Autumn Wildlife

A visit to the Fairgrounds over this past weekend gave a glimpse into off-season life at the home of our favorite event. The Empire Alpaca Extravaganza is a favorite annual event and the wooly ones didn’t disappoint. It’s a great festival that really showcases one of nature’s true wonders in a way that sparks interest and admiration for them.

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Most of the grounds were quiet with autumn foliage bringing color that remind of that ubiquitous neon dominating just two months ago. We did see this horse and trainer working on the track and a resident woodchuck enjoying the sunny day near the midway.

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The next big event is Harvest Fest Saturday and there are more events throughout the fall, so why not drop by the Fairgrounds?

Alpaca Fun

Following the Hound’s Sep. 30 post, about fall activities at the Fairgrounds, Falling For the Fairgrounds, we heard from Kara Lynn Dunn who reminded us about a terrific annual event that’s coming up on Oct. 25 and 26 in the cow barn. The Empire Alpaca Extravaganza is a free event that brings in farmers and ranchers from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, including 16 New York State farms, all here to display their alpacas, the South American cousin of their camel, revered for having soft and amazingly warm wool.

These llama relatives are increasingly popular in the United States, particularly in northern states where they are unfazed by cold temperatures and content to graze on grass. The nationally-certified free event will feature competitions, seminars, a fleece competition, youth activities, a fiber arts demonstration and a vendor marketplace. Some animals will be sold over the weekend and visitors will be encouraged to explore alpaca ownership as a business opportunity.

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Sixth Day Farms of Brockport will be at the 2014 Empire Alpaca Extravaganza with alpacas from its herd of more than 100. Farm owners Wayne and Leann Jarvis have developed a selective breeding program specializing in fine white huacayas noted for animals with premium fiber quality throughout their lifetime. Alexandra Weaver is seen here with Synergy’s Queen Bea who will be at the show. Photo provided by the Empire Alpaca Association.

The extravaganza is a great family event as the personable alpacas fill the barn, often within petting range. Baby alpacas, known as crias, are especially adorable. Early Christmas shoppers can find sweaters, gloves, socks, hats and other apparel items of unparalleled quality and wearability, some woven in the US from animals raised here and fiber woven by American crafters. Extravaganza hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. each day.

For more information, visit the organization’s website, www.empirealpacaassociation.com.

Foiled Again

The Hound is having a hard time understanding how New York State can justify its refusal to release to media copies of the contracts under which performers played the 2014 New York State Fair. The request covers both Chevrolet Court, where Joan Jett (photo by Nick LoPresti), among others, played, as well as the Grandstand, where Train (photo from their Wikipedia site) was one of the headliners.

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An Oct. 1, 2014 article by Chris Baker on Syracuse.com reports that the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets has three times delayed release of the contracts requested under the Freedom of Information Act. These are records held by a government agency that should be readily available with a minimum of red tape.

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Someone should remind Gov. Cuomo that we’re talking about our money paying for these shows. These contracts have been released for past Fairs and they should be released for this one without further delay.

Falling for the Fairgrounds

For those of us who can’t get enough of the New York State Fair, there are plenty of off-season activities going on the grounds, from horse and livestock shows to trade shows, motorsports events, theater, ethnic festivals and so much more. Find them all on the Fair website, nysfair.org.

But it occurs to us that with so many major fall festivals taking place throughout Central New York annually, why not another big blowout at the Expo Center? Picture the Horticulture Building and its reflecting pool surrounded by the fiery colors of fall and brought to life by a swarm of visitors celebrating the Empire State’s most distinctive season.

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We’re not suggesting anything nearly as grand as the Fair itself, but the facility lends itself to something to rival the Lafayette Apple Festival, the Golden Harvest Festival, the Central Square Apple Festival and really any you can name that are as much parts of autumn as falling leaves and pumpkin pie.
It could be a more relaxed, but still exciting and fun backdrop with less high-tech, sophisticated attractions than the Fair, not to mention less emphasis on glowing neon, and centering around great food, kid-sized rides and entertainment, a special autumn version of the Iroquois Village, antiques and fall products from wine to apples.

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The sky would be the limit if the event was successful and popular as we all know that the grounds can handle the parking, the staging of events at Chevy Court, indoors areas in any of a number of buildings, food stands galore and barns for animal events.

We don’t envision this fest as an extension of the State Fair, but rather as its own special event. We also don’t expect the Fair staff to take this on, but maybe deal with a major promoter to do the organization, promotion and operation. We remember an early version of the Taste of Syracuse being held at the Fairgrounds and Syracuse Nationals has grown into a tremendous perennial favorite, so we know unique festivals like this can succeed there. Might be worth a try.

Fair on the Air

You may not have noticed among the wave of campaign commercials on the television airwaves lately that one scene was filmed at the New York State Fairgrounds. A Cuomo commercial touting his pro-labor record features a photo of the gov shaking hands with UAW member Mike LaNasa near the Veterans Memorial.

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LaNasa is one of the labor leaders who have worked tirelessly to make the vets memorial a Fair landmark and one of the many reasons our Fairgrounds could never be duplicated anywhere in the state.

A Word From Our Sponsors

The Fair sent out an email press release today announcing a banner year in sponsorship with nearly $2 million in sales. As we pointed out in an earlier post (Counting on Success, Sep. 5), sponsors—you know, Chevrolet, Gianelli, Toyota, Budweiser, Time Warner and all of those– recognize the benefits of seeing attendance approach a million visitors, so this further validates promotions and improvements that boosted 12-day numbers to 965,147 fun seekers. Higher attendance equals more sponsorship dollars.

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It also gets us thinking about the proposed amphitheater and how moving concerts from the Grandstand to the lakeside would impact sponsor dollars coming into the Fair. Logically, Grandstand sponsorship would go down. Would other sponsors spend some of their money at the new venue and less on the grounds? As you know if you’ve been keeping up with State Fair Hound, we think it would reduce Fair attendance. Would that hurt sponsor intake? We don’t know the answers, but the questions need to be asked.

Incidentally, the release also said, “Four national brands and several regional brands that have never participated in the Fair have already begun discussions about participating in 2015.” More great news.

Six Nations Sensation

This lovely weekend is reminding the Hound of Labor Day at the New York State Fair, when this shot of the Iroquois Village was taken.

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The tiny Haudenosaunee reservation is a favorite Fairgrounds spot of ours, the perfect combination of relaxing, inspiring, artistic and historic. Resolve now to spend a little extra time there at next year’s Fair.

Your Ideas Wanted

When a Thursday rolls around, quite often we remember that the New York State Fair always opens on a Thursday, so you could say we’re one week closer to opening day 2015. OK, so it’s 49 weeks away, giving us plenty of time to anticipate, plan and voice ideas and opinions.

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Coincidentally, the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets sent out an email on Thursday encouraging suggestions and ideas from the general public. So come on, jump in. It’s easy enough, just email to statefairideas@agriculture.ny.gov.

State Fair Hound readers know we’ve already ventured few, including improving the Chevy Court experience, expanding on the Agricultural Extravaganza, bringing back Toothpick City, featuring a daredevil act like a jet pack flyer or Nik Wallenda and reducing paid-admission acts, even if it means raising gate prices.

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Of course, Fairgoers’ annual requests will score high—more rest rooms, more benches and strawberry milk. OK, if you must, ask for those. But don’t forget to request your favorite musical acts and endorse the appointment of Troy Waffner as permanent director.

Wade to Go!

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Here’s one last (?) look back at the Wade Shows midway, which we found colorful and gorgeous. The excitement of having some new rides charged up interest and brought out the crowds. We’d have to give the Fair high marks for having the foresight to make the move after decades of partnership with the Strates Shows. Even if you didn’t judge the new midway as better than the old, the fresh start itself was great promotion. Throw in the one dollar ride special on Labor Day and you have to give this move a blue ribbon.

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Riding Into the Sunset

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Now two weeks after Labor Day, it’s time to move on from the 2014 New York State Fair. We’ll still take an occasional look back, but there’s so much to which we can look forward. We’re currently working on a list of topics for Fair discussion and we’d love to have you keep in touch as we move into the official off-season.

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Along the way, look for some great photos from the lens of State Fair Hound photographer Nick LoPresti, like these shots from the Fair’s closing days.

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If you didn’t get enough of the Fair and its home, sometimes called the Empire Expo Center, there will be plenty of events there throughout the year. This fall, you can get another look at some great horses at various horse shows on the grounds. Admission and parking are free. Just enter, usually through gate 2, and tell the security guard you’re there to see horses. He’ll wave you through and provide directions if needed.
If you get hungry while you’re there, the Bosco’s stand on Restaurant Row is usually open for horse shows, serving some food that’s similar to their Fair menu.

See you there.