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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Country Living Fair Rhinebeck, NY Recap: Our Tips, Highlights & Purchases


This is our third year in a row visiting the Country Living Fair in Rhinebeck, NY, and every year, we love it even more. The first year we went, we had just had our offer on the house accepted, and while we hadn't closed on it yet, everything was pointing to us being homeowners in a few weeks. We had started packing for the move, and everything was so exciting. The second year we went, we had been living in our house for about a year, so we were able to make more specific purchases for specific areas of the house because we had been living in it, and knew it so much better. This year, I think we were the most excited we'd ever been because we had wrapped up some extensive reno projects, we were really starting feel our vision finally come to life, and we could invest in some decor items that we had a clear vision for in our house.

I've been reading Country Living magazine since moving back to New York five years ago. It's no secret that when we left Chicago, we were over city life and I just knew I wanted to move to the country. Especially when we were still living in an apartment, I would flip through the magazine and start building my dream country house in my head. It's full of inspiration, recipes and a general feeling of what it means to love old things with a history, and connect to this way of living. When I saw an ad in the magazine for their fair, which only visits about four cities in the entire country, I was ecstatic that one of those destinations was only about an hour and a half from us. I think the first time we went, I booked tickets months in advance like a super nerd.

The Country Living Fair is really a perfect way to spend your day if you love old crap and hand-made things. I love going here because as much as I love antiques and old, vintage pieces, I'm not the biggest fan of spending days and days just looking for good ones, you know? Maybe if we weren't renovating the house every weekend and we had more time to do that. But right now, it's so nice to have one place where all these vendors come together, have exactly the kinds of things I'm looking for, and it's a one-day experience I can make the most of.

You enter the fairgrounds through the red barn.
Inside the red barn.
The inside of the barn is decorated with recent covers of the magazine.

When you enter through the gates of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, bunting banners are strung between the trees, vintage-inspired campers are on display for you experience, and tents are set-up with local food vendors.




As you meander in further, you are greeted by a blue grass band playing under a tent, and an outdoor food court area with picnic tables and more food vendors if you're looking to have a snack or a meal.

The "food court" area of the fairgrounds, and the picnic tables for sitting.

Keep going straight, and you run into the best part - the decor vendors.

The barn stalls on the fairgrounds are converted into little shops for the vendors to create an inspiring tiny storefront for you to shop in. There are a ton of vendors there, and all of them specialize in rustic, farmhouse or vintage/shabby chic decor and antiques. If that's your style, you'll definitely leave with at least a few things. It's hard to even begin to recap everything that's offered here, so I snapped some photos of displays that caught my eye this year.

The barn stalls where all the vendors set up shop.
We usually get to the fair right when it opens at 10 a.m. You can buy an early-bird ticket to get in earlier, but since it's already an hour and a half drive for us down there, we just get there at 10. We usually scope out the tented food vendors, hit up the bathrooms (they're conveniently located right before you would walk into the decor vendors), and visit one or two of the barns before heading for a quick soft pretzel pit-stop - I'm not wired to leave a fair and not get a pretzel. Then we spend a few hours visiting all the vendors, make our purchases, and on our way out, visit the tiny petty zoo. They usually have goats, a pig and some donkeys. This year they also had a cow. The kid in me was way too excited about it.

Beekman 1802 stand.




Farmhouse Pottery, based in Woodstock, VT, has been on my radar for a while,
and I was so excited to see their pieces in person.


I was so incredibly tempted by the carrot mug. But we have so many as it is, so I passed.
Slightly regretting it now. 

The JBS Mercantile booth.


Almost got this little deer pillow, but I maxed out my budget with other purchases.



I definitely got the bees & honey poster. 

I wanted about three of these barnwood-framed paintings. The three little sheep is so cute.

Because the booths are in actual barns, this is what you walk around in, which I kind of love.





One of my favorite vendors at the fair. This gentleman sells old wood crates his farm uses to harvest blueberries.
See below for more about why it makes me happy to see him here every year.






All day I'd seen people walking around eating giant pickles on a stick, and I kept telling Josh, "I really want one of those!" But we had no idea where to get them. On our way out, we saw it was one of the very first food vendors you see when you walk in, and Josh and I looked at each other and we were both like, "Let's do this." My first pickle on a stick experience was a good one, folks. I wish I had gotten my own. Next year.

Pickles on a stick might be my new favorite thing.
Because we drove all the way there, we spend the rest of our afternoon in the village of Rhinebeck. It's such a cute little town with lovely shops and restaurants. If it's a nice day, it's the perfect way to just stroll through the streets, and even meander over to the side streets and look at the Victorian houses. Josh loves visiting the craft beer store there, and there's also this cute stationary/gift store called Paper Trail that I love. We grab dinner at Terrapin, which is an old church that was renovated into a restaurant. We usually opt for the more casual tavern versus the formal dining room because that's more our style. Everything we've ever had on the menu has been amazing.







We end our day by stopping for ice cream at the Holy Cow ice cream stand in Red Hook. It's been so cold and rainy here this Spring that we haven't even had our first ice cream cone yet, so this was our inaugural cone. And now, we're way too excited for our upcoming Cape Cod trip because all we do is eat ice cream and lay around by the ocean.

Fair Purchases
This year, we ended up leaving with some of my all-time favorite finds. The smaller things included some decor items from JBS Mercantile, which I visit every year. I got two little ceramic pears to put in our bookcases and some greenery (because I always, always, always have a need for neutral greenery). The lamb's ear stems in the large white vase in the pictures is also from the same vendors, just from last year.




I've been lusting after Farmhouse Pottery on Instagram for a couple of years, and I was so excited when I saw that they'd be at the fair this year. If they were there last year, I somehow missed them. Josh talked to the husband of the husband and wife team that started the company, and after a year of me trying to convince Josh to do a pottery class in Woodstock, VT, where their studio and home base is, and him being really apprehensive about it, a few minutes of talking to the husband was all it took for Josh to be all excited to make his own mug at their studio. He was even so enthused about the whole thing, he convinced me to buy a vase I've been wanting for, like, a year. They were doing 20% off at the fair, so it was a done deal.




We always visit the Beekman 1802 booth, even though we live kind of near their storefront in Upstate, NY. Last year, I was so excited to buy my goat tote bag from them, and this year only stuck to a gift for my mom, and a hand cream for me. Mostly, I just love their design aesthetic, and the fact they put goats all over their packaging. I'm a sucker for packaging.

I also found this vintage bee & honey poster, which you've already seen on display at the actual booth in the pictures above. I plan to either put it in our guest room, or in our office (but, you know, the office is like, the last project we'll probably ever tackle, so probably the guest room).



One of my favorite vendors at the fair is this cute older gentleman who sells wood crates from his Maine blueberry farm. He shows everyone laminated photos of his blueberry farm, and he wears suspenders. I love talking to him. His farm still harvests blueberries by hand with picking rakes, and once the crates are too old to use, they set them aside to sell. Last year, we got a crate to use as a coffee table tray, and we adore it. It was probably my favorite purchase last year. This year, they had cut their names off some crates that weren't useable for anything, and sold them as little signs, so I totally bought one. He said, I don't have the heart to throw them away. I plan to display it in our kitchen somewhere.



And finally, while my Farmhouse Pottery vase was such a highlight of the day, I was just as thrilled to find this rocking chair for our guest room.



Our guest room will be all white with dark, antiquey furniture, and I had been ideally looking for an old, farmhouse-y rocking chair for the corner of the room. But I didn't think I ever find one for the amount of money I wanted to spend on it. So at the fair this year, I was actually keeping my eyes out for a ladderback side chair, of sorts, in just the right color so I didn't have to stain it. I turned the corner of this furniture vendor, and there she was, sitting all by herself on the lawn. And I just knew. And, also, I was terrified to look at the price. The turned-wood spindles on the back, and the curved arms of the chair, I was convinced it would be at least $150, but probably over $200.

My friends, it was $45.

It's either a total piece of crap, or we got the deal of the century. I really have no idea which (knowing my luck, it's a total piece of crap). But, I don't really care either way. Josh and I both had the same thought when we saw it. It looks like it should be in our grandma's house. So, we were sold. Josh bought it for me, and I'll always have the best memories of a lovely day when I see it. If it falls apart, we'll keep working on it to repair it over the years.



General Tips & Observations
- Your fair tickets will get you in for either of the three days they're open: Friday, Saturday or Sunday. They open rain or shine, so keep an eye on the weather and if you can be flexible based on the forecast, it's a good idea. We usually go on Saturday, but this year we were seeing that they were calling for rain Saturday, and Sunday was supposed to be sunny and 70s. That changed last minute, and we ended up going Saturday anyway, but I could see the rain putting a damper on your experience since the whole thing in outside for the most part. The barns are covered, but you have to walk outside to get to each one. And with the amount of people that attend, if everyone is crowing more inside to hide from the rain, I could see it being really overwhelming.

- One of the things I appreciate the most about this event is the organization. We've been to some local events where the parking situation is a nightmare, and the lines are super long everywhere. This particular event is so well executed. There are signs everywhere when you enter. They split the main road you turn off of to enter the fairgrounds so one lane is for through traffic, and one lane for fair traffic, and from there, parking attendants are guiding your every move. It's so efficient - we usually get right in and they lead us to a parking spot. They lines to enter the fair are clearly marked for ticket holders, or those who have to buy their tickets. The bathrooms are even super clean with bathroom attendants that clean constantly, and let you know when the next stall is free. I've never waited more than a few minutes to use the bathroom, even during the busiest times. They even have soaps and hand scrubs at the sinks from some of the local vendors. It's a nice touch for, you know, being a fair.

- Seriously consider limiting your food purchases inside the fair, and opt for a meal off fair grounds if you can. We've eaten meals at the fair for lunch, and while they're good - they bring in some local food trucks and such - it's expensive. Par for the course for any kind of event like this. We got a grilled cheese once that was $8. And it was small. Local, fresh cheeses, but really small. So we stick to snacks to keep us fueled for shopping (because, you know, you have to eat some fair food at a fair), and then get a nice meal in Rhineback. The restaurants in Rhineback are so good, that in my opinion, it's just a better use of your money. I'm actually not even sure if you're allowed to bring in your own food, but they do have a lot of sitting areas with picnic tables and such, so if you're allowed to, it would be nice to save some money that way, too.

- If you do want to eat at the fair, eat early. By 1 p.m. the food lines are insanely long. We eat on an old person schedule and like to have lunch by noon, sometimes 11:30, which is perfect because all the food lines are like 1 person deep. At 1 p.m., the lines were about 15-20 people deep, and most of the picnic tables were full.

- Expect it to be crowded. Because the vendors set up their displays in barn stalls, they can be tight quarters. You have to go into it knowing you may have to wait a few minutes for people to come out before you can go in, or just wiggle your way through the people. I hate crowds, but if I know this going into it, I can mentally prepare and be fine with it.

- Bring your own shopping bags. If you plan on buying even a few small things, bring your own bags. Most stores have bags for you, but some don't. It's nice to have a sturdy tote bag that you can throw over your shoulder, rather than having a ton of little paper bags with short handles. Some vendors sell tote bags, too, so you could always plan on that being your first purchase :)

- Bring a water bottle. They have water fountains on the grounds you can use to refill it. When it's warm, you're around a ton of people, eating sweet and salty snacks, carrying around all your purchases, you should stay hydrated. And fair water is expensive.

9 comments:

  1. Love those pears...of course I never saw a pear I did not like!! Great choices all around. Loved visiting the fair without fighting the crowds, from my cozy spot on the sofa.

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    1. Haha! I'm glad I could show you around :) Hugs from NY.

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  2. So I just wrote a whole comment and it didn't post. So I'll try again!

    Thank you so much for sharing this Sam! I wish there was one that came nearby where we live. Your selections are so fun and well thought out! I love love that you have a budget and you stick to it! I really admire that :) What an awesome find that rocking chair was!! I hope you do a video on this too, I'd love to see the items come to life.

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    1. So first off!As you already know going to the CL fair was a first for me this year and I loved it!! We were there on the same day but we got there kinda late b/c we had to go to the vet first. We got there at about 1:00pm and were hungry and you ares right the lines were super duper long. You got some gorgeous things. I remember walking by the woodstock pottery and almost got something and told myself (no,next year when we have a house). I pretty much did that with everything that made me kick myself later. We almost left emptied handed but on the way out we walked by the Maine Blueberry guy and I bought one of the crates. My kitten loves it! If it wasn't for your vlog last year I would have never known about it. Thank you!!!

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    2. Oh no! I'm glad you took the time to reply :) I'm so happy you enjoyed this post - thank you for the kind words. Budgeting is so important - gotta keep yourself on track :)

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    3. @violasphere I'm so glad you got to go! It's a little overwhelming at first but such a nice way to spend the day, right? Yay! Do you love your blueberry crate? It's such a fun piece, right? You could use that anywhere, including your kitchen to hold flour/sugar canisters (I debate that sometimes).

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  3. Thanks for sharing this fun post! We're about to move out to Vermont (from Oregon), and it's exciting to see the types of fairs, etc. going on out east.

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    1. Oh, how wonderful! Vermont is just amazing. We actually considered moving there when we were house hunting, but now we reserve it for fun day trips and long weekend getaways :) There are so many things to do in VT - you'll love it.

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  4. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the older man selling the blueberry crates was lying. At first I thought that he was another farmer from Maine that kept his wooden boxes after the switch to plastic. Then I saw that one of the boxes had my last name on it, Bridges. You can see the box that says Bridges Brothers LTD. My grandfather was one of the brothers. I showed the picture of the man to my dad and he confirmed him to be the man that was buying boxes from us. We're no longer selling boxes to him because he was untrustworthy. I can say, without a doubt, that he has never used these boxes to farm with. I know that because I am the one that uses them during harvest. My great-grandfather started buying these boxes after he returned from WW1 and they were used until the 90s when they switched over to plastic. We started using them again a few years back for fresh packed berries because they absorb moisture. I don't know what his laminated pictures were of, but they were not of his farm in Maine, because he has no farm in Maine. Your post made me glad we are no longer dealing with him since it reaffirms my belief that he is a swindler. I just thought that you might be interested in knowing the truth behind your antique item.

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