State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Month: August 2013 (Page 1 of 3)

Fair quiz–day 10

Answer to day nine question: The Iroquois longhouse, a replica of the home for which the Haudenosaunee (people of the longhouse) were named, was built in 2000 and rebuilt in 2011. (Photos by Nick LoPresti and Jude Camwell.)

Day 10 question: The building currently occupied by the New York State Lottery was for many years what restaurant?

Red and white blues

Many Fair patrons still mourn the loss of the New York State Wine Village, banished from the colonnade area in 2007 by the O’Hara administration. It was a special place with an atmosphere that can’t be duplicated by setting winery stands up in a tent as is the case currently.

O’Hara talked about the crowds and congestion in the area, but oenophiles never bought into the move, especially because it was done without taking into account opinions outside of the administration. Could the Wine village be returned? We don’t really know. There’s not much happening in that area this year aside from a SUNY tent that seems out of place. As you can see, there’s no congestion, that’s for sure.

Farewell to an original

Fair visitors who tour the agricultural museum will see a framed photo of broom maker Walt Thomas in the corner where he had spent 12 days a year working at his craft. Thomas, a retired dairy farmer from Baldwinsville, died in May, leaving a void that will linger with those who enjoyed his presence at every Fair. He had been a Fair character for over 30 years, sharing his knowledge and charm as he bound sorghum bristles onto handles to make “corn” brooms, patiently answering questions and making visitors feel welcome. The ag museum remains a special part of the Fair, but its warmth has been diminished a little with the loss of Walt Thomas, a true Fair original and a real gentleman.

Starry Night

When you see a lot of musicians in the crowd at a concert, that’s a sign that the show features a respected, admired performer. Vince Gill has certainly earned the reverence in which he is held by fans and there were several noteworthy Syracuse pickers on hand at Chevy Court on August 28 as he flashed his versatile and innovative guitar playing, complemented by his glorious vocals. Not since Asleep at the Wheel parked their bus behind the Stan Colella Stage in 2008 has the New York State Fair hosted such pure country magic.

While the Talented Okie is no doubt the ringleader of his band, he’s also smart enough to surround himself with the best band he can find, this night including the pedal steel wizardry of Paul Franklin. That’s the job held for years by the late John Hughey, a man Gill often called his hero. Franklin, one of the busiest session players in Nashville, has worked in recent years for such luminaries as George Strait, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain and Martina McBride. Earlier in his career, he made his bones backing Barbara Mandrell, Mel Tillis and another dynamic picker, Jerry Reed. When he wandered from country, he slid into arrangements for Sting, Barbra Streisand and even Megadeath.

While the band also included the heavenly harmony vocals of Dawn Sears and the tasteful keyboard work of veteran piano man Pete Wasner, there’s no outshining Mr. Gill, among the most charming and purely talented artists anywhere, regardless of genre. His set list brought back great memories of his days headlining the Grandstand, hitting highlights on “I Still Believe in You,” “Liza Jane,” “Oklahoma Borderline” and his breakthrough hit, “When I Call Your Name.”

He and Franklin played four cut from their new CD Bakersfield, released in July, as a tribute to California favorite sons Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Fans who loved this show should not only buy Bakersfield, they should also seek out recordings by the Time Jumpers, an assemblage of amazing talent featuring not only Gill and Franklin, but also singer Sears, fiddler Larry Franklin and several other of the finest country players around. That band holds fort at Nashville’s Station Inn, rarely touring because members are in such demand in recording studios around town.

As this evening reminded—where you find Vince Gill, you will hear great country music.

An irony came up that night involving Dawn Sears, who earlier this year had been diagnosed with cancer. While introducing the show, B104 radio’s Tom Owens asked for prayers for his broadcasting partner Becky Palmer, a popular voice among local country listeners and an old and dear friend of State Fair Hound. She’s fighting her own battle with cancer. We second Owens’ call for love and support for Beckaroo, a classy, funny, sweet lady. She’s spunky, too, so we expect her to make a solid recovery.

Fair quiz–day nine

Answer to day eight question: One-man band Bandaloni is the entertainer pictured.

Day nine question: What historical structure was erected in the Iroquois Village in 2000 and re-built in 2011 after having collapsed in stormy weather?

Fair quiz–day eight

Answer to day seven question: The Center of Progress is the oldest major building on the grounds. It was completed in 1908, one year before the Dairy Products and Science and Industry buildings.

Day eight question: Name the strolling entertainer pictured here in a Herm Card Photo.


Feathered fun

With six days completed and six to go at the 2013 New York State Fair, there’s plenty of time to see and do more and winged creatures offer several highlights.

Hawk Creek Wildlife Center is back with its impressive bird of prey near the reflecting pool. Try to catch one of the presentations in the yard next to the tent for an enlightening and entertaining few minutes. Just walking up to get some face time with the eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures and owls is a special experience.

If you prefer smaller birds, the parakeets and lorikeets fluttering around behind the Horticulture Building make for a very lively tent. Inside the Hort, butterflies flit inside the tent near the main entrance, often landing on excited visitors.

The poultry building is the noisiest barn on the grounds and very likely the smelliest, but if you like chickens and such, don’t miss it. For a less overwhelming experience with barnyard fowl, trek to the western end of the Youth Building, where you can savor a few moments holding baby chicks, one of the Fair’s underrated annual favorites. (Photo by Nick LoPresti)

Fair quiz–day seven

Answer to day six question: The New York State Fair was extended to 12 days by starting on a Thursday in 1990. Fewer than 24,000 people attended that day. (Photo by Jude Camwell)


Day seven question: Which of the major buildings is the oldest?

Gallery of stars

The New York State Fair history exhibit in the Grange Building is this year’s best new addition, sure to spark a ton of great memories for Fair fans. The Fair went first class in building an entire new gallery with an entrance modeled after the old carriage main gate. Right at the entrance is a scale model of entire Fairgrounds

Inside, an illustrated timeline of major events in Fair history includes the 1998 Opening of the Pan African Village, 1999 Veterans’ Memorial built, the first one million attendance year in 2001, and the 2002 dedication of the 9-11 Memorial, though there was no mention that Peter Cappuccilli, Jr. was director for all of those milestones. We’re confident that Cappuccilli’s legacy will remember him as one of the great directors, despite efforts by the overzealous Andrew Cuomo and a short-sighted local press to portray him negatively.

A map and text run through the history of locations where the Fair has been staged, and a unnecessarily large graph documenting attendance growth don’t generate much excitement, but they’re only the beginning.
The Sports at the Fair wall illustrates harness racing from 1901, auto racing and an air show from the 20s, a 1970s demolition derby and stock car races, once one of the Fair’s leading traditions. A tractor pull, rodeo, boxing and the 2010 outdoor hockey game are also memorialized.

The gallery of entertainer photos is a dynamic trip down memory lane, with photos of such Fair stars as Sonny and Cher, Wayne Newton, Frank Sinatra, Britney Spears, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, Donny and Marie, Bill Cosby, Whitney Houston, the Judds, Reba McEntire, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Charley Daniels and Bon Jovi—not from this year, obviously. There’s even a shot of Buckethead from the Midway Music Series.

There are also tributes to agricultural events, 4-H, the State Police and a colorful wall and video screen dedicated to the Iroquois village, unfortunately referred to as the “Indian Village.” The 10-piece butter sculpture models, James E. Strates Shows posters lead into such memorabilia treasures as trains and carnival models, ribbons, trophies and midway gems. An 18-minute video from 1969 shows Anita Bryant performing and the famous jet-pack stunt man flying over the gate.

See if you can spot the mistake, an historical inaccuracy on the wall with photos of famous political figures from Teddy Roosevelt to the Clintons. That may be the only error in a dazzling display. There may be room for improvement and expansion, but it’s a smashing debut to what should become one of those beloved every- year, must-see fan favorites.
Photos by Nick LoPresti

Fair quiz–day 6

Answer to the day five question: Charley Pride played the first paid Grandstand concert in 1976.

Day six question: In what year did the Fair expand from 11 days to 12 days, opening on a Thursday?

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