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New buildings in Saratoga a fair deal

The sound of hammers and saws are filling the air at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa as several new buildings are being constructed, which officials expect to be done in time to open at the start of this year's fair season running July 17 to 22.

New construction is rare at the landlocked grounds, encompassing 30 acres of fenced property. The fair site, which also has 20 acres of parking off the grounds, has four barns, five covered pavilions, seven enclosed buildings totaling 23,000 square feet, and a historic covered grandstand that seats about 1,500 people.

The three new rustic wood buildings -- one of them a log cabin -- will house a sugar shack, a blacksmith shop and conservation and 4-H teaching exhibits

The sugar shack will highlight maple sugar products and show fairgoers how maple syrup is made with buckets and an evaporation process. Maple sweets will also be sold inside.

Russ Lehr, who has been on site watching over the construction for three weeks, will run the new blacksmith shop.

We'll have fire pits and rifle accessories like black powder, said Lehr, who is the ad hoc director of the 4-H conservation department, and also the 4-H shooting sports leader. "All of it will be completely safe. In more than 25 years of shooting sports, we've had no accidents whatsoever."

The third building, a former tool shed, will house living history exhibits.

The fair celebrates the farming roots of Saratoga County, and is run by the Saratoga County Agricultural Society. The nonprofit board didn't have to stretch their budget to cover the costs of the new exhibit buildings.

"This is all part of a three-year plan; we went to the fair board four years ago and explained our vision, and it came at no cost to the Agricultural Society," said Bill Schwerd, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County, which facilitates all the 4-H programs.

The board received a $3,000 member line item from Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco, R-Schenectady, for the project. Materials were donated by the Saratoga County Soil and Water Association, Ad Forest Industries of Galway, the Saratoga Tree Nursery, and Mayfield Mills and Furnace.

Work crews included volunteers and inmates from the Washington County Correctional Facility. The crews have been working for three weeks in sweltering heat and high humidity.

"We're sweating it out, but we'll be ready come opening day," said Lehr. "Somehow it will all come together."

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