The Haddam Neck Fair: Perfect for Families

8/28/17 - By Elizabeth Howard

When my Canadian husband and I moved to Connecticut, we were overwhelmed with the abundance of agricultural fairs and festivals that cap off summer in the nutmeg state. The amount of time, preparation and volunteer power that goes into these longstanding events is a wonder. From the Big E to the neighborhood church carnivals, there are plenty of fairs to choose from across the state. You can’t go to them all, so my recommendation for families with kids is our favorite: the Haddam Neck Fair.

The Haddam Neck Fair is our first love in Connecticut. My husband and I attended before we had kids, and now plan our Labor Day weekend around the horse pulls, pony races, animal and flower exhibition, and hula-hoop contest. The fair is over 100 years strong, well-organized, and super friendly.

It’s all about the size

The Haddam Neck Fair is not the state’s largest fair, though it is categorized as a “Major Agricultural Fair.”  Its smaller size is a real boon to families, especially those with smaller kiddos.

Bring a stroller, and maybe a blanket to sit on. Pack in water bottles on a hot day. There are plenty of shady spots to chill and enjoy the day.

Plan your day at the Haddam Neck Fair

You will be directed where to park— on hard fields adjacent to or across from the fair. Adults pay admission only. Kids 12 and under enter free.

Now that the kids are a bit older, we easily can spend a whole day at the fair. Though back when the kids napped, we would arrive early and then let them nap in the van on the drive home in the afternoon.

Print the fair schedule and plan your day around the kids’ activities, contests, and shows you want to see. Big hits with our family are the dog agility competition, the horse pulling, the strong woman and man competitions, and the many kids’ contests. My kids annually take ribbons in hula hooping -- a skill I’ve never had.

Contests for kids and adults run all day and aren’t listed online. They don’t cost anything to enter… so enter! The kiddos will love watching you throw a skillet as much as you enjoy them competing in a mini pedal tractor pull. You can grab a full list of the day’s events at the gazebo when you arrive.

In between planned activities is the right time to visit the other highlights of the fair:

  • The Rabbit Barn (the kids’ personal fave. They’re so fluffy!)
  • The Cow barn (where kids can milk a plastic cow… and smell real cow poop!)
  • The Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable exhibits (My personal fave!)
  • The Quilt and Arts Show, inside the main house (no wait! I think this is my favorite!)

Throughout the day you’ll encounter weaving, blacksmithing, and other hands-on demonstrations. Stop and enjoy!

To the Midway

Kids love the rides? Of course! The midway at Haddam Neck is modestly sized and offers hits of fair ride fun for all ages.

Most of the Midway area is unshaded. This can make for a hot day on the Ferris wheel and slides. You may want to save rides till early evening.  Do the math to decide if it’s worth getting the wristband. Other than food, this is your only real investment at the fair. The rides have height restrictions, so check on those first before making your ride ticket purchase.

Eating and Drinking at the Haddam Neck Fair

The food area is shaded and offers standard fair options: kettle corn, burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, fries, along with delicious homemade lemonade and even Thai food.

But the only REAL option (in my mind) is the open-air grilled chicken made by firefighters. Yes that is what you’ve been smelling since you entered! I drool every year just thinking about it! Pair your chicken (white or dark meat) with a cob of corn and lemonade and you are set to go.

More to Know Before You Go

There’s live music starting at 1:30 p.m. and lots of vendors selling stuff you probably don’t need. Even though this is a “local” fair, we feel welcomed by the volunteers and staff. We like to attend on Saturday or Sunday, so that we still have a day of the long weekend to recover afterward. There's an ATM on site and plenty of clean bathrooms and changing rooms. Enjoy this perfect taste of a ripe Connecticut summer!


all photos by the author


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