WESTPORT — Area residents, farmers, agricultural workers, business owners and entertainers will congregate on the fairgrounds overlooking Lake Champlain for the 166th time this week for the annual Essex County Fair.
This year’s festivities are notable for several new additions.
It’s going to be a wet one. Essex County lawmakers approved a measure earlier this year that would allow alcohol to be served at the county-owned facility to fairgoers, mainly as a vessel to showcase local breweries and vineyards — not as a magnet to attract inebriates.
“The long-term goal is to give local breweries and wineries the opportunity to exhibit their products, just like anyone else,” Westport Supervisor Dan Connell said.
The process will be strictly regulated from purchase to consumption, he said. Merchants will be relegated to the upper part of the fairgrounds; a card reader will scan licenses to match photos with cardholders to prevent chicanery. Patrons will be limited in the number of drinks and no outside beverages will be allowed on the fairgrounds.
Officials also hope to showcase vineyards from different counties each year. This year’s slot has been awarded to Hid-In-Pines in Morrisonville and Plattsburgh’s Everett Orchards Farm Market and Cidery.
Local brewers include Paradox Brewery, the Great Adirondack Brewery, the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery and the Blue Line Brewery.
“I think it’s just great to be promoting craft beer in the Adirondacks,” said Paradox head Paul Mrocka.
Brewing has been historically limited in the region, he said. But the water is ideal. He uses a well that pushes water through solid granite, resulting in soft water similar to that found in the Czech Republic.
“It makes a nice pilsner,” he said.
Blue Line Brewery founder Mark Gillis said the fair was a great opportunity to share his facility, which is on the border of Franklin and Essex counties in Saranac Lake, to folks across the county.