The last weekend in September officially arrives at 4 p.m. this afternoon as the 93rd Durham Fair gets underway. The weather looks iffy and rain is in the forecast, but the National Weather Service reported this morning that the forecast could be shifting!
The annual 4-day event is Connecticut's largest agricultural fair and draws thousands of visitors from all over the state, New England and beyond who come for the food, animals and entertainment.
A one-day visit to Durham is hardly enough time to see the fair's 12,000-plus exhibits that have been carefully displayed and judged — from prize winning pigs to collections bordering on obsession to giant pumpkins.
Dozens of food booths, including many operated by local non-profit organizations, offer an opportunity to satisfy your fair appetite. Fair favorites include the Giant Donut, roast beef sandwiches and clam chowder.
Don't worry, napkins are available.
This year's fair also features a "Super Coaster," a 37-foot high, 155-foot long roller coaster that boasts a ride lasting nearly two minutes. The roller coaster, according to fair officials, is one of only two found at a Connecticut fair.
If roller coasters aren't your thing, the fair's Midway offers other rides and games, but be prepared to pay a premium for the fun.
For cost conscious fair visitors, there are an endless number of "free" entertainment options, including horse pulls, pie eating contests and a crowd-pleasing demolition derby.
A daily schedule of events can be found on the Durham Fair website.
This year's entertainment lineup features performances from a wide range of musical genres, including the University of Connecticut's a cappella group Conn-Men.
On Friday night, country music legend Kenny Rogers will headline the Main Stage at 7 p.m. Durham Fair entertainment director Wendy Manameit said the concert has drawn interest from all over New England and beyond.
"I've had calls from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He's a legend, a living legend," she said.
Former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The country singer is sure to draw a large crowd following her recent decision to shave her head in support of a friend battling breast cancer.
"People have been talking about both of them and they're pretty excited. We expect a good turnout," said Durham Fair Marketing Coordinator Michelle LaPointe. "All three days, both stages will have full lineups going."
One of the weekend's highlights on Center Stage is the Durham Fair's 9th Annual talent show, an event that draws performers from all around Connecticut who compete for cash prizes and bragging rights.
The show starts at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Keep in mind, the fair is open rain or shine.
"We're always watching the weather. We have a really good staff of people at the fair so there's always a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. We're prepared for whatever comes our way," LaPointe says.
To get to the Durham Fair, visitors can catch a shuttle bus at any one of three designated parking lots:
Strickland Farm in Middlefield
Wimler Farm in Durham
Greenbackers Farm in Durham
Parking costs $5 per day/single entry or $20 for unlimited entry. Parking lots open roughly an hour before the fair opens.
Ticket prices range, but the Durham Fair is free to anyone 11 years old or younger.
For ticket prices to the Durham Fair click here.