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Fair notebook: Faith at the fair

Fair notebook: Faith at the fair

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EASTON — Faith is an important part of life in many rural areas. The Washington County Fair recognizes that connection by hosting a non-denominational church service on Sunday morning of fair week.

More than 70 people of all ages gathered in one of the fair’s entertainment tents for a short service of Christian music, scripture reading, and a sermon. The Durkeetown Baptist Church in Fort Edward, which has organized the service for many years, provided its 13-piece band, sound system and a preacher, Ben Christian. His message was learning to separate the truth of God’s kingdom of life, love, and forgiveness from the “fake news” of the powers of darkness.

Christian, a former assistant pastor, went through a training program at Durkeetown for young men who want to be church leaders. Although he is no longer affiliated with the church, they invited him back to preach at the fair.

“I used to do preaching at drag racing events,” Christian said. “When you’re communicating, you want to consider the audience, but the message never changes. The reality I want people to know is what brings life and fulfills us.”

There was no offering collection. Instead, worshipers were encouraged to support their home churches.

Many local non-profits use the fair to raise funds and spread the word about their organization. Sunday morning, Jason Gilbert was staffing the booth for Operation Adopt A Soldier, Inc. across from a line of food booths on Milky Way.

The charity, based in Saratoga Springs, collects goods and money to send care packages to U.S. military personnel. The packages contain toiletries, non-perishable snacks, and amusements such as crossword puzzle books. Gilbert was selling T-shirts and other goods to support the mission while Sharon Gilbert painted children’s faces for a $5 donation. A $10 donation would cover the cost of shipping a care package “wherever they’re deployed overseas,” Jason Gilbert said.

“This is our fourth year at the fair,” Jason Gilbert said. “The response has been very good. People thank us for helping the soldiers. We’re a non-profit, so all the donations go to the soldiers.”

The Farm Museum not only has museum-type displays but also brings craftspeople to demonstrate traditional crafts that were once essential for everyday life. Reggie Delarm, from Torrington, Conn., had set up her treadle-powered potter’s wheel outside the museum’s entrance and was making tiny pots. She travels to fairs and living history events with her husband, a wood turner.

“We talk to so many people who have done pottery,” Delarm said as she deftly turned a small lump of gray clay into a little pot. “We meet people whose grandparents worked in a pottery or made things on a lathe.”

Delarm starts her summer travels with 200 pounds of clay, but is always interested in local clay sources. If she or her husband runs out of materials, “we know where to get trees or clay,” she said. The one thing they don’t travel with is a kiln. Delarm said she’d fire her pots at home.

Children’s entertainers Buffalo and Brandy, a husband and wife duo at the fair for their 28th year, had a 21st century invention: a banana piano.

No, it wasn’t a piano made out of bananas. Buffalo explained that the “piano” starts with a laptop computer loaded with a free drag-and-drop program called Scratch. The laptop is attached to a Makey-Makey board, which is in turn wired to a series of ordinary bananas, the keyboard. The laptop is also the power source. When someone holds a ground wire and touches a banana, that completes an electrical circuit that signals the computer to play a previously assigned note. Brandy demonstrated by picking out “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“I use it in schools to introduce kids to coding and electrical circuits,” Buffalo explained. “The kids can hold hands (in a line) and as long as someone is holding the ground wire, it will play.”

The drawback is that bananas are perishable and have to be replaced frequently. “We’ve been eating a lot of bananas,” Buffalo said ruefully.

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