State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Shoppers’ Fair

You don’t have to log onto a massive internet shopping site or call the number from an infomercial to find unusual items for sale. The 2015 New York State Fair had plenty of them. There were toy items, such as the monkey-on-a-bike TOY VENDOR 15being demonstrated by a vendor and the DRONE 15small drone hovering overhead in the Center of Progress.











Among the more artistic items were wooden animals, carved with a chainsaw.TOTEM 15



Many varieties of home-baked dog treats were being hawked in the Horticulture Building. Something called Scum Off actually sold out before Labor Day, but it probably wouldn’t have been a very appealing photo anyway.


Dog Wild

There was no performing dogs show at the 2015 New York State Fair, but that doesn’t mean there were no canines at the Fair. The 4H dog show always features a variety of both purebreds and mixed breeds, all doing their best to demonstrate the lessons they’ve learned from their young owners. 4H KID WITH DOG 15Obedience training demos require the pups to show their ability to follow basic commands while the agility course is more rigorous and tricky.



BLOODHOUND 15Among the meet and greet favorites are State Police bloodhounds, brought out by their handlers at the Troopers’ exhibit for petting, pictures and chatting.




Four-legged soldiers got a tribute in granite with the addition of the War Dogs Memorial in the Veterans Memorial area. WAR DOG MEMORIAL 15

Jump For Troy

State Fair Hound is glad to see that the Post-Standard has finally come around to endorse appointment of Troy Waffner as director of the New York State Fair. The only question is–What took them so long?

The Hound suggested the same a year ago (Just Rewards, Sep. 2, 2014) and Waffner TROY WITH BEAR 15has continued to provide solid leadership during a period of growth and change. Troy is the obvious choice to graduate from acting director to steer this ship through the coming expansion and into a very exciting future.

An announcement from the Governor is long overdue.

Full Court Pressure

The New York State Fair’s estimate of the Sep. 6 Steve Miller Band concert attendance caught State Fair Hound by surprise. The official count was 36,900, the largest audience to ever gather in Chevy Court.


The Hound was on hand that fateful night and there’s no doubt that the mob filling the courtyard and spilling out into the surrounding streets was massive to the point of being barely navigable, even at its fringes. But it didn’t seem to be a large as some previous shows.

The Fair has a method for estimating crowd size, based upon a grid system that looks at defined areas with previously-determined capacities and adding up the occupied areas. There’s no reason to doubt the Fair’s accuracy in reporting what they saw and, when you come down to it, the actual numbers aren’t as important as other essential questions with an enormous crowd such as that one.

More critical than actually counting the people within earshot of the stage should be estimating how many of them were actually able to have an overall positive experience at the event. COURT CROWD DAY-15We should be thinking about safety and a reasonable expectation that those in attendance can overcome the discomfort and enjoy the music.

Regulating the crowd has proven difficult. Attempts to control the spacing and movement of that many fans with temporary fencing has been largely unsuccessful, in some cases making the situation worse by creating barriers to people spreading out or moving out of overcrowded areas. The rule prohibiting smoking at Chevy Court, instituted this year and heartily endorsed by The Hound, was largely ignored and there is logically nothing that security staff could do about it, COURT RULES 15although it may help to make the signs listing the rules were more prominent.

Having witnessed such chaos, it’s clearly good news that the Chevy Court stage and the adjoining building are being replaced, presuming that will improve conditions. However, the big question remains. Is it possible to keep bringing major acts, perhaps even more popular than ones recently presented, drawing tens of thousands of fans to that area, in a way that is comfortable, safe and enjoyable for the fans? It seems very unlikely.

There could be improvements, no question. The stage could be higher and more visible, enhanced by larger video projection screens. Maybe it could be moved back a bit to create more room to gather in front of the performance. The very popular Dinosaur Bar-B-Que stand could no doubt survive relocation to free up space, unless there are contractual obligations preventing it. Moving some vendor space out of the surrounding streets could help, but vendors provide revenue, so that’s a drawback. And you can’t expect Chevrolet to move its display out of the venue named for it.

Really, you can only create so much space in that area, probably not enough. On the other hand, the option of toning down the popularity of the acts playing there seems counterproductive.

There may be, however, a solution to the problem of hosting large, free concerts at the Fair in a way that makes them more manageable and more enjoyable for fans. The demolition of the Grandstand and the plowing under of the racetrack create opportunities to reconfigure the area freed up. ETHERIDGE RAISED HAND 15Moving the free stage is one option worthy of consideration. Plans have been announced for changes in the Fairgrounds that involve use of some of this newly-available turf, but no ground has been broken, no bricks have been laid, so there’s still time for tweaking. There’s a lot of space back there, so this could work.

If the concert venue moved, the ground that is currently Chevy Court would then be available for new activities, perhaps still involving entertainment from the stage, but more manageable in audience size, allowing the stage to then be preserved as is. More picnic grounds, a better area for wandering entertainers like Hilby to perform and versatile demonstration, performance and exhibit space are among the ideas that could benefit from such a multi-use area.

One big drawback would certainly be that there are few Fair locales as prominent and as pretty as the grassy, tree-lined court area, surrounded by those handsome buildings and close to the wine court, restrooms and food stands. It would be hard to match that ambience, charm and convenience in the Grandstand/infield area, essentially an open field, lacking shade and amenities.

Could such disadvantages be overcome? Maybe, with tents, canopies, pavilions and landscaping. Some permanent infrastructure would be needed as well. It would definitely take significant planning and creativity, but it’s an idea worth a look.

If Chevy Court stays put, it’s going to take major changes to handle crowds better than they have been managed. SF 2015 NL2 036Finding a way to maximize the impact and success of those performances is surely a tough call, especially because the show has to be ready to go on August 25, 2016. It’s a difficult task, but one surely worth taking on, since free concerts have become the biggest draw at the Fair. Good luck, Fair planners.

Sand Stars

If you didn’t see this year’s sand sculpture, you missed a terrific work. Don’t worry, State Fair Hound has a look for you, the first from opening day and the finished product from later in the Fair.SAND SCULPTURE BEFORE 15

SAND SCULPTURE AFTER 15The most amazing part of the 2015 version of this favorite exhibit was the striking likenesses to famous New Yorkers the artists carved out of sand.


What can they do to top this? See you at the 2016 Fair.

Times Square A’Changin’

State Fair Hound continues to look back at the New York State Fair just past with a thought that isn’t new, but never seems to be addressed. The tower at the intersection called Times Square, between the Dairy Products Building and the International Pavilion, has the potential to be much more than it is.

It’s always either unoccupied or being used as a lookout spot for State Troopers. The cops are just standing around as nothing ever seems to be happening there, but if they’re aren’t in it, it’s roped off. As usual, the Hound has a few ideas of how it could be put to better use.

It could be used as a spot for some advertiser to present products, though that’s not the best idea. TIMES SQUARE TOWER 15It’s near the Lottery Pavilion, so they could use it to hawk tickets or make public drawings. There was once talk of placing video screens there to broadcast the Chevy Court show.

But how about putting actual entertainment up there, something like the musical combo that used to welcome visitors inside the front gate? For years the State Fair Four played lively Dixieland from a gazebo in that spot. There wasn’t an act there this year and it was missed.

The Times Square corner could really use such a festive touch and an acoustic act to greet people exiting the Milk Bar, serenade passers-by or provide some atmosphere for folks scratching their Lottery tickets could be the right touch. It would be nice to do something creative with that handsome structure.

Mane Street

The popularity of Equine Avenue reinforced the fact that Fair visitors love horses. They love to see them, pet them, get close to them. EQUINE AVE RING 15The friendly staff in the tent was terrific, fielding all questions and telling fairgoers all about the horses present and horse behavior in general. EA has to become an annual feature.

Among the educational displays surrounding the main ring was a sign explaining an Equine Activity Liability Act that horse people are lobbying to see passed. Staff on hand explained that issues relating to legal liability are preventing horse owners and exhibitors from allowing more contact between their animals and the public.

State Fair Hound sympathizes with this cause, especially because more access to the animals makes for a more enjoyable State Fair for many patrons. EQUINE ACTIVITY ACT 15It’s puzzling why this doesn’t seem to be an issue with sheep, cows, pigs and llamas, but there’s got to be a reason. In any event, if you want a chance for more horse interaction at the Fair, you may want to contact your state senator or rep.


On the Heat Beat


Syracuse area Fair lovers have to be wondering this weekend where these cool temperatures were last weekend. State Fair Hound agrees with an opinion voiced by Acting Director Troy Waffner in a local newspaper that the hot, humid conditions a week ago discouraged folks from going out to the Fair.

Not everyone stayed in, FRITTER POSE 15however, and Hound photographer Nick LoPresti braved the heat to contribute these shots of the sun-baked audience at the Sawyer Fredericks show, a dedicated actor hamming it up while wearing the furry Fritter costume and some of the coolest critters on the grounds, frisky sea lions splashing around their tank.

BARKING SEA LIONS 2 15It’s hard to believe these were taken just one week ago, on a day when temps exceeded 90 degrees.


State Fair Snapshots

As State Fair Hound continues to look back at the 2015 New York State Fair, there are many memorable moments to recall. These short vignettes are some that stand out.

A small boy totes a large stuffed bear on his shoulders, gently bumping those he passes on the midway. KID WITH PANDA 15Long after the animal has been discarded, the kid will cherish the State Fair memory, perhaps as he brings his own kids for rides and thrills.

Strong Hearts Café opens in the International Pavilion, marking the first appearance on the grounds of an entirely vegan eatery. For some, it’s counterintuitive to have meatless, non-dairy chow at the Fair, but for those who prefer it, it’s a welcome choice.

A woman sitting at a picnic table in the crowded Pan African tent frantically digs through her bag before pronouncing, “Damn, I’m out of cigarettes.” A small moment to be sure, but one greeted with silent cheers by those nearby who didn’t want to breathe her pollution while eating.

A family shares breakfast under the shade of a canopy on a hot September morning in the infield campground. INFIELD MEAL 15It’s a scene that has played out thousands of times over the years, but this is the last year, at least in the current configuration. Nearby, the vacant Grandstand awaited its last hurrah on Super Dirt Week, never to see another State Fair.

Acting Director Troy Waffner stands before a late-night television camera to announce that rapper Nas has been retained to replace Snoop Dog, who cancelled his appearance at the last minute, reportedly due to illness. Troy looks exhausted, but the booking by his team has saved the night as Nas pleases a sizable crowd in his pinch-hit role.

A television celebrity stamps the New York State Fair as an event worthy of a high-profile visit when Cooking Channel’s Noah Cappe (Tip of the Cappe, Aug. 30, 2015) NOAH DIGS IN 15brings his big personality and passion for fried foods to a stand on the grounds to tape an episode of Carnival Eats.

The poultry barn is eerily quiet as avian flu has banished feathered creatures, leaving the barn full of rabbits and guinea pigs. CHICKS SIGN 15Likewise, the chicks hatching in the Youth Building are kept in their cages, disappointing folks who love to hold them.

More review of this year’s Fair and some ideas for the future coming up in State Far Hound.

Feeling Blue

Everything from hogs to pies, quilts to wine, sculptures to roses gets judged at the New York State Fair. BLUE RIBBON CRAFTS 15State Fair Hound salutes this year’s winners with these photos of those awarded blue ribbon this year. BLUE RIBBON WREATHS 15

You can bet that some Fair aficionados are already working on next year’s entries. BLUE RIBBON GOURD 15

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