Former Altamont Fair Poster Child Becomes Poster Child for Poster Children
By Fred Furnace
Published May 7th, 2017
ALTAMONT — Life has turned into a rollercoaster ride for an Altamont woman famous for appearing in a poster for the Altamont Fair as a child.
Jean Garrappallo — or “Little Jeannie from the fair poster” as she is known — was admitted to a local drug rehabilitation center last week after police found her passed-out and naked on the steps of the Altamont Library.
Family members say Little Jeannie’s mental health has been on a steady decline since 1999, when she first appeared on a poster advertising the fair. They believe the pressure of living up to the image of a “happy youngster” proved too much to handle for Little Jeannie as she reached adulthood.
“We didn’t know it at the time, but that fair poster would ruin Little Jeannie’s life,” said her mother, Emma Garrappallo. “With the poster came lots of fame and accolades. Everywhere we went, people would wave, or say ‘hello,’ or want to get an autograph.”
While, at first, the fame from the poster was exciting for the Garrappallo family, it was hard for Jeannie to settle back into a normal life after the notoriety subsided. Things became especially rough for Little Jeannie in 2006, when a new poster featuring a 4-year-old boy about to plow into a giant funnel cake replaced her famous photo.
“It was devastating when she was replaced as the face of the fair by that cute little boy,” Emma said. “That’s when her problems started with the drugs and getting in trouble with the law.”
Police records show Little Jeannie was arrested 36 times since 2006, on charges including drug possession, petty larceny, and prostitution.
Experts interviewed by The Smudge say poster children can often develop drug addictions and other challenges as they transition into adulthood.
“Once a kid gets that taste of stardom, it can be near impossible for them to return to a regular hum-drum lifestyle,” said renowned SUNY Cobleskill behavioral psychology professor M. Norman Bunny. “Especially when they are the poster child for the big local fair. For a kid from a place like Altamont or Schaghticoke, that’s like winning the lottery.”
Little Jeannie’s father, Clackus Garrappallo, said he hopes his poster-child daughter can serve as a poster child for other poster children.
“Being on that poster was the worst thing that ever happened to my Little Jeannie,” he said. “My message to other parents is simple: If you don’t want your kid giving hand jobs behind the 7-11 for OxyContin money, then don’t allow her picture to be used to advertise the damn county fair.”