State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Month: September 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

10 Things the Hound Liked About the 2013 New York State Fair, Round Four

Time for another thing we liked about the New York State Fair just past.

It was a great feeling to come home to the stately buildings and charming grounds we love. Everyone who has been going to the Fair for many years has to feel a certain rush when pushing through the turnstiles. We hope you took our advice and arrived with a plan of where to go first, but there’s always something bidding for your attention from every direction.

It’s the ambience and beauty, but it’s also the kid-in-a-candy-store thrill of being there just for the fun. Beyond that, you eventually had to come face-to-face with the imposing and handsome colonnade, the inimitable glazed-tile entrance of the horticulture building, lovely brick patios, the museums, barns, stands, stages, green spaces and all of the other sights that make the Fairgrounds an iconic Central New York locale. Then there’s the sounds, the smells, everything that makes it our favorite annual party.


We’re all waiting for August 21, 2014 to make that annual pilgrimage again, but in the meantime, take in other special events that take place nearly every weekend and flash back to Fair time.

10 Things the Hound Liked About The 2013 New York State Fair, Round three

Back to things we liked about this year’s Fair. Every day you could find numerous terrific acts at several locations around the grounds. Predictably enough, the Hound loves the performing dogs and this year there were two different troupes of shows featuring canine antics, both really fun.


We were less enthusiastic about shows featuring wild animals, even the perennial favorite Sea Lion Splash, as we feel that wild animals should be allowed to live as wild animals. We’ll give the birds of prey presented by Hawk Creek wildlife Center a pass as show staff assure us that all of the birds involved have injuries that prevent them from living in their native habitats.


The Nerveless Nocks, a thrill show featuring cyclists spinning inside a cage, was popular as was a crazy hoop show, really more acrobatics than basketball, that turned out to be an excitement slam-dunk.

Don’t forget the traditional favorites at the Iroquois Village and under the circus tent. Just trying to keep track of all the free entertainment can make you dizzier than the Top Spin and that’s a very good thing.

10 Things the Hound Liked about the 2013 New York State Fair, Round Two

Today we continue our list of 10 things we liked about this year’s Fair.

Actually, you could say this about every Fair, but it’s still worth mentioning. We’re happy that we can eat that irresistible fair food at establishments owned and operated by some of Central New York’s best restaurateurs. If you’re not from the Syracuse area, you get to taste the first-class chow on the menu at some of our best spots, while if you know them, it’s great to see our local pros serving it up alfresco.


It’s extremely rare to hear of any problem with food safety and freshness and one reason is the folks here know their stuff and do it right. It’s a source of pride and pleasure for locavores. Familiar names from King David’s to Daniella’s to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que tempt hungry patrons to choose them at meal time. Then there’s Tully’s, Bosco’s, Twin Trees, Doug’s, Mountainview, Haddock Paddock and some we’re not remembering. Also on the menu are food products with strong local ties, among them Gianelli, Hoffman, Saranac and Baker’s (Cornell recipe) Chicken.


This trend provides an important counterpoint to local developers who keep bringing dismal chain restaurants to malls and commercial spaces, many of them making no more than a cameo appearance as they make a big opening splash, then fade out. Our New York State Fair is a great place to eat some of the best food served up here in the heart of the Empire State.

10 Things the Hound liked about the 2013 Fair

The Syracuse Post-Standard published a letter on Sep. 6 from a local man with two complaints about the Fair. First, he said he couldn’t find a vendor to serve him a cup of coffee. Second—a New York State Trooper was rude to him. There has to be a couple of dozen stands that have coffee—they’re not that hard to find. Unfortunately, neither are rude troopers.

But it seems to us that a more comprehensive review is in order and we’ll start today with 10 things to like about the Fair just past, one by one, in no particular order. Logically enough, we’ll follow up with 10 things about the 2013 edition we’d like to see changed or improved. We hope you will follow along and submit comments when you are so inspired.

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So here we go–State Fair Hound proudly present Things We Liked About the Fair.

One thing we liked about this year’s Fair—as we mentioned in an earlier post–the prices. People who complain that the Fair’s too expensive aren’t dealing with reality. Even if you pay the full admission price of $10, that’s no more than a movie. If you just watch Hilby perform and catch one animal act, you got your money’s worth. Most of the Chevy Court performers command more than that for a concert. The gate price hasn’t increased since 2003. It seems as if parking has stayed at $5 per car for at least that long.

If you’re going broke on food, you may not be shopping wisely. Hound photographer Nick LoPresti (who took this pic) decided while shooting on the grounds that he wanted a steak sandwich. He decided that one vendor’s version was too pricey at $11. Good call. Within a couple of hundred feet, there was another contender selling for $9 and a third for $7.
You can always shop around to get a good deal (except in the Grandstand, which we’ll address in our 10 Things We’d Like to Change).

So some on, folks. Save up a little, buy advance sale tickets, car pool or take a bus, look for good food deals and you get way more than your money’s worth.


851,157–the attendance total for the 2013 New York State Fair is disappointing. So why didn’t more New Yorkers attend?
Some jaded local folks use a standard line—“it’s the same every year.”

That’s simply not true. Some characteristics are essential to the Fair being what it is and they won’t change. There will always be barns full of farm animals. There will always be a hectic midway of rides and games. Those historic buildings will always be full of exhibits, displays, hucksters, artwork and entertainment. Music and other performances will bring the grounds’ stages to life. New York history and culture will be prominently featured.

And food, that glorious fair food will always entice and delight fairgoers and occasionally cause indigestion.

Honestly, if those things changed most people would feel disappointed. We want to pet a cow, watch the gadget sellers and play I Got It once a year. Tradition is important out there.


But this year proved that there are always a few new wrinkles to keep it fresh and some acts that will draw crowds to the Grandstand and Chevy Court.

If you can’t find something you like, you’re not trying.
The weather was good this year, a bit too hot some days, but not unbearable for the most part.

Too expensive? Really, where can you get close to this much entertainment for 10 bucks, $6 advance sale? Shop around and you can eat pretty well for a reasonable price.

In upcoming posts we’ll review this year in more detail and offer some thoughts on how to boost interests and make next year even better. But we won’t accept excuses from those who skipped it.
Oh—if you have ideas, we’re listening and so is the Fair. You can submit suggestions and comments on the website, Keep it constructive, OK?

That’s a Wrap

New York State Fair 2013 ended on a weird Labor Day, starting cool, growing hot and humid, getting drenched by afternoon storms and ending on a cool, dry evening. Now State Fair Hound will help you get through the next 50 weeks with discussion, suggestions, reviews and updates. We’ll also be developing and improving our site to help make sure that the 2014 Fair will be a better experience for you.
Today, as we start the review process that we’ll continue over the next few weeks, we’re feeling your pain. The banner at the top of the Fair website says “Gates open in 352 days.” Ouch. It sure seems strange not to be heading out to those bumpy parking lots and beckoning gates.

The initial reaction has to be that it was a great fair that didn’t get the public support it deserved. Yeah, there are ways it could have been better and there’s plenty of time to get into that, but attendance numbers should have been higher. It’s up just a tick from last year and that’s not good enough. Consider that the highest one-day number was the 86,168 that attended on Sep. 1, really low for a single-day best.

Rather than try to summarize this year’s Fair and come up with a list of ideas and suggestions for next year right now–while the packing up, cleaning up and closing down is underway—we’ll keep it going with timely posts as we look forward to Aug. 21, 2014. (Photo by Jude Camwell)

Fair quiz–day 12 answer

Answer to day 12 question: The error, pictured below, is that the first name “William” was omitted under the photo of president and Supreme Court chief justice William Howard Taft.
Still, the New York State Fair history display was sensational. We can’t wait to see it updated and expanded for 2014.

Growing popularity

Today is the second Labor Day to feature the agricultural Extravaganza in the Coliseum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It was one of the best additions last year as visitors get an intimate encounter with some gorgeous farm animals along with painless education on the agriculture business. The farmers on hand are welcoming and friendly.

While a hurdling bunny was delightful last year, the historic building has plenty of great critters, like these piglets shown below in photo from the archives of Jude Camwell.


After attending, parents may have to deal with children who wonder why we kill and eat these delightful creatures. If you look at how factory-farmed animals are treated, we all should be asking some questions.

Fair quiz–day 12

Answer to day 11 question: Craftsman Nick Nichols shows off his antique tools every day of the Fair on the lawn of the Agricultural Museum.

Day 12 question: Did you spot the error (mentioned in our Aug. 27 post, Gallery of Stars) in the newly-opened New York State Fair history exhibit in the Grange building?
Hint: It’s in a caption under a photo of a subject who held two of our federal government’s most important posts.

The Phantom Director

The situation with new director of the New York State Fair, Thomas Ryan, is puzzling. The guy gets appointed with no Fair experience, a complete stranger to local folks and the Fair community. Cuomo even gives him a guide dog by naming former director Tom Young to assist him.

Then he proves to be a virtual recluse. When’s that last time the Fair played out for the entire 12-day run without the director even being seen in public? Think back to how much good will was generated by Wayne Gallagher and Peter Cappuccilli Jr., each playing the part of public relations director and the face of the Fair, smiling on all the local television news shows, doing newspaper interviews and personal appearances and just by being visible on the grounds during the Fair.

Was Ryan even on hand when Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor What’s-His-Name visited? We didn’t see him in the photos. Is he locked in his office or what? In one extremely rare public statement, he said he’s working behind the scenes to improve the Fair. That’s fine, but it’s only half the job.

Ironically, it was Andy’s father, former governor Mario Cuomo, who gave us the amazing Gallagher, who helped train the always-personable Cappuccilli. Arrogant Andy may just be asserting his megalomania by playing puppet master over the Fair. Every public statement about the Fair comes from Cuomo or his Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, Darrel Aubertine.

If the Gov didn’t have enough confidence in this guy to let him off the leash, why did he hire him? As disturbing as this development is, try out this rumor. There’s speculation out there, not confirmed by any reliable source, that Cuomo is planning to privatize the Fair. Let’s put the brakes on that incredibly bad idea before it even starts. And in the meantime, let’s get a real director. The people of New York deserve one.

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