State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Happy Returns

The Hound was glad to see that two New York State Fair traditions have returned, one to feed us, the other to thrill and amuse.

Middle Eastern restaurant King David’s has been missing from its usual location near the Grange Building, but they haven’t moved far, just down a way on the same avenue, outside the cow barn. Same great gyros and falafel. KING DAVID 15

Juggler extraordinaire Hilby arrived on Monday, up to his usual antics, his amazing physical feats surpassed only by his relentless patter. HILBY1-15



Super Market

SF FLEA MKT. 3There seems to have been some confusion in information distributed by the Fair regarding on the date that the City Market would be on the grounds. A couple of dozen vendors were set up behind Chevy Court on Saturday Aug. 29 and, as far as the Hound knows, that’s the only scheduled date. Too bad, because it was a dandy addition that day as the antique dealers and flea market vendors had a busy spot with plenty of traffic.


Fair patrons browsed furniture, jewelry, candles, artwork, pottery, musical instruments and collectables, sheltered by tents on a sunny day. The sellers are some of the folks that set up at the monthly market in Armory Square.


The Hound hopes to see this colorful and creative event become a regular feature of the Fair. It’s another winner.


Last Round-up

The final country music show at the New York State Fair Grandstand wasn’t quite as memorable as some of its shining moments of years past, but the rollicking, rowdy, mixed bag of country and rock delivered Sunday night by Hank Williams Jr. and his sparkling seven-piece band wasn’t a bad way for the old stadium to go out.


It wasn’t as unforgettable as Vince Gill’s dazzling marathons, Alan Jackson’s traditional country shows, Alabama’s harmonious celebrations, Keith Urban’s rocking parties, Brooks and Dunn’s hit parades or even Reba’s rainout. But it was a fast-moving, 90-minute train of memories and musicianship with never a dull moment.

Hank does things his own way, no surprise there, covering a lot of his biggest songs, but often only fragments, before moving on. He paid tribute to country influences from Waylon Jennings to Johnny Cash and, of course, his own sainted father. But as he said in song, “his kind of music and mine ain’t exactly the same,” proving it with snippets of songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and Foreigner.


It was a relief that Bocephus avoided the type of political rant that has come back to haunt him over the past few years, instead concentrating on singing and talking about his favorite subject, himself. It wasn’t unexpected after he appeared wearing a hat that said “icon,” but it can get tiresome.

But when looking at the big picture, this full-moon August night wasn’t about one performer, no matter how talented, charismatic or bellicose. It was one last chance for fans who have seen great country acts, including some Hall-of-Famers, to look beyond the stage to the glittering midway and the venerable buildings of the Fair, something they’ve done many times, one of the pleasures they will surely miss when future shows are moved off the grounds.

One highlight that your State Fair Hound won’t forget is Hank Jr.’s furious fiddling on Kaw-Liga, a song co-written by his father, and one very likely performed at the Grandstand’s first concert. That one featured country star Charley Pride—one of the aforementioned Hall-of-Famers—in 1976. Pride had one of his biggest hits with Kaw-Liga, back in 1969. Now, 39 years after the first show, that quirky country classic echoes through the same old Grandstand, now destined for demolition. Now that’s symmetry.

(Photos courtesy of the New York State Fair)

Home Plates

As promised the Hound tracked down the details on the new New York State Fair license plate at the DMV spot in the Center of Progress, near the sand sculpture.


You can order the plates, as well as work through other DMV functions, right there at the Fair. Standard initial fee is $43.75, $75 for personalized plates. If you want to keep your current number there is –wait for it—an additional charge. Then at renewal time, it’s an extra $30 per year, half of which goes to support NY tourism marketing. You would think that having “I (heart) NY,” and the State Fair logo would be support enough, but Cuomo wants your cash, too.


Fill Their Cups

Food Bank of CNY staff were stationed in parking lots on Thursday to accept non-perishable food donations, but were not busy enough as the drive seems to have been underpublicized. Credit Channel 9 for mentioning it in morning newscasts, but that’s the only place the Hound heard it.

Fair patrons have another opportunity to support food donations at one of the Fair’s iconic locations as cash contributions are being accepted at the Rainbow Milk Bar, where a cup of cold white or chocolate is 25 cents.


Fairgoers can donate their spare change to the Great American Milk Drive and help ensure more families can get milk year-round. Donations to support the Great American Milk Drive will be accepted at every milk station at the Rainbow Milk Bar.  All proceeds will be earmarked for milk purchases and distributed to food banks throughout New York.

There is a nationwide shortage because milk is rarely donated. “Milk is one of the most highly requested items at food banks throughout the country,” says American Dairy Association and Dairy Council CEO Rick Naczi.  “To help provide more milk to families who depend on these facilities, we are asking fairgoers to donate a quarter for every cup of milk they purchase.  We’re calling this campaign “Get One, and Give One Too.”  If just a fraction of the people that visit the Milk Bar donate, we’d raise $22,000 and that would buy a lot of milk.”


Speaking of the Rainbow Milk Bar, Acting Director Troy Waffner revealed on Tuesday as the annual press preview, that the Fair is investigating the possibility of bringing back strawberry milk, which had been discontinued decades ago. If it happens, not only would it put the third color back in the rainbow, it would answer one of the Fair’s most frequent customer requests.

Tip of the Cappe

A television crew was on the grounds Saturday, taping the nationally-broadcast Food Network show Carnival Eats, mentioned in our April 14, 2015 post, Chow Hound. Affable host Noah Cappe started early, interviewing Fried Specialties owner Jim Hasbrouck and getting the skinny—if you can call it that—on the Defibrillator sandwich, a decadent mixture of meats and cheese. Cappe then moved on to shoot several more segments at other stands to be broadcast on upcoming episodes.


Cappe, wearing the white shirt in these exclusive State Fair Hound photos, took time between to talk to The Hound, marveling at the size of the New York State Fair and revealing that he estimates that Carnival Eats, now in its third season, has presented about 200 foods from fairs and festivals in the US and Canada. This marks his first stop at our State Fair.


Watching the CE crew work was an eye-opener in terms of the elaborate and exacting effort that goes into each scene. First-rate production quality and expert editing make each show deliciously entertaining, allowing Cappe to gets his sparkling personality, as well as his hands, into each outrageous recipe. Off camera, the lanky Toronto native is as charming and personable as his television persona, taking time to chat and pose for photos between takes.


The State Fair scenes will appear in an upcoming season-three episode of Carnival Eats and the Hound will be watching.

Newfound Nuggets

Some of the best new features noticed by the Hound as he wandered the Fair on opening day weren’t heavily publicized, but are great new wrinkles.


This roaring dinosaur character was seen posing with friends young and old as he roamed the wild terrain near the main gate. Rexie the T-Rex is a newcomer to the Fairgrounds and is likely to become a favorite among the roaming characters.


The Hound was really impressed with an expanded maple display that balances the nearby maple sales and product showcase. It’s an extravagantly assembled exhibit featuring tree tapping gear and a sap boiler. Sample tastes are available nearby.

PATH TO LONGHOUSE 15The newly-paved paths in the Iroquois Village have a classy mottled look and grainy texture that help preserve the rustic feel of the land around the Turtle Mound, exhibit buildings and souvenir huts. The one pictured leads to the historic longhouse.

One established Fair vendor, King David’s isn’t in its customary location outside the Grange Building. The Hound hopes to sniff it out soon as he loves chowing down on their Middle Eastern cuisine. More on that later.

First Look

Opening day at the New York State Fair is special for a lot of reasons. Everything is new, clean and fresh. The workers are energetic and excited to get going. The debut exhibits, rides, demos and attractions bring a touch of the surprising and unexpected. And best of all, when you call it a day, you leave knowing that there are 11 more chances to visit.

Day one 2015 dawned damp and overcast and your State Fair Hound was on the trail of the best new features on the grounds. As expected, Hound didn’t see everything, but the first taste of this year’s Fair was exhilarating.

The sea lions returned to crowds of delighted fans.

SEA LION 1-2015










A personable persheron named Murphy soaked up attention at the new Equine Avenue.

A personable percheron named Murphy soaked up attention at the new Equine Avenue.








We got our first look at this year’s sand sculpture being carved.

SAND 1-2015

New Rides included the Comet II, at over 200 feet long the largest traveling coaster in the US.

COMET 1-2015The Walker Circus, featuring this young juggler,  is going open-air this year.







New food stands included this one featuring the culinary specialties of Utica.

New food stands included this one featuring the culinary specialties of Utica.


More early highlights from the 2015 Fair tomorrow in State Fair Hound.

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Day One Wonders

With the 2015 New York State Fair on the verge of opening, State Fair Hound offers these last-minute tips to maximize your enjoyment on the grounds with photos by Nick LoPresti.

Hawk Creek

Hawk Creek

Animal lovers can find three terrific wildlife exhibits in close proximity by visiting the raptors from Hawk Creek Wildlife Center near the reflecting pool, the Monarch Butterfly Garden, inside the main entrance to the Horticulture Building and Wolves of the World, in a new location this year—the Adventure Zone, which is behind the Horticulture Building.

The Regional Artists Variety Stage has a new spot, the former Anna’s Pizza location near the Youth Building. A wealth of talent will perform there, always free.

Talent Showcase

Talent Showcase

Equine Avenue, a new exhibit inside a tent on the State Fair Boulevard side of the Coliseum, gives visitors some face time with horses, along with occasional presentations by horse pros. Nearby, the adorable Swifty Swine Racing pigs run to glory four times daily in the Sports Activity Center.

The Taste NY tent, just inside the main gate offers samples of some of the Empire State’s finest products on a regular basis. Many of the featured items are available for purchase in the shop behind the Chevy Court stage, the wine court in the colonnade, or other spots around the grounds.

Photos by Nick LoPresti

NY Maple Syrup

Country fans get one last concert in the Grandstand when Hank Williams Jr. plays on Aug. 30. Bocephus hasn’t toured our area in quite a few years, so the Hound offers this tip based upon experience at his shows—take along some earplugs. Hank Jr. is one of the loudest country shows you’re likely to hear.

Military equipment will be displayed in various locations around the grounds. Aficionados will want to get a closer look while some parents may want to apply their own values and perspective with the kids.

The popular cow birthing tent is back in the same location, near FFA barn on the far western end of the grounds. Watch the webcam, and get updates on pending deliveries by texting 24587 and typing BABYCOW.

Wednesday is the last day for advance sale tickets, but if you forget, opening day is $3 at the gate.

See you Thursday at the great New York State Fair.


Tropical Paradise

One State Fair feature we’d like to see expanded and given a makeover is the Pan African Village. It’s been around since 1997 with few changes, still an underappreciated treasure at the Fair.

Jerk Hut fires up a meal

Jerk Hut fires up a meal

Some of the food sold there is not found anywhere else on the grounds, from the Bongo’s spicy-hot jerk chicken and fish to Gwen’s authentic soul food. Las Delicias’ Caribbean favorites, including empanadas and tostones are also on that same vendor’s menu in its International Building location, but we prefer the village ambience for our island feast.

The restaurants are run by well-known CNY neighbors, while some of the craft and gift items are rare finds. The entertainment tent is lively and soulful with local bands and dancers. Historical and cultural exhibits have come and gone, some offering genuine inspiration.

Pan African Village crafts on display

Pan African Village crafts on display

Presuming there’s space added to the grounds when the Grandstand is demolished, maybe some of the established attractions can benefit and maybe the Pan African Village is one of those attractions. More colorful and decorative stands and décor could add sparkle to this State Fair gem.

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