The new president of the Rutland County Agricultural Society has deep roots at the Vermont State Fair.
Robert Congdon, 30, was elected at the fair association’s annual meeting to replace outgoing president Luey Clough. While Clough chose not to run for re-election, he did seek, and win, one of the association’s two vice president spots.
Congdon is the grandson of Ed Congdon, who served as RCAS president in the 1960s and later was the fair’s general manager until he retired in 1998.
“My early life, I was all over the fairgrounds,” he said. “It’s a bit daunting, but also exciting at the same time. I know that I have big shoes to fill.”
Clough said the board also reviewed the society’s financial status following this year’s fair and voted to no longer allow the sale of weapons like knives and swords by vendors during the fair.
“I remember when my father — I was 5 years old — gave me my first jackknife,” Clough said. “It’s sad this is where society is now. We followed basically Tunbridge. Tunbridge has done the same thing. ... We still allow gun raffles, with rules. Those have been part of the fair for years.”
Clough said total attendance was around 20,000 — down from around 30,000 last year.
“Basically, that was weather-related,” he said. “We had three really bad days. We can survive one bad day. Three days was terrible.”
However, Clough said the association still showed a profit, ending the year about $50,000 in the black. He said that was less than the $93,000 profit they turned in 2017, but still a good number in light of the low attendance and the fair’s recent financial woes.
“We spent the last three years trying to put the fair on some stable financial ground,” he said. “That’s finally working. We’re halfway through paying off the loan we took out. ... For the second year in a row, we’ve got no delinquent bills. All bills are current.”
Clough said Congdon was the right person to lead the fair into the future. Congdon said there was a lot of work still to be done.
“We need to get the excitement back surrounding the fair,” he said. “We’ve lost that and it hasn’t been around in a while. It’s going to be a large process, that’s for sure.”
Congdon said the fair needs to continue improving its social media presence and increase the number of exhibits and vendors. One specific idea being tossed around, he said, was an exhibit of “agricultural toys.”
“Those of us who are farm kids have a lot of those toys sticking around,” he said.
Congdon said the fair association is soliciting new and different ideas in keeping with the “agricultural roots” of the fair and has several open membership slots.
“Most people are accepted,” when a spot becomes open, Congdon said. “If you are willing to put forth some effort and some time, the board is pretty accepting of those people.”