SYRACUSE — The New York State Fair hosts thousands of attendees and vendors throughout its two-week affair — and this year, a few proud representatives of Cortland County are among the crowd.
From the dairy cattle building to the youth building, there was a variety of talent from the county on display Thursday.
Numerous students of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County’s 4-H Youth Program had their projects on display in the youth center. Many of them were honored with a blue ribbon, and a few even received the prestigious purple ribbon — the highest award that could be bestowed on a project.
There were paintings, baked goods, models of sheep made out of food, a decorative plating display, pictures, handmade clothes and much more; all made by kids ages 8 to 18 years old.
All of the items were initially showcased at the Cortland County Junior Fair in July and were nominated by judges then to appear in the State Fair.
“It is a big deal to the kids to have their project submitted to the State Fair,” said Rebecca Ireland-Perry, a 4-H educator for the Cooperative Extension, while tending to the Cortland County 4-H booth Thursday afternoon.
Elsie Donlick, 9, of Cortland, won a purple ribbon for the colorful dress she sewed herself. Ireland-Perry said the judges were impressed by the level of detail and how well the piece was sewn together, especially for a 9-year-old.
Along with Donlick, 16-year-old Michael DuVall, of Preble, won a purple ribbon for a log lifting mechanism he welded together. And Julian Tylotki, 18, of McLean, won a purple ribbon for his high quality photograph of a butterfly.
“It is nice to show off to the public what incredible things kids can do,” Ireland-Perry said. “These projects are a culmination of a whole year’s work, so it is a big deal (to the kids).”
Having a presence at the fair is important to many. Roland Ripley, owner of Ripley Farms in Moravia, has graced the fair with his presence since 1948. “At least that’s as far back as I can remember,” he said.
Ripley took over the farm when he was 16 years old, after his father died. There he raised Guernsey dairy cows, continuing the family business bottling milk and expanding the business.
He has been bringing his cows to the fair since he first started enteringthem in shows, he said. Over the past few years he has not been alone in doing so, either, with five kids and 23 grandchildren, although not all kids were at the fair. The family had 14 cows with them, stationed in the dairycattle building, and only two of them are not owned by one of Ripley’s grandchildren.
“They take care of them; I just make sure they do it right,” Ripley said.
While he sat in his yard chair and observed the cattle, one of his granddaughters, 15-year-old Elizabeth Ripley,stood by her cow, C Eliza, combing the hair on the tail. She said she started coming to work at the fair about four years ago, but has been working with the cows on the farm since she was young.
“It’s fun,” Elizabeth Ripley said about working with the cows at the fair. “It gets tiring, but it is a good time.”
The family never leaves the cows through their time at the fair, always taking care of them and getting them ready for shows. With cots and sleeping bags, family members spend every night they are at the fair in the building with the cows. The experience allows for good quality family time, Elizabeth Ripley said.
Some did not even have to be at the fair to enjoy its honors. James Clark, of Cortland, won an award for his homemade wine. In the hybrid white category, his seyval blanc wine won him a bronze plaque, which he was awarded on Sunday at the fairgrounds.
“It is very nice to be recognized (at the fair),” Clark said.