Sheep, Chicks and Geese Scurry at the County Fair- page 12 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
(Maura McCarthy)

Sheep, Chicks and Geese Scurry at the County Fair

As photographer Dan Nelken has catalogued, the county fair is the place for family farms to showcase their prized livestock

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Ostego County Fair 2002
(Maura McCarthy)

“It was really the flip-flops that did it for me,” says Nelken, recalling when he asked the Maple Queen if he could photograph her as she sat on a bench drinking a soda at the 2002 Otsego County Fair. He initially planned on taking a close-up shot of her but when he saw the looks on the barkers’ eyes, he backed up until they were included in the frame.

Among the queen’s responsibilities are giving awards at various county contests and answering questions about making maple [syrup]. The following year, Nelken saw her with the same sash and asked, “How did you become Maple Queen two years in a row?”

“There was nobody who wanted to be Maple Queen and they asked if I would be queen again,” she answered. “And I said, ‘Of course!’ ”

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