“As far as we know, it’s been 103 years for this fair,” said Grange Secretary Susan Lafleur on Saturday afternoon around 1:00 pm, just as the annual Rochester Grange Fair was getting under way.
The Grange Fair, which normally occurs the same weekend as the larger Rochester Country Fair, awards ribbons and cash prizes to entrants in categories such as best vegetables, baked goods, flower arrangements, needlework, photos, paintings and conservation collections made by local children that consist of natural things like bugs, seashells and leaves.
All of the entries were displayed around the large room inside the 107-year old Grange Hall, and by Saturday morning, the ribbons had been awarded and were ready to be handed out.
Though it doesn’t draw the number of people that the Country Fair does, the Grange Fair is still a hit with a small community of locals both young and old.
“We’re hanging in,” Susan said. “People come back every year. There’s a pretty steady core that likes to come for the fun of it.”
That fun also consists of a ham and bean supper that’s been held every year for the past decade, and after dinner, there’s an auction consisting of many things displayed in the room, and the ribbons and prizes are awarded.
“We don’t have big crowds, but the people that come enjoy bidding against their buddies,” said Susan.
Lafleur said that back in the 1950s, the Grange Fair was three days long and there were horse pulls and other events, but they weren’t able to keep some of those traditions alive.
“Now, it’s kind of hard to do that stuff,” she said.
Susan’s husband, Herbert Lafleur, is the Grange Fair Chairman, and as the fair started Saturday afternoon, he was still running around Rochester and the property, meticulously making sure everything was in place for the day’s events.
“There’s a lot of natural stuff here,” said Herb as he was on his way to the market to pick up some last minute items for the day. “I hope people like it.”
Susan said that a lot of the gardeners associated with the Grange and the fair said they hadn’t enjoyed the best summer because of the heat waves and dramatic changes in weather over the last few months, but they still were able to get some nice vegetables and flower arrangements entered.
“What they got came out good,” she said. “It wasn’t the best year garden-wise is what they’re saying, but we’ve got it covered.”
It seems that even though there are a lot of things working against a place like the Rochester Grange, the group still works hard to ensure that a tradition stays in place.
“There aren’t that many grange fairs around these days,” Susan said.
By Nick Walecka