Essex Junction, VT — The 100th anniversary of the Champlain Valley Fair is just one day away. The annual summer celebration will run from August 26 to September 4, and a fair official says they are expecting around 120,000 visitors.

“Everyone looks for the fair at the end of the summer before school comes back,” said Jeffrey Bartley, Marketing Director of Champlain Valley Exposition. “It’s the best ten days for a reason. Last year was supposed to be the hundredth but we missed 2020 due to COVID-19. And when we were able to go and announce 2021 fair, we had everything. We had all the rides, all the animals all the free entertainment.”

What they didn’t have last year were concerts in the grand stands but this year they are returning. “We open with Scotty McCreery and Dylan Scott, we got Nelly coming, we got the Dropkick Murphys coming, we got the motor sports show and the demolition derby, and we’ll close with everyone’s favorite ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.”

Another popular attraction at the fair is the food vendors, many of whom have been around for years. “We have quarter pounders and of course our hand cut French Fries,” said Beth Abustan of the Lions Club Food Booth. 

“This trailer here has been here for 28 years in the same location,” said Dan Keough, of Muffin Man Café and Dan’s Fried Dough. “The fried dough booth in front of the grandstand has been there close to 50 years now.”

Many know Muffin Man for their cappuccinos, which Keough describes as “a Starbucks on wheels”. Keough is ready to see familiar faces this year. “We like seeing people. We’ve had a lot of the same customers over the years who became friends over the years. We live locally in Colchester so we know a lot of folks.”

“There’s a lot of choices for food but the best choice is Mr. Sausage Italian sausage,” said Stanley Gumienny, owner of Mr. Sausage. “The product we sell is Italian Sausages. It’s an old staple. They only get it at the fair. Because when they do it at the fair, it’s not the same.”   

Gumienny says he has seen some changes from back when he started in 1980. “We started in 1980, this is our 42nd year. The crowd is bigger so that makes a big difference. Other than that, I’m getting older every year so that’s changed. I’m almost as old as the fair, I’m 85 years old and the fair is 100.”

Growing up working at Mr. Sausage was a family affair. “My daughter helped me when they were in high school. Of course, they brought friends from high schools, and they went to college and got some college friends to come here.” Although time has passed, some things just never change. 

“My daughter is coming from Connecticut. She’s gonna be here and she’s bringing her daughter. I’ll have three generations here for the whole week so it’s fun to work with the family. You’re really close to them for ten days. It’s fun for me and for me to see my grandkids, that’s a big deal.”

There are many fun activities for children and a meet and greet with horses is just one of many ways they can enjoy the fair.

“Come and see our animals,” said Gail Billings, Oxen Superintendent at the Champlain Valley Fair. “We make them available so people can come in and pet them and get their pictures taken with them.” Billings, an animal supervisor, has worked at the fair for over 25 years and says one of the most fulfilling parts of her job is seeing kids connect with the animals. “People love to pet them and learn about them, especially the kids.”

One of these kids is Billings’ grandson, 10-year-old Kellen. “I went to my grandmother and grandpas one day and these guys were here and I started bonding with them,” Kellen says his favorite part is being with the oxen. “My favorite is Harley. Every time I go, I lay on him and take a nap on him.” 

Billings says watching her grandson bonding with the oxen is priceless and the connection with animals at the fair brings the Billings family together. “He’s newer to it and it’s just fun to watch him blossom. We get to see relatives that we don’t during the year and really fun for bonding time for our grandkids.” 

Something new this year is a no-bag policy that means no backpacks or drawstring bags. Clear bags cannot be bigger than 12x12x12 and small purses will be permitted but are subject to search.

The fair will open at 3 pm on Friday.