Do people tell you that your pumpkin pie or banana bread is the best they’ve ever had? Have you been praised for your needlepoint or wood carving skills? Does your farm grow exceptional watermelons, eggplants, peppers, carrots or more unique vegetables? If you nodded in agreement with any of these questions, then you owe it to yourself to enter your creation in the Riverhead Country Fair competition, hitting downtown Riverhead on Sunday, October 13 from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Started in October 1976, the 44th annual country fair will once again showcase the bounty of Long Island and the creativity of local artisans in 300 competition categories, though its focus has shifted since its inception. “In the beginning times of the country fair, it was more to bring people out to see the agrarian culture—what Riverhead was more about at that point,” says Tom Farruggia, President of Riverhead Townscape Inc., the nonprofit that hosts the annual fair to benefit Riverhead Town. “We did what we needed to do back then to help [farmers prosper], and we’ve kind of morphed a little bit away from that. We’ve been struggling with trying to keep the country in the country fair.”
The grandest of the traditional agricultural categories feature massive vegetables, the likes of which you’ll never discover at a U-pick. Last year’s blue ribbon–winning pumpkin weighed in at a hefty 398 pounds, and the winning squash, cauliflower, potato, carrot, tomato and cabbage were all impressive giants in their own right. The remaining fruit and vegetable categories are judged based on shape, color, cleanliness and quality. Split into three age/status categories—junior gardener, backyard grower and commercial grower—judges grant ribbons to the best leeks, onions, herbs, kale, red delicious apples, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, pears and a wide variety of others.
Homemaking categories include numerous canned goods, such as jams, pickles and sauces; and baked goods, including breads, pies and pastries. The cake-decorating contest welcomes all, from beginners to professionals, to show off their best designs on real or dummy cakes, and the home brewing section offers a chance to present your best beers, whiskeys, wines and mead. Non-culinary categories include the woodcarving and basket-weaving contests; the floral competition, which highlights colorful wreaths and fresh flower arrangements; and multiple needlework categories, including quilts, crocheted clothing and candle wicking. It’s important to enter the homemaking categories in the proper skill class—professional or amateur—to avoid situations where a bakery is competing against someone baking in their kitchen.
There will also be competitions for best farm wagon display and farm display, as well as a pumpkin and vegetable decorating contest for ages 4 and up. New this year is the scarecrow competition, which families are encouraged to work on together.
Entries in all categories must be turned in on Saturday, October 12 from 1–4 p.m. or on Sunday, October 13 from 6–8 a.m., with judging beginning promptly at 8 a.m. on the day of the fair. Ribbons will be given out for first through third place, plus honorable mentions. The very best first place winners in a given parent category will be awarded a large, purple Best in Show ribbon. Anyone young or old, skilled or novice is welcome to enter the competition. “We had a 93-year-old gentlemen who came in a little bit late, and he entered the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted in my life,” says Susan Young, Riverhead Townscape Inc. Treasurer, adding that the man went home with the Best in Show ribbon that year. “Just do your best and bring it in…It’s just following [recipe] directions, really, and making something that we feel is extra special.”
In addition to the competition, the Riverhead Country Fair offers a day packed with family fun. Kids can enjoy a petting zoo, balloon making madness, a carnival, two magic shows and a hit-and-miss tractor display presented by the L.I. Antique Power Association. Long Island country band Southbound will invite fairgoers to show off their best line dancing from 12:40–5 p.m., and several hundred vendors will sell their finest quality crafts, woodwork, sea glass, home furnishings, décor, jewelry, soaps, photography and delicious food.
For more info on the Riverhead Country Fair, visit riverheadcountryfair.com.