State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Month: October 2013

The Searchers

The New York State Fair announced on Oct. 15 that a search committee had been formed to hire a new director. This organized, comprehensive approach sounds like good news as it’s the most likely method to produce a highly-qualified fair professional. We can only hope for one as talented as the late Wayne Gallagher, who had led the Texas State Fair before coming here.

The search team is a predictable mixture of politicians, business leaders, bureaucrats and agriculture organization reps. That’s fine, we need some of those folks. What’s missing is the same thing that’s missing from the Fair advisory board, average Fair fans who spend money there every year, people who, through their patronage, make or break every Fair.

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There should be someone in the search group, as well as on the advisory board, who knows what it’s like to approach each year as a Fair patron, going online to buy concert tickets, taking a family to the midway, interacting with staff across the grounds, navigating the traffic and parking, camping in the infield, strolling through the buildings and barns, munching fried food and taking in all of the entertainment and scenery.

Beyond that, should we be concerned with the lack of diversity? There are no women on the committee. Are any of these guys Hispanic, African-American or other ethnic minorities?
Not long after Peter Cappuccilli Jr. took over as director, some members of the local minority community expressed concern over the lack of diversity in the entertainers and exhibitors at the Fair. That’s when Cappuccilli demonstrated the type of classy leader he was, convening meetings with concern individuals, increasing minority participation and developing the Pan African Village. It’s a lesson that shouldn’t be forgotten, that inclusivity is the best way to run an organization that belongs to all New Yorkers.

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

As we await news on the search for a new director, let’s get back to the 10 Things the Hound Liked About the 2013 New York State Fair.

This year the Fair was criticized for their choices to play the Grandstand, but Chevy Court continues to be a strength. This year, the variety of acts was especially good, with a range of talent appealing to music fans of varying tastes. Attendance was steady, sometimes drawing massive crowds that stretched the boundaries of the court.

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Grace Potter, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Styx, Florida Georgia Line, Austin Mahone, Vince Gill, Los Lonely Boys and the Happy Together Tour were popular acts. They were among 24 shows to take the court stage, each with its own appeal, its own fan base. Some didn’t bring in many fans, but they demonstrate an effort to book something for just about everyone.

If you have a wish list of acts you want to see next year, go to the Fair website and submit your suggestion. Even if they can’t get who you want, we’ll bet there will be someone there next year you like, at least enough to risk a $6 ticket.

Help Wanted

Some big news came out of the Governor’s office this week, so we’ll hold on continuing our string of “Things We Liked about the Fair” to speculate on the appointment of a new director. If you haven’t heard, Tom Ryan is departing, no reason announced.

The follow-up is the subsequent resignation of Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Darrel Aubertine. Thus the Fair’s two top administrators will be new entering the 2014 edition.

The Hound doesn’t find much reason to be alarmed by this development. Ryan wasn’t around long enough for us to get to know him and he went out of his way to be enigmatic ( See our Sep. 1 post, “The Phantom Director“) and Aubertine reminds us of a classic political appointee.

The Post-Standard reported that Cuomo expressed support for the idea of bringing in an experienced pro to direct. Good idea—what took him so long? Syracuse residents may view the search committee with some skepticism considering it’s being chaired by former mayor Matt Driscoll.

But in the interest of seeing growth and improvement at the Fair, we offer one suggestion. Give serious consideration to promoting from within as current assistant director Troy Waffner has demonstrated vision and leadership. Waffner has been around for a few years now and he knows the ropes.

He has been willing to listen to opinions and ideas from the public, something any director should do. This year he even did some of the media interviews one would expect of a director, while Ryan hid in his office. There will no doubt be other qualified candidates, but at least give Waffner a look, presuming he wants the job.

More on the director search later.

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