If you’re looking for some traditional New York State fun, a little nostalgia or simply a slice of Americana, visit Livingston County this summer. There are 26 different communities with cozy but busy downtowns, friendly people, and a variety of festivals that harkens back to a simpler time, when folks spent the day outside with friends and family. There’s plenty of charm to be found in the woods, fields and Main Streets of rural western New York.
The 12th Annual Letchworth Red, White & Blue Balloon Rally in Mount Morris, May 24 through 27, kicks off an eventful summer season that runs through October. Hundreds of people will gather at Letchworth State Park this Memorial Day Weekend to view 30 colorful hot air balloons that will launch from the Archery Field Overlook on the park’s main road. There are six flights scheduled from Friday night through Monday morning. For more information call 585-493-3600.
If you’re more of a thrill rider than a watcher, call Balloons Over Letchworth at 585-493-3340 as soon as possible to reserve your spot as a balloon passenger. Or, if you’re looking for an adventure but prefer to stay on the ground, you could watch from the river gorge and enjoy a rafting picnic supper. For information, call Adventure Calls Outfitters at 888-270-2410.
Before and after the balloon rally, spend some time antiquing in the village of Mount Morris, and work up an appetite for lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants along recently renovated Main Street.
To learn more about the 12th annual Letchworth Red, White & Blue Balloon Rally, visit balloonsoverletchworth.com.
One of Livingston County’s signature events is the Geneseo Airshow, July 12 through 14. Known to many as “The Greatest Show on Turf,” it attracts thousands of visitors each year. The World War II themed show – rated among the top 10 in the country – features six hours of nonstop flying by vintage war birds each day. On the ground, get up close and personal with the aircraft to truly feel part of a bygone era.
Admission is $20 for adults; free for children 12 and under. To view a full schedule of events, visit the website of the Historical Aircraft Group Museum, 1941hag.org/
Despite its name, the Hemlock “Little World’s Fair” is one of Livingston County’s largest fairs.
Scheduled for July 16 through 20, it features traditional fair rides and delicious festival food, plus a demolition derby and a mounted patrol competition. Put on by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol Unit, it is an exciting event as policemen ride through obstacles they might encounter on the job. Onlookers watch as the mounted police ride through water hazards and construction site clutter, past vehicles with blaring sirens and more.
In the evenings there’s music, with a different band every night.
Admission is $11 per day or $28 per week for adults 13 and older. For children ages 4 through 12, its $8 per day and $21 per week. Children ages 3 and younger get in free. For more information on the Hemlock Fair, visit hemlockfair.org.
Every county has its “official” fair, and ours is the Livingston County Agricultural Fair, July 30 through August 3 in Caledonia. It’s been a tradition for more than 150 years. Though the fair now offers modern attractions like demolition derbies and agricultural demonstrations, it still has plenty of Americana charm. Events like the Western horse show, the rodeo competition, and the famous cow-milking competition (county officials try to fill up their team’s bucket faster than their competitors) remind fairgoers of a simpler time.
Admission information and a full schedule of events can be found at livingstoncountyfair.org.
It’s official. Our balloon fest, that is – the New York State Festival of Balloons, Labor Day weekend, in Dansville.
In 1997, the Dansville Balloon Festival became the New York State Festival of Balloons. It attracts, on average, 35,000 spectators each year from near and far. One of the largest events of its kind, the festival is staffed entirely by volunteers and features six scheduled launches beginning Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Monday at 6 a.m. In addition to breathtaking balloon launches, the festival also features arts and crafts vendors, an international food court, free entertainment, rides and games for kids, and a car show. Balloon rides are also available.
On Thursday at 7, there’s a free balloon GLOW.
The festival has become so successful that its profits are shared with local charities and other organizations. For more information, visit nysfob.com.
So, what about our “little Woodstock” – the Springwater Fiddlers Fair and American Crafts Show, September 14? The event is held at the Sugarbush Hollow Maple Farm in Springwater, where you can stroll through the sugarbush and happen upon a jam taking place among folk musicians of all ages and places. It’s truly delightful.
There’s nothing more Americana than fiddlers tapping their feet while playing a fast tune, but in addition to the fiddle, you’ll hear sounds from unique instruments like pennywhistles. Folk artists sell wares made in Livingston County and its surrounding areas. Local restaurants sell delicious locally sourced cuisine.
Admission to the festival is a $5 donation that benefits Springwater Parks and Trails. For more information, visit springwaterfiddlersfair.net.
Our very well-known Letchworth Arts & Crafts Show and Sale will be held this year from October 12 through 14. It’s located in Letchworth Park’s Highbanks Recreation Area – the park nearest the Mount Morris entrance.
The sprawling event consists of more than 300 artists, artisans and craftspeople from all over the United States. Its backdrop is Letchworth Park when the foliage is at its most beautiful.
Many folks do their holiday shopping there, for pottery, paintings, quilts, handmade jewelry, furniture, wood carvings and more.
For more information, visit artswyco.org.
The Genesee Valley Hunt Club Race will be held on October 12 in Geneseo. It’s the only place in New York State folks can see sanctioned timber steeplechase races.
The fox hunt itself, held the day before the race, is the second-oldest continually operating hunt in the United States. The old-world sport has been part of the Geneseo tradition since 1876.
W. Austin Wadsworth, the grandson of the hunt’s founder, Major W. Austin Wadsworth, has served as joint Master and Huntsman since 1972, making the event not only a big part of Geneseo history, but also an event steeped in family tradition.
People who attend pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with friends and family while they watch the race. The tailgating alone, a mainstay of the race for decades, is worth the price of admission. It’s not unusual to see silver candelabras, fine linens and gourmet food. They’re even judged for a coveted prize, “Best in Show.”
For the kids, there are pony rides, horse-drawn wagon rides and stick horse races.
Updates, ticket information and a full list of events can be found at geneseevalleyhunt.org.
Livingston County doesn’t need a specific event to showcase its traditional Americana charm. It can be found in the natural beauty of Letchworth State Park and the “forever green” Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. Its notable figures who helped shaped America, like Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance; and Clara Barton, who founded the first chapter of the American Red Cross in Dansville, give our area a rich history.
Complete information about Livingston County can be found by visiting FingerLakesWest.com.
by Becky McKeown, New Media Specialist, Livingston County Area Chamber of Commerce