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The NAPA Syracuse Nationals

The NAPA Syracuse Nationals Presented by the Maguire Family of Dealerships.

There are two classic cars parked near my home. They’re in beautifully restored condition. Not long ago, two women were on a walk, and stopped to admire them. I said hello, and they enthused about the cars, and noted that they had admired them on many walks, and finally just had to stop and take a good look.

That’s the story of classic cars.

And as Grazi Zazzara, one of the partners in the new ownership of The NAPA Syracuse Nationals tells me, that is the central charm that brings thousands of fans to the New York State Fairgrounds each summer – to simply enjoy the beauty, nostalgia, and “story” of classic cars.

Zazzara president and CEO of Paradise Companies, is a long-time event planner and host, with a list of favorites you’ll recognize, including Pizza Fritte, Fright Nights, and The Spooktacular Stroll. And this year, along with partner Galaxy Media, Zazzara made a long-time dream come true and purchased the twenty-plus year beloved summer event.

The Nationals is a big, big show, bringing people from as many as 40 states in any given year, including such distant ones as California, Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho. In its very first year it drew 4000 cars (that number is more like 9000 today), and as many as 90,000 people.

It features classic cars, naturally, but you can also enjoy a wide range of events and favorites, like Women’s World (over 50 craft/family-oriented vendors and merchandise displays located in the Art & Homes Center), The “Mini” Nationals (for model car enthusiasts), The Swap Meet, Muscle Cars, Nitro Row – and so much more. There is, quite literally, something for everyone.

Zazarra stressed that visitors will find all their favorites at this year’s show. “The O’Connor’s legacy will be honored. They built a great event, and we plan to keep it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But that doesn’t mean the Paradise/Galaxy partnership won’t look for ways to expand on it. Between them, Paradise and Galaxy bring Syracuse and Central New York a number of our best-loved events and attractions. Along with the afore-mentioned Pizza Fritte, Fright Nights and Spooktacular, our community and visitors enjoy The Taste of Syracuse, Lights on the Lake, and the Wine and Chocolate Festivals, among others.

As Zazzara puts it, “I’m the hands-on part, Galaxy is expert in promotion, and The Nationals is already a fantastic event.”

I asked Zazzara if he, himself, was a car enthusiast. Not only has he been a regular at The Nationals, and a vendor there, he adds, “I’ve had about eight cars. I had a ’64 Corvette. Just to see it there was enough, it brought back all kinds of memories.”

As previous show owner, and son of the founder, Rob O’Connor told me, “Other than music, nothing really hits people’s memory or nostalgia like cars.”

And it is true – America has had a love affair with cars since 1893, when the Duryea brothers of Springfield, MA built and road-tested the first running, gasoline-powered American car, and the early 1900s when Herbert Franklin marketed the air-cooled engine Franklin right here in Syracuse, automobiles have “spoken” to the American spirit: family, legacy, open roads, travel, memories. Most of us have at least a few memories of a family car trip, our first car, the windows open on a hot summer day, the “new car” smell, maybe even a drive-in movie.

So, coming up this July, here’s your chance to once again, and with all honor to its founder, as well as dreams of the future, experience food, music, contests, old cars, muscle cars, loud cars, fast cars, model cars, restored cars. You get it – it’s all about the cars!

July 14-16, 2023

NYS Fairgrounds


Check the website for daily opening and closing times, schedules of events, local lodging/camping/restaurants – and more!

Nancy Roberts