Heat slowing Fonda Fair attendance

Fair goers enjoy the swing ride Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

FONDA — Area residents steadily made their way to the midway at the Fonda Fair once it opened Thursday at 1 p.m. where vendors were hopeful that cooler temperatures and clear skies would keep people coming in right up to closing time.

Russell Warner said opening day sales at his Scott Hall Restaurant, where he serves a number of hot, homemade options, were sluggish.

“Yesterday it was a slow day because of the heat,” Warner said Thursday. “Once the weekend gets here it usually averages out, depending on the weather.”

Warner said he’s been running the restaurant at the Fonda Fairgrounds for about six years and while he enjoys working at the fair, he’s usually too busy in the kitchen to spend time visiting the attractions.

“I enjoy meeting the people and serving good food,” Warner said. “I don’t get to see a lot. I try to catch some of the events at the track if my wife gets here, but it’s kind of hard trying to keep the fresh food going.”

Warner said his operation in Scott Hall serves fresh fare that sets it apart from what fair goers find on the midway. He serves everything from macaroni and cheese to hot roast beef sandwiches, as well as staples like hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and chicken tenders.

“The best food at the fair is in this kitchen,” fair vendor Ann Brown said. “I even brought him to my fair, which is the Oneida County Fair in Boonville, and he now runs our building.”

Brown, a Scentsy Fragrance consultant, said she eats at the dining hall throughout the week, where the chili is a particular favorite.

“I have to have my chili and the dinner specials, every night there’s a different dinner special with real mashed potatoes,” Brown said.

One of Warner’s favorite dishes is the Manhattan clam chowder that is made fresh daily, simmering three and half to four hours over low heat.

Artist Phil Singer works on a sand sculpture featuring a pig on a tractor near the entrance to the Fonda Fair on Thursday, with more animals due to be added over the course of the week. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

“It’s actually just getting done,” Warner said asking another staff member to give the six gallons of steamy chowder a stir. “I didn’t make it yesterday it was so hot.”

While things were heating up in the kitchen, Dakota DeHullu was keeping cool in the shade of the safari shoot carnival game booth that she runs.

“Yesterday was slow because of the heat,” DeHullu said. “There’s usually a lot of people when it’s nice out.”

DeHullu, of Sodus, said this is her second year at the Fonda Fair and while she isn’t a crack shot, a number of people will walk away with a stuffed animal as evidence of their marksmanship after shooting down one of the many dented soda cans neatly lined up behind her.

“Shoot a can win a prize,” she said invitingly.

Russell Warner stirs his homeade Manhattan clam chowder in the kitchen at Scott Hall at the Fonda Fair on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

Although most people were checking out the rides when the midway opened in the early afternoon, DeHullu suspected that Thursday would be a fine day for people to try their luck.

One attraction that could not be beaten by the heat on opening day, was the sand sculpture that was taking shape near the fair entrance.

“The heat didn’t bother the sand,” artist Phil Singer said Thursday, “But I have to remember to keep hydrated. [Fair staff] have been really good to me bringing me water.”

Singer said he spent about three hours on Wednesday watering and packing his mound of sand before starting the sculpture that he will work on through the duration of the fair.

On the second day of the fair, a pig on a tractor had emerged, that will soon be joined by more barnyard animals Singer said.

Fonda Fair goers race down a slide on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

“For the record, there’s no glue, this is just sand and water,” Singer said.

The secret to sand sculpting, according to Singer, is using quality fine grain sand and just the right amount of water.

Singer said he has traveled as far as California making his granular artwork at events, although he mostly works locally having made pieces for Proctor’s Theatre, Hudson Valley Community College and a number of regional fairs.

“I think people are just fascinated that you can do what I’m doing with sand,” Singer said of the attraction. “People usually comment, ‘Gee, I can’t even make a good sand castle.”

Although he spends a lot of time on each of his sculptures, with the farm scene likely taking 40 to 50 hours to complete, Singer said he makes sand art for the fun of it.

“I’m a kid at heart playing for a living,” Singer said, surrounded by children and adults of all ages eagerly making their way into the fair.

The fair continues today and runs through Labor Day on Monday. A full schedule of events and daily attractions can be found online at fondafair.com.