State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Grape Expectations

The Hound would be hard pressed to name a change at the New York State Fair that drew as passionate an outcry from patrons as moving the New York State Wine Court out of the colonnade area did in 2008. It’s back in its traditional spot WINE COURT 16between the Science and Industry Building and the Dairy Building for the third year now and proving to be a popular stop for oenophiles and Fair patrons looking for an adult treat.

The official title is the Taste NY Wine, Beer and Spirits Village and it’s a creative use of a unique space, using permanent stands and tents with seating nearby where visitors can match a meal with their vino. Some partiers enjoy grooving to the music from Chevy Court while quaffing their favorite beverage. What wine goes with deep-fried mac and cheese, anyway?

See Worthy

From the St. Lawrence to New York harbor, Lake Champlain to the Finger Lakes, the Empire State is rich in navigable waterways and an exhibit at this year’s New York State Fair reminds us that the Water is Great in New York State.

Weather sensing data is collected by a 7-foot buoy in the reflecting pool and displayed on a screen in a nearby tent. BUOY 16The buoy, on loan from the Great Lakes Research Consortium based at SUNY ESF, transmits air and water temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction and solar radiation. “It’s an example of the buoys that are across New York, the Great Lakes and actually and across the world,” said Dave White of the New York Sea Grant. “For boaters it can provide them what’s happening with wave and weather conditions on the site they’re going to boat.”

The Water is Great tent features displays on safe boating from visibility to emergency kits to lifejackets for people and pets. BOATING 16Visitors can score some decals to identify the owners of stray crafts and reflectors to add safety through visibility. “These decals are put on the paddle,” White explained. “Other boaters will be able to see the reflected light when they’re out of the water.”

Fairgoers can also catch occasional demonstrations of an underwater vehicle in the pond. “It has a little camera on a gyroscope in it and it’s on a tether cord so you can drop it in the water and drive it around and it gives you a video of wherever it goes,” said Greg Boyer Great Lakes of the Research Consortium and SUNY ESF. UE 16“We would use this to find shipwrecks, to search the bottom for lost objects, to inspect things where you would normally have to put a diver in the water.”


Cool Cats

At this year’s New York State Fair, every cat will have its day, at least if it’s a lynx. Hawk Creek Wildlife Center is hosting demonstrations featuring three kinds of the felines, sometimes called bobcats or wildcats, daily at Noon, 2:30 and 4:30.

The 30-minute presentation takes place in a white tent tucked into the corner between the Horticulture Building and the International Pavilion, not far from the State Police exhibit. MEISHAThere you can meet Meisha, an African Serval, pictured at left, and Rena, a Eurasian Lynx. Kodiak, a Canada Lynx, represents a breed native to New York and the most familiar looking of the trio.


Staff tells their stories and gives a lot of background on the breeds, but the cats, which aren’t much larger than house cats, have to stay in their cages.

Three non-feline animals are also presented–Dakota, a gray fox, Ripper, a porcupine and Oz, a kudamundi. Hawk Creek, which has been hosting a birds of prey exhibit for the past few years, focuses on education and conservation, always showing fascinating animals that add entertainment and appreciation of our wildlife.

All presentations are free of charge.

Map Quest

Long-time Fairgoers are going to feel somewhat lost trying to negotiate the radically changed Fair landscape this year. You can check your map, MAP KIOSK 16but the best way to find your way is to orient to the buildings and barns that anchor the grounds. Chevy Court is largely unchanged and the animals still sleep in those same barns, so if you pay attention to those familiar landmarks–as well as the Grange Building, the Agriculture museum and the Youth Building–as you travel, you will always have an idea where you are.

The hardest thing may be finding some favorite vendors who are relocated. Gianelli, by the way, Gianelli 16is close to its old location, now in a tent with an adjoining dining area under a canopy. State Fair Hound is on the trail of the other popular food vendors and treat peddlers and will report back on them of the new locations in upcoming posts.

Madness Magnified

You may have heard that the paved midway space has been expanded to 15 acres, but you have to see the massive new lot to believe it. Prepare yourself for the wow factor as you first approach the new area.

It now hosts 75 to 78 rides, more than ever erected for the New York State Fair, MIDWAY ACROSS LAAWN 16most on freshly-paved blacktop with more space between rides and more room for riders to wait in lines. Electrical cables are buried beneath the pavement, so you won’t be tripping over them and strollers and wheelchairs roll freely, although there are some areas with gravel underfoot. Storm drains will reduce flooding on rainy days.

Let’s not knock the old midway—there were so many exciting adventures there over the years. But the Strates Shows people and then the Wade Shows folks had to lay out their rides and games on a triangular parking lot that served the purpose, but was far from ideal. The new pad allows for so much more flexibility and creativity. LIL PARTNERS ARCH 16It’s more like a year-round amusement park.

For some it may be too sterile, lacking in that old-school charm and retro appeal of the past. But more rides, wider walkways and a glitzier look will make most midway mavens very happy.


One Day to Go

The gates open Thursday for the 2016 New York State Fair, NUMBER ONE KIDwith its radically changed landscape, fresh, open look and glorious main gate.

That’s not all that’s new as you’ll find shiny, new rides, including one of the biggest traveling roller coasters in the country and a 70-foot Ferris Wheel. Gather round for first-time animals acts including wild cats and stingrays. Try out one of the 14 new food vendors, including the Fair’s first all-kosher stand, watch a kids sports competition and marvel at Nickelodeon’s PAW Patrol show. Chevy Court improvements will make attending a concert a better experience and a new home for the famous New York baked potato brings that tradition into the 21st century. SPACE ROLLER 15Line the route for the rejuvenated parade, take a free tram ride and inspect infrastructure updates, including better lighting, a new side entrance and the beautification of the Iroquois Village.

There’s never been a State Fair like this year’s. Don’t miss it!

Lotto Luck

The Lottery Pavilion was demolished as part of the Fairgrounds makeover, so the Lottery was relocated to the southeast corner of the Coliseum, across from the dairy cattle building. A mechanical bull BULLRIDING GIRL 15challenged riders to rodeo up in that spot last year.

Lactose Intolerance

The milk bar price increase, announced last week then rescinded, turned controversial after a renowned animal rights activist criticized the state subsidy that averted doubling the cost of a cup of white or chocolate. Customers, who tolerate long lines to get their bargain moo juice, MILK BAR GAL14were howling at the planned increase before Gov. Cuomo stepped in with $90,000 in state money to avert it.

That brought a letter opposing the subsidy—actually opposing human consumption of milk in general—from Gene Baur, an author and the founder of Farm Sanctuary in nearby Watkins Glen. Though Baur’s letter focuses on his contention that dairy products are unhealthy and contribute to heart disease, diabetes and stroke, his organization decries the raising of livestock for meat, milk and eggs as inhumane, even cruel.

In a state as large as New York, with a fair as diverse as ours, there should be room for differing opinions as well as insightful discussion about farming and nutrition. The dairy industry is one of New York’s largest, providing many financial benefits from taxes to employment. But even supporters have to recognize that the COW TRIO 15cows raised to produce the milk often pay a price, though dairy farm conditions vary widely.

The best way for you to decide how you feel about this controversial subject is to examine the issues and weigh the options. At the Fair, look closely at the animals that play a part in our food industries. Ask questions and gather information that’s available. But don’t stop there. After the Fair, take a drive to Watkins Glen to visit the Farm Sanctuary ( Get their perspective on the raising of livestock and the food thus produced.

Take a close look at the facts, then decide what to feed your family.

Frequent Flyers

The popular butterfly tent returns to the Horticulture Building at the New York State Fair, this year with more insects including exotic breeds from Africa, Asia and Central America. Past years have included only the familiar monarch butterfly, BFLIES-BABY 15so those fluttering around your head this year will be ones you haven’t seen, unless you have traveled far from New York state.

The SkyRiver Butterfly Exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission, which includes a feeding stick to attract the butterflies, is $2. Great photo ops abound!


Late Gates

One important change for 2016 from previous editions of the New York State Fair concerns the time gates officially open to customers. Opening time has been pushed back from the traditional 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. That decision was centered around safety concerns that arose as visitors wandered the grounds while delivery and maintenance trucks were still cruising the streets to service vendors and businesses. ENT. GATE 4 14

“We have had near misses out here before,” Acting Director Troy Waffner explained. “The goal is to control the pedestrian and vehicular traffic together. So that was the Genesis behind that, to eliminate the pedestrian and vehicle traffic.”

Of course, 10 a.m. has always been the opening time for the Center of Progress, Horticulture and other buildings and that hasn’t changed. State Fair Hound did a little sniffing around and discovered that early arrivals are likely to be allowed in before 10, unofficially. So if you enjoy breakfasting at the Fair, you can still do that. Just watch out for the trucks, OK?


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