Richmond County Fair an ‘end of summer tradition’ highlighting Staten Island history

The 40th annual Richmond County Fair features carnival rides, games, eating contests, and more. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Historic Richmond Town

The 40th annual fair will focus on local culture and history as well as traditional fare like carnival rides and more in Historic Richmond Town.

The 40th annual Richmond County Fair features carnival rides, games, eating contests, and more.
The 40th annual Richmond County Fair features carnival rides, games, eating contests, and more. Photo Credit: Disney

Carlotta DeFillo has worked as a historical interpreter at Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town for around three decades.

From Saturday through Monday, she and a group of fellow interpreters will don historical garb and cook food on the hearth of an 1820-built kitchen, make baskets and showcase their blacksmithing, tinsmithing and pre-Civil War carpentry skills at the 40th annual Richmond County Fair.

The fair is an “end of summer tradition” for Historic Richmond Town, a Colonial Williamsburg-esque village and museum founded by the Staten Island Historical Society. The town sits on 100 acres of land and comprises period buildings from around the borough — some of which are original to the site, and some of which have been moved there to save and preserve them.

“I like being part of history,” DeFillo said. “Helping visitors connect their present with our historic past.”

The fair gives attendees a chance to explore Historic Richmond Town.
The fair gives attendees a chance to explore Historic Richmond Town. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Historic Richmond Town

Historic Richmond Town also houses thousands of artifacts, photographs and archival materials that “tell the history of the island,” executive director and CEO Jessica Phillips explained.

While the fair gives attendees a chance to explore the village and take in historical demonstrations, it also features quintessential fair fare, from carnival rides, games, food, three-legged races and pie-eating contests to live music and artistic and cultural demonstrations.

This year’s event will have four different stages where fairgoers can listen to music ranging from rock ‘n’ roll and R&B to country and hip-hop. They’ll also be able to watch “fashion shows, DJ battles and more,” the town’s website says.

A section of the fair known as the “Staten Island Culture Crawl” will feature artists, cultural institutions and musicians from around the borough. Meanwhile, more than 100 vendors will be selling “anything from antique cameras to airbrush T-shirts,” a release notes.

The fair will also have a beer garden serving up drinks from Staten Island’s Flagship Brewery; a “traveling circus” with axe-throwing, aerialists, stilt walkers and other performers; and a “pop-up escape room” set up inside the town’s 1837 County Courthouse’s jury chamber.

“It’s so nice … that there’s an opportunity for everybody to come here and see what makes this county so culturally diverse,” Phillips said, adding that this year’s event aims to “represent the entire Richmond County community.”

To mark its 40th anniversary, the fair will also have an exhibition focused on its own history.

Richmond County has hosted fairs since the turn of last century — though they weren’t always held at Historic Richmond Town, Phillips said.

The fairs of yore were all about “thrills,” Phillips explained, with highlights including Vaudeville performances, automobile racing, hot air balloon rides, a traveling, tooth-pulling dentist known as “Painless Parker.” (Parker won’t be making an appearance this year, Phillips noted.)

Eating contests are sure to draw crowds.
Eating contests are sure to draw crowds. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Historic Richmond Town

For Felicity Beil, a Staten Island native who has worked at Historic Richmond Town in various roles — currently as director of education and public programs — for around 25 years, the fair is all about community-building.

“It’s so much fun to get together and get to know the community again, and to see people that maybe you haven’t seen since the last county fair,” Beil said.

It also has something for everyone, she noted.

“If you want to go on rides, and hear bouncy music and eat fair food, you can do that,” Beil said. “If you want to be in a colonial farmhouse and watch people prepare food and explain how all the kitchen gadgets from back then worked, you can do that.”

“There’s a lot of different things that you can do at the county fair,” she added. “It’s like a microcosm of Staten Island condensed into one little area.”

IF YOU GO: The 40th Annual Richmond County Fair runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4 to 12 and $8 for seniors; kids 3 and under admitted free. More information about discounts and an unlimited ride wristband is available online.

Maya Rajamani