Joel Sherburne has 3 words to sum up how he feels about city's annual fair: I love it

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Joel Sherburne says he'll be back at the Granite Fair's front gate on Thursday at 4 p.m. to officially open the Granite State Fair. (Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - Tomorrow a little before 4 p.m. Joel Sherburne will hop in a Rochester Police cruiser, take a ride up Lafatyette Street to the head of the fairgrounds, unlock the gated entrance and announce the opening of one of the nation's longest-running, most successful fairs of all time.
He's been officially opening the fair for some 20 years, always arriving in one novel way or another.
"I been brought up in all sorts of ways," he said on Tuesday. "I've arrived by limo, fire trucks, different antique cars; once I got dropped off by a helicopter. That was cool."
The love of the former Rochester Fair - now the Granite State Fair - courses like life blood through the 82-year-old's veins.
"I love this fair, and I love being the ambassador," he said. "I love it."
Sherburne came to his first fair - then the Rochester Fair - in 1949.
"My family would come during the day," he said. "We'd bring a lunch."
Sherburne said he began working for the fair in his teens, distributing posters, fliers and pamphlets all over the Seacoast signaling its return every year.
"I put huge signs on the barns if the owner allowed me," he said.
In his late 20s, he became the official announcer for the former entertainment building, a venue which no longer exists.
With his long affiliation and affection for the fair, he segued into becoming the fair's official ambassador in the early 2000s. One of his many duties is to announce over the fair's PA system what events are about to begin at what venues.
And the events, exhibits and feats of derring do that have drawn historic crowds from all over New England since the first fair in 1874 have run the gamut, from freak and girlie shows to pari-mutuel horse racing.

According to a history of the fair by Violet Horne Dwyer and Florence Horne Smith:

"in 1898, W.H. Barnes of Sioux City, Iowa, brought to Rochester his two famous diving elk, weighing 800 pounds each. They were to perform twice a day, diving from a 40-foot platform into a 16 foot square tank containing 12 feet of water.

The same year also featured the Vadis Twin Sister Aerial Act, Rossow Midgets' Boxing Exhibition and Carl Dammann Troupe of Acrobats. "
In 1910 The Wright Brother's "flying machine" landed in center field in a four-day visit.
When the Coleman Brothers ran the midway, there were sideshows like the Lobster Man in the mid-1980s who displayed his deformed hands. Because the girlie shows and tattoo tents made the midway too raucous, the Fair removed them in the 1980s.
Sherburne said the thing many people miss is the horse racing, but the fair has found other attractions that people come back for each and every year like the Bus Derby.
Sherburne said it's not just the attractions that bring people coming back, it's the people, themselves.
"Every year you see people you haven't seen for a whole year and then you see them again here at the fair," he said. "It's like a homecoming. I love it, and I love being the ambassador."

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