Trail Mix

One area we always visit but would like to see improved is the Department of Environmental Conservation’s nature trail. It’s located right behind the DEC’s cabin. It features a series of exhibits on New York’s state bird, state flower, state insect and so on.

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The trail hasn’t changed in years and is generally less than inspiring. There are no bluebirds, for instance, at the stop on state bird, and no ladybugs at the insect stop. You can see the brook trout, the state fish, but you have to go over to the DEC aquarium at the colonnade.

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There is a replica lean-to that’s nicely built and generally staffed, so the display, shown here in photos shot last year by Hound Photo Editor Nick LoPresti, isn’t a complete disappointment. But we think the DEC could do better and would like to see them do an update here.

Youth Movement

This year represents a real changing of the guard in acts playing Chevy Court. There’s been gradual trend, but this line-up shows significant movement toward a younger demographic. On the other hand, there sure doesn’t seem like much to attract the over-40 crowd.

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Let’s see, there’s perpetual teenager Bowser and the over-the-hill Oak Ridge Boys on senior days. Then count Steve Miller, Melissa Etheridge, and Rick Springfield. OK, add the Jacksons and Orleans. That’s seven acts.

Snoop Dog? He’s no kid, but you have to expect the hip hop audience that will seek out him and Salt-N-Pepper to be predominantly youngish. The real change is represented by newer or less-familiar acts like Nate Ruess, Dan + Shay, Cole Swindell, R5, Fifth Harmony and the Swon Brothers. Bigger names Meghan Trainor and Nick Jonas are likely to draw big crowds that will, no doubt, include mixed ages, but baby boomers are not storming those stages.

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When you come down to it, Chevy Court is a young person’s venue. For popular shows, most viewers will be standing, often in crowded conditions, in unpredictable weather. So going new age may be a good call, as long as the quality of performances doesn’t diminish.

The real proof will be in the size of the crowds in front of the Stan Colella Stage, so watch attendance numbers. Should be interesting.

Rollicking Rovers

If you love classic rock, there’s no need to search out a stage show as wandering minstrel Bandaloni will once again bring his one-man band to you at the New York State Fair. He augments his karaoke tracks with a harmonica and guitar, drawing a happy crowd wherever he sets up, stomping out the beat of his familiar tunes with a back-pack drum kit.

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He’s one of several favorite acts coming back to entertain in various spots around the grounds, adding to the wealth of free entertainment. Also returning are the living statues and the fabulous juggler/comedian/stuntman Hilby.

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New for 2015 is Rexie, a costumed dinosaur who measures 8 feet in height and 12 feet in length. Don’t worry, he’s tame and friendly, ready to greet kids, shake hands and pose for photos.

Rexie adds to the cast of cuddly characters roaming the grounds as Fair good will ambassadors. So keep your camera ready as you never know when you might get a great close-up encounter.

Step Right Up!

It’s time to start practicing your free throw shooting, water gun marksmanship, balloon bursting skill and baseball throwing if you aim to win on the Wades Shows midway. These pics from 2014 remind us that there are plenty of chances to go for a stuffed animal or trendy little knick knack by playing the game of your choice.

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The games and prizes change from year to year and we saw a lot of new personnel running the joints during Wade’s initiation last year, but the spirit remains.

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One challenge we always take a run at is I Got It, a combination of tic-tac-toe and skee ball. It’s cheap to play, lasts a couple of minutes, so you get more entertainment for your money and someone gets a prize in every game. Never mind that the cheezy bric-a-brac you can claim is barely worth carrying home, it’s real Americana. And it’s a truly classic element of the New York State Fair.

Hay–Look Them over

State Fair Hound is planning to visit the new Equine Avenue early and often when the gates open. Last year we expressed disappointment that the horse barn was often closed for show preparations (Horse Sense, Aug. 31, 2014), leaving devoted equine enthusiasts frustrated in their desire to get close to some steeds. We even suggested that there be an exhibit where horses would be consistently available for visits from fairgoers. Maybe this development is just a coincidence, but we have it on good authority that Fair Acting Director Troy Waffner and Public Information Officer Dave Bullard are devoted readers of State Fair Hound. Hmmm.

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Equine Avenue, new this year, will provide opportunities to stroll through a tent to see and learn about horses. Even better, horse pros will give talks and demonstrations on grooming, shoeing, veterinary treatment and other related topics. This will be a big year for horse lovers.

State Fair Daze

This year the Fair has designated so many special days that they’ve had to double and triple up on most of the 12 days of operation. Most are old favorites we’ve seen before, but among the new specials are Pride Day, Friday Aug. 28, which is also designated New Americans Day.

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We’re told that the gay community has long organized an informal gathering of brothers and sisters to attend the Fair as a group. As our nation grows in acceptance of alternative lifestyles, the Fair has embraced this practice and formalized it with a ceremony, parade and flag-raising. Not coincidentally, singer Melissa Etheridge, who has come out as a lesbian and speaks out for LGBT rights, will perform the evening concert on the Stan Colella Stage.

That same day, 100 people from many other nations will be sworn as American citizens in the Empire Room. Doing it at our Fair also makes them new New Yorkers, don’t you think?

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A rejuvenated Armed Forces Day, Thursday, Sep. 3, will honor military veterans and current service men and women with free admission and special events.
With senior days, Fire and Rescue Day, Women’s Day and, of course, Labor Day, among the other designated events, it seems that all of us are recognized in some way on at least one day. A visit to the New York State Fair is a terrific way to celebrate with your group.

Veg Out

A new vendor in the International Pavilion will stretch the menu of the Fair, adding more choices for diners who don’t eat meat or want a healthy break. Popular local restaurant Strong Hearts Café will cook up creative and tasty vegetarian and vegan fare as well as their popular non-dairy “milkshakes.”

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Our Fair is well-known for having plenty of juicy and often cholesterol-laden meat entrees available, but it hasn’t always been easy to find attractive alternatives. There are some vendors–King David’s and Daniella’s are two terrific ones–where you can get a great meal without meat. But this one could be a game-changer.

We hope that Strong Hearts has a great initial year, prompting other vendors to follow suit by making more meatless choices available. Fairgoers will still be able to get their deep-fried, fat-soaked, cheese-covered, bacon-wrapped doughnut burgers, but they will also be able to choose other options and maybe even find some new favorites. Any way you slice it, choices are good.

One Month to Go

Opening day of the great New York State Fair is Aug. 27, so today State Fair Hound kicks off daily posts leading up to that glorious day. We’ll begin with a topic that’s been in the news quite a bit.

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The first concert at the not-yet-completed amphitheater is scheduled to take place during this year’s State Fair. Officials still have to figure out how to work around the problems handed them by the short-sighted politicians who chose the lakefront site. Just how do you get 17,000 concert patrons from the new shell to the Fairgrounds and vice versa? It’s a daunting and very likely an impossible walk, so buses will be the first line of service.

Ideally, a monorail that can zip passengers around from parking lots to venues is in the future, but the expense is insurmountable, at least currently. State Fair Hound is looking into sponsoring teleporting, as in sci-fi movies and TV shows, but so far we haven’t found a way for that either.

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One bit of good news revealed to us recently by Mr. Waffner is that a ticket to a show at the new stadium is good for Fair admission any day, not just the day of the show. So if you go to a concert on one day, you can use your free ticket to attend the Fair on another day. That part of the plan makes sense.

Dress Rehearsal

You could consider the just-completed Syracuse Nationals weekend a dry run for the New York State Fair. Just like our Fair, they get a massive crowd wandering the entire grounds. They have to deal with traffic, parking, food vendors, rest room use, security and entertainment stages. This year also brought hot weather and the potential for health-and-comfort-related problems, something Fair visitors know very well.

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From here on out, it’s primarily various livestock events as the final push comes to prepare the Expo Center for the onslaught of Fair aficionados. Beginning on July 27, one month from opening day, State Fair Hound be posting daily with Fair news, ideas, photos and tips to prepare you for the Big Event.

We’ll continue publishing new stories and exclusive photos galore every day through the Fair. We hope you’re excited to be the most important part of the Fair. We promise a wild ride.

Last Looks

State Fair Hound urges you to consider how different our Fair will look after this year, with the Grandstand demolished. Here we see the roof and upper seats looming over the grounds.

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No decisions have been made on the fate of the dirt track, but future events won’t have the hulking stadium.

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More thought on the future of that area later.