State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Midway Takeaways

Kudos to Matt Mulcahy of CNY Central for a report broadcast on Thursday featuring a tour of changes at the Fairgrounds with commentary from Troy Waffner. NEW MIDWAY AREAThe acting director showed off the stately new main gate, where he said 60 percent of Fair attendees enter.

Waffner also gave viewers a look at the 12 acres of newly paved blacktop that will serve as the launching pad for midway madness come Aug. 25.

At one end of the midway, near the main buildings, a grassy area will be used to stage the kiddieland rides, GRASSY SPOTa great idea that means that excited toddlers who trip won’t skin their knees. Both areas are shown in photos taken during Syracuse Nationals.

State Fair Hound tried unsuccessfully to find the video from Mulcahy’s report on the CNY Central website, but maybe it will turn up in coming days. It’s certainly worth a look.

New Frontiers

A weekend trip to the Syracuse Nationals served as a dress rehearsal for the refreshed Fairgrounds. State Fair Hound will be sharing some photos to get you ready for the new look you will encounter when you visit, starting Aug. 25. MAIN GATE NATS 16For those who believe that first impressions are crucial, the retro-look main gate is handsome and welcoming.

The new RV park–campground if you prefer–is no longer fenced off from the main grounds. It stretches from the spot formerly occupied by the Grandstand to the racing stables, GS GONEskirting the new blacktop midway.

Check back for more photos coming soon.

Field of Schemes

Take a look at the expanse of open space created at our New York State Fair by eliminating the Grandstand and track. OPEN FG

Veteran Fair patrons will be wowed looking across the field where an enlarged midway will rise in August. The openness and removal of barriers make it seem as if the Fairgrounds is larger and easier to negotiate.

The first test of the new setup starts Friday with the opening of this year’s Syracuse Nationals. VIEW FROM INTL.State Fair Hound will be there for that first look and will report back with new photos

Ghost Town

The complete Chevrolet Court line-up was released on Monday and it’s a shocking list to say the least. It’s not surprising for the acts that are included, but for what’s not on the bill.

“Our goal was to present the greatest and most diverse lineup of talent in Chevy Court history and I believe we’ve done it,” Acting Director Troy Waffner said in a statement. SF 2015 NL2 036“We’ve invested more than ever in our lineup and I know this will be a year of shows people will remember for a long, long time.”

That may be true, but it’s hard to believe that a Chevy Court line-up of 23 concerts over a 12-day run of the Fair could be considered complete when there’s not a single country music act among the shows booked. The last time that happened depends on your definition of country, COURT CROWD DAY-15but safe to say it’s been about 30 years, though a few years were lightly represented.

You may recall that the Fair granted concert Goliath Live Nation the Chevy Court booking contract for this year. If you’re wondering if they were influenced by having scheduled numerous country acts, albeit mostly dismal ones, at the amphitheater and not wanting to compete with themselves, The Hound is wondering that too.

In any event, this enormous omission, disappointing fans who have consistently supported Fair concerts over the years, is an example of what we get with privatizing at the Fair, allowing some outside business to put corporate profits over the interests of Fair patrons. It’s a mistake we should be certain to avoid in the future.

No Deal

Poultry, like this handsome fellow photographed by Hound photog Nick LoPresti in 2014, Blue ribbon bird 14will return after missing last Fair as part of a precautionary policy to prevent illness.

Speaking of bird-brained ideas, our illustrious Governor is currently seeking bids from companies proposing to manage the New York State Fair. State Fair Hound has a few questions for the Gov:

What evidence exists that private operators could or would do a better job?

What financial terms could be contracted that would provide an advantage of state taxpayers?

Would longtime, experienced, expert Fair employees be retained or replaced by staff DENNIS B 15totally unfamiliar with the specific characteristics, needs, traditions and history of our Fair?

Chevrolet Court concerts are already being booked by an outside firm, Live Nation. Has that created a better line-up and a more satisfying experience for Fair patrons?

Specifically, what decisions and operations would fall within the authority of the outside contractor? Which would be handled by state or Fair employees?

The Hound tends to believe that it’s always a bad idea to hand over a critical operation to someone whose primary objective is maximizing their own profits. Fair employees are dedicated to making it the best event for their customers—that’s their full-time job. The Hound thinks that’s the way it should stay.

Century City

GATE 5-16

We’re now just 100 days to go until the opening of the new main gate at the New York State Fair. That entrance, pictured above, sure isn’t ready, but it will be the gateway to great fun on the new stage that will be Fair 2016. GIRL WITH GOAT 15

As we look forward to that excitement, State Fair Hound offers these memories from last year. BBALL GUY 15COTTON CANDY 15

 

Ready For Our Close-Up

Over nine months ago, Cooking Channel investigative eater Noah Cappe visited the New York State Fair to tape an episode of his series Carnival Eats. NOAH WITH JIM 2As reported on State Fair Hound (Tip of the Cappe, Aug. 29, 2015), Cappe made several stops on the grounds, including an early morning visit to Fried Specialties, sampling the notorious Defibrillator.

The show featuring that encounter was scheduled to premiere on May 5, but inexplicably didn’t air.

According to the Carnival Eats website, that show will be broadcast on May 8 at 11 p.m., May 15 at 7 p.m. and May 30 at 6 p.m. Usually CE splashes some scenes from the featured event between cooking segments, also stopping to chat with patrons of the starring eateries, so don’t miss a chance to see our State Fair on national television.

Setting the Stage

A recent article on Syracuse.com revealed a surprising change in plans for this year’s New York State Fair. State Fair Hound confirmed with Fair spokesman Dave Bullard that organizers have decided that they won’t be replacing the Chevrolet Court stage FIREPLACES AND FAIRGROUNDS 036and backstage building as had been previously announced.

Last fall, Acting Director Troy Waffner had told State Fair Hound that a new, larger stage was coming in 2016 with a two-story backstage building that would provide nicer amenities for touring acts. As The Hound reported (Back Court, Nov. 12, 2015), the new stage structure would be moved back—that is, nearer to the main gate—to make more space in front for fans to gather.

While that may remain on the long term agenda, it’s off the to-do list for 2016. Widening of the grass area is still in the works as a way to make the area more hospitable to large crowds.

Bullard mentioned some other changes coming, among them freshening the exterior of several of the iconic buildings, HORT PORTRAIT 14including the fabulous façade of the Horticulture Building.

Parents will find a large square of rides for the youngest riders in a new location, behind the International Building. Bullard credits the mild winter just past with the massive project to renovate the Fair being ahead of schedule.GIRL KID RIDE 14

Home Court

More Chevrolet Court acts have been announced and State Fair Hound is looking forward to a steady stream as summer approaches. It should be obvious by now that Chevy acts are the Fair’s major shows as the Lakeview Amphitheater is an Onondaga County venue, not a New York State Fair venue.

The interplay between the two will be something to watch as loyal readers already know that the Hound expects well-attended lakeside shows to be more a detriment to the Fair itself than an advantage. ETHERIDGE BLUE GUITAR 15The Fair website doesn’t list amphitheater concerts and don’t expect Fair advertising to include those shows either.

Let’s face it, Cuomo really screwed this up. After years of Grandstand concerts providing a potential boost for the Fair and being marquee events in Fair promotion, that major draw is gone. The new venue should be on the Fairgrounds and a part of the sensational Fair experience. Of course, if his boneheaded blunder is a factor in Fair attendance not being high enough for Prince Andy, he’ll blame everybody but himself.

For here on out, State Fair Hound won’t be covering the Lakeview Amphitheater. CCOURT WITH CROWD 15It’s not the New York State Fair, thus not worthy of the attention of Fair aficionados. Acts already announced at the soon-to-be-renovated Chevy Court include Chicago, Herman’s Hermits, the Commodores and Culture Club and you should expect some really big name performers added to pack the re-designed courtyard.

With time growing short to complete that project, your Hound is watching with some anxiety, ready to report back to you as the Fairgrounds are updated. There’s much to do in the 20 weeks left before opening day.

Demolition Derby

Work continues on the Fairgrounds as demolition of the track and infield areas appears to be complete. As State Fair Hound reported earlier, the food stands that once lined the fence behind the NO TOWERInternational Pavilion and the Poultry Building, heading down to the midway staging area are gone. Also missing is the Times Square Tower, built not that long ago and the subject of a Hound post (Times Square A-changin’, Sep. 15, 2015) that is now rendered irrelevant.

TIMES SQUARE TOWER 15

The Hound will keep track of new developments and report on progress made toward the expansive upgrade of the grounds currently under construction.

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In case you were wondering, all of the major buildings, the livestock barns and the Restaurant Row food stands are all intact with no plans announced to change that. The racing stables, visible beyond the flattened infield area in the photo at left, are also being preserved.

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