yes, you need shows like this, and yes you need a carnival—but check out our agricultural animals at the other end of the fairgrounds.
“About 330 head of cattle have been registered here this year. That’s a record for us. We had 309 last year. The judges over there will tell you that this is the top three or four cattle shows in the State of New York, and that includes the New York State Fair.
“So make sure you go and see these guys. It costs a lot of money to be here for the week. They put on a great show for us. There’s also horse shows going on over there, and don’t forget our Commerford Petting Zoo is back this year. They have camel rides, and also pony rides… A lot of things going on this year, and we hope you enjoy the 2016 Fair.”
The annual ribbon cutting ceremony was then held to officially open the fair. It was officiated by Town Supervisor Robert Ritchie and Village Mayor Ron McDougall. One end was held by Fair Director Fred Morrill, and the other end was held by Fair Manager Don Peck. Also holding the ribbon was Fair President Lyle Hotis.
For more info about the Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair, visit the website at GouverneurFair.net.
See inside this edition and in upcoming editions of the Gouverneur Tribune Press for more fair coverage.
by Rachel Hunter