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The Great New York State Fair

It’s hard to believe that there’s only 33 days left to get advance sale tickets to the Great New York State Fair!

Some people say, “Why bother going, it’s the same thing every year.” Well, I’ve gone almost every year of my life, and I find something new and exciting every year. Dave Bullard, Public Relations and Marketing Manager, stated, “Well, this year’s surprises are smaller, there will still be lots of new things to see. This is Dave’s 5th year in this position, but he’s loved the fair since he was a child –just like most of us. “We’ve made specific changes in some key areas, but they’re not as large as last year’s reveal of the front gate. However, these changes will still enhance these exhibits.”

Not having the Grand Stand has allowed the Fair to acquire better acts for Chevy Court. It also helps the vendors because concert goers aren’t off the beaten path. The Chevy Court is right in the middle of everything.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the State Police exhibit will not be outside of the Pepsi Food building anymore. It’s been expanded and is situated just behind the Horticulture building. The log cabin will now be part of the exhibit and feature new displays for the public. Also, they’ve built a new rappelling tower –it’s metal so will not need replacing like the old wooden structure. They also have an air conditioned kennel for our four-legged friends. I’m sure canine patrol will be grateful! Even though the location has changed and some of the exhibits improved, many of your old favorites and the Troopers will remain the same, but be sure to stop by and see what’s new.

The next big change this year is in the Indian Village. While many people see the turtle mound as just a dance stage, it’s sacred to our Six Nations friends. Native American legend states that Earth was created on the back of a turtle. Therefore, it’s appropriate that their sacred dances be performed on holy ground. The turtle mound will remain where it is, but it’s been completely rebuilt and will now actually look like a turtle. The Six Nations Agricultural Society is responsible for everything exhibited in the Indian Village, and each year they make it better and better. Many of the buildings in the village will get new roofs so we can enjoy learning more about our country’s Native American culture, and integral to Central New York’s history.

Animals always attract people especially baby animals, like baby pigs. At the fair you can stroll through all the barns and talk to the farmers who bring their animals for the various shows and competitions.

These renovations will be the last of the phase one from the $50 million dollars the Governor Cuomo granted for major improvements on the country’s old state fair. Established in 1841, the New York State Fair was the first in America and was strictly based on Agriculture, and much of the Fair holds to that tradition. The 365 acre campus is host to lots of vendors, but the agricultural element is still the main focus. My personal favorites are the Horticulture Building and the Art and Home Center. These exemplify the foundation of the fair, but that’s not the only place where you can see the Fair’s history. If you want to see a living history of the Fair, stop by Grange building which is situated between the Dairy building and the Poultry barn. Although I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve missed this, I will make sure I don’t miss the historical exhibit this year!

Keeping to the Fair’s original mission, animals are a huge part of the Fair. Dave explained that, “Animals always attract people especially baby animals, like baby pigs. Who doesn’t love to see those!” He’s right, of course, because you can stroll through all the barns and talk to the farmers who bring their animals for the various shows and competitions. “We host horse shows all year round, but the best variety of shows is during the Fair. You can see everything from ponies to giant draft horses –there’s something for everyone.”

“Changing to the Wade shows for the midway was an excellent decision,” said Dave. They are installing a semi-permanent fixture for the new Sky Ride. Concrete footers will create a more secure foundation for erecting the ride that spans the entire length of the midway –1,400 feet long! The more stable ride will lift you to 35 feet in the air and then gently bring you down at the end of the midway. It’s a great way to see the fair and realize how expansive this operation truly is. There will also be a new ride … A FLUME! I can’t wait to try this and I’m sure it will be well attended during the warm Fair days.

“While most of vendors return each year, we do have a couple of new places coming in” stated Dave. “There will be a new Thai place and we’ll now have Anchor Bar Wings out of Buffalo.” Food at the Fair is a great experience –there’s everything from local growers to regional and state specialties. One vendor who creates a new crazy concoction for the fair every year is Fried Specialties owner, Jim Hasbrouck, will feature a new deep friend breakfast sandwich. While I cringe each year when I hear of the new creation, I’m usually pleasantly surprised that the combination works.

Take the time to find something new because each year brings its own new memory. Make a new memory for your family at the 2017 New York State Fair!

This will be the 2nd year without the Grand Stand. I asked Dave how this has affected business at the Fair. “What a lot of people may not have known is that the Grand Stand was a losing operation. We have lost money every year for the last several years.” This part of the Fair was not supported by the State, it had to support itself and it didn’t. “We have to live off the revenue that the Fair makes for such things as salaries, utilities, maintenance and such. Not having the Grand Stand has allowed us to acquire better acts for Chevy Court.” Although not all of the acts have been determined, you can see the diversity the Chevy Court now offers with such acts this year as Bret Michaels and The Family Stone. Governor Cuomo budgets $3.5 million for improvement of the fairgrounds, but that money is reserved for capital expenses such as sewer line or road repairs, roofing or any other type of improvement or repair. Operational expenses is the self-sustaining part of the business. “The Grand Stand could host up to 30,000 visitors, but we attract nearly a ¼ million people to Chevy Court” said Dave. “This helps our vendors because concert goers aren’t off the beaten path, it’s right in the middle of everything.”

I asked Dave if there will be a phase two, and he said, “Absolutely, but it will be on a smaller scale. What we hope to have in the next phase is a much larger and new Expo center. Again, the Fair is about diversity and our goal is to attract as many people as possible.” While it’s not cast in stone, the Expo Center is the preferred project, but that will be announced as soon as plans are confirmed. It will also be a year-round facility that will bring new attractions and better revenue.

Take the time to find something new because each year brings its own new memory. Make a new memory for your family at the 2017 New York State Fair! See you there!

Janet LaFrance
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