WILTON — The 88th annual Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair will be different from fairs in years past.

The public can still vie for blue ribbons by submitting homegrown flowers, fruits and vegetables, and a number of other items.

But in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there will be no fair festivities on Sunday, Aug. 30, at Grange Hall on Cannon Road.

Instead, the fair will be held virtually via YouTube.

Changing the fair’s format from “live” to “virtual” has posed challenges for the grange’s executive board.

“A country fair is, by definition, many people close together. That was our problem in planning for this fair,” said Bil Mikulewicz, vice president of the board.

To maintain social distancing, a live fair would have meant excluding a lot of popular fair activities.

“For all intents and purposes, we couldn’t hold games, the watermelon-eating contest, or face painting. We also couldn’t have the vendors who added so much interest and texture to the event with all sorts of unique items. This is a loss of revenue for us, but we really have no choice but to lean more to the health part of the equation,” Mikulewicz said.

Instead of canceling the fair outright, the board opted to create a virtual fair, “a 21st-century solution to the problem,” according to Mikulewicz. “We are designing a prototype template for not only this summer but also one that is solid, flexible, and stable enough for future use,” he said.

One of the main challenges for the virtual fair was how to divide contest categories into items that must be physically present for judging and items that can be submitted via a photo or video.

Items to be pysically submitted for the contests are: flowers, fruit, and vegetables.

Contest items to be submitted via video or photographs only:

Bees/beehives

Collections

New category: Covid-19 entry

Crafts

Culinary arts

Eggs

Livestock [chickens, rabbits, goats, etc.]

Sewing and needlework

Quilting

Anyone in the community may submit an entry for the contests. No entry fee is mandatory for this year’s fair. A donation of $2 per entry or an item for the Wilton Food Pantry bin at the Grange Hall is encouraged.

Videos and photos must be submitted by Aug. 21, by email info@cannongrange.org or Facebook messenger [Cannon Grange 152 Inc] while in-person entries must be dropped off at the Cannon Grange Hall by Aug. 29. While the Grange members receiving your entries will take appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures, it is recommended that you wear your PPE when making submissions.

Each exhibit will remain online past the fair day, on the Grange website and Facebook page.

“The core of the fair is the contests, with big silken blue ribbons for first prize,” Mikulewicz said. “We are working on a way to organize these contests along with the judging, in order to maintain social distancing,” he said.

With photos and videos an option for some categories, Mikulewicz foresees a potential increase in submissions in the animal categories.

“It is a big schlep trying to herd chickens. Herding chickens is worse than herding cats. Heck, I never entered any of my chickens in the fair because it seemed too cumbersome, but now I think I will,” he said.

The virtual fair will also feature a number of “how-to” presentations on topics such as composting, raising backyard chickens, brewing wine and beer, sous vide cooking, gardening, and crafts in the kitchen and around the grounds of a house.

On the downside, the fair has been a major annual source of revenue for Cannon Grange, helping pay for the maintenance of its historic building. The virtual fair may take a big financial hit. “Will we be able to get sponsors for the virtual fair, that remains to be seen,” Mikulewicz said.

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History

The Cannon Grange Agricultural Fair has a long history in Wilton. It was first presented in 1933 as an event to showcase homemaking and agriculture. The fair was held at the end of summer so area farmers could submit choice selections from their crops for competition.

At the onset of World War II, the fair was discontinued because many residents were involved with the war effort. The fair was restarted in 1976 as a celebration of the nation’s bicentennial.

Wilton’s rural and agrarian past is recognized at the fair. Over the years, concessionaires, local musical talent, games for children, food, and tables for nonprofit organizations have been added.

Last year, the fair introduced Tent Talks, 15-minute sessions held throughout the day featuring experts on a variety of subjects.

Also last year, the executive board renamed its popular baking contest, The Dave Barrett Perpetual Trophy Baking Contest, in honor of the late Dave Barrett, who provided public address announcements and acted as auctioneer of exhibits at the end of each fair. Barrett was also a frequent contributor to the fair’s baking contests.

While the fair goes back 88 years, Cannon Grange #152 goes back even further.

It was founded in Wilton on May 4, 1899, when William McKinley was president of the United States, the Spanish-American War came to an end, and Queens and Staten Island merged with New York City.

Cannon Grange is one of Wilton’s oldest organizations still in existence and one that still meets in its original building at 25 Cannon Road.

Plans for the upcoming virtual fair are still evolving and announcements about the contests will be posted on the grange’s website https://cannongrange.org/.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the date of the fair as well as announce the contests that are being held this year, and submission requirements.