State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Month: August 2014 (Page 1 of 3)

Horse Sense

Isn’t it irritating when you’re excited to see some beautiful show horses and the barn is closed as it was in this photo taken Saturday morning?

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Of all the farm animals on hand at the New York State Fair—Public Relations Director Dave Bullard told us there are 10,000 animals there each year—horses are probably the favorite. Some horses, generally of the larger breeds, are on hand in the small barn just up from gate four, near the Iroquois Village.

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But here’s another idea. Designate a place on the grounds where visitors can visit and pet a few friendly steeds any time of the day. Maybe we can even feed them a carrot. It’s a simple thing, but Fair fans, especially city dwellers, would consider such an opportunity a real treat.

Speaking of farm animal treats, the Agriculture extravaganza has become a Labor Day tradition and it’s one we have come to love. On Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. visitors can walk the dirt floor of the Coliseum and go eyeball-to-eyeball with examples of New York’s best livestock.

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Visitors get to see a few of several different types of animal and visit with farmers and staff. The experience is designed to be interactive and there’s a chance to win prizes. The whole exhibit is free.

More Than The Midway

When Labor Day weekend arrives and the Fair winds down, we encourage Fair fans to take stock of what makes them love the Fair. As much as we enjoy the new features–and this year there have been many—It’s the traditions we cherish most. For native Central New Yorkers, Fair memories start in childhood, so make at least one more trip to our beloved annual expo and make sure the kids get more than crazy rides and junk food.

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Stop at the sheep barn to see how much care and hard work goes into raising them, then cross the street to the wool center to see how the wool is processed and woven into yarn. See kids, the clothes don’t just come from a Chinese factory. There are people with dedication and skill who make them in New York.

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Kids seem to love watching the bees at the honey strand in the Horticulture Building. The better, healthier sweetener is made for us by insects and brought to us through the labor and expertise of New York beekeepers.

After gulping a cup of New York milk at the Rainbow Milk Bar (shouldn’t they bring back strawberry or change the name?), cross the street to the dairy barn and watch those youngsters doing the heavy lifting and painstaking care that produces that milk. If you time it right, you can watch the milking being done.

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While there, tell the kids to look into the huge eyes of the heifers and consider the importance of laws and practices that insure humane treatment of dairy animals and livestock in general. New York has organic farms and small family operations that are more likely to meet humanitarian standards.

There’s plenty of diversity in New York, demonstrated at the Fair at the Iroquois (let’s drop the word “Indian”) Village and the Pan African Village. It’s a good time to celebrate the food, artwork, dancing and history of various cultures, all part of our home state’s heritage.

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Skip the petting zoo and instead see the Hawk Creek birds of prey and the Wolves of the World, where kids can see nature’s awe-inspiring predators up close and learn why it’s important that they be protected and preserved. Respect for wildlife is a life lesson that can start young at the Fair.

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There’s little time left, but remember, Labor Day admission is only a dollar. Get the family out there as a summer send-off, before the kids have to face that other “s” word. Sure, eat fried dough and hit the midway, but also explore for the exciting, painless lessons that will create Fair memories that last long after the sugar rush and dizziness subside.

Photos of cows and eagle by Nick LoPresti.

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Major Makeover Time

The view of the Horticulture Building from benches in the memorial area in front is one of equal parts awe and concern. The glorious building with its art deco façade and sturdy stonework is the centerpiece of the Fair, it’s face reflected in the adjoining pool.

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But signs of age are visible from many angles. Weeds protrude from the high on the walls. Signs of leaching can be seen in several spots. Decorative fountains on either side of the main entrance haven’t been operative in years. Loose bricks threaten its integrity and, most disturbing, the intricate and beautiful main entrance archway is chipped and worn.


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A restoration is definitely in order for the grand dame, constructed in 1937. It will take a lot of work and no doubt be very costly, but it has to be done if it is to survive. And it certainly must be preserved. Where else in Central New York or anywhere in the state would you see a building as uniquely spectacular? It wouldn’t be the New York State Fair without it. Time to get to work.

We were glad to see on the grounds a new receptacle for recycling. The navy blue two-sided cans accept paper or bottles. The green drink container barrels are also around and we hope to see an increased emphasis on recycling during the Fair.

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Another method of recycling is creatively demonstrated in the Bucket of Junk competition in the Horticulture Building. Entrants were given an odd and sundry assortment of stuff—a paper cup, a rubber glove, a big paper clip, some nuts and bolts and other things. They then had to create a work of art from what they were given. The result is several wacky, but clever creations. Our favorite was the red ribbon winner, a caricature-ish statue of Liberty.

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Not far away, teams of construction industry pros built structures using donated cans of food. Canstruction, as it’s known may seem like a silly pursuit, but there are hundreds of cans used and all of them will go to the Food Bank of Central New York after the Fair.
Photos by Nick LoPresti.

Four To Go

Labor Day weekend looms and if you haven’t been to the 2014 New York State Fair what are you waiting for? If you have been, go again. And again.

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It’s a great Fair and there are some dandy new features, documented here at State Fair Hound. But we always think that the best thing about the Fair is returning to the annual people, places and things that we love.

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They’re back—Dippin’ Dots, Footsie Wootsie, I Got It, Hilby, Pizza Fritte, sculptures created from sand and butter and barn after barn of great looking animals
Throughout today’s post, we’ll features some new photos from the lens of Hound photographer Nick LoPresti, hoping you’ll enjoy them and they’ll motivate you to head out (or head out again).

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The Eli Young Band’s performance last evening at Chevy Court—poorly covered by our town’s daily paper—was disappointing. Not only because this supposedly country band played primarily light, soulless rock or even because lead singer Mike Eli’s singing—distorted all night long–didn’t approach the quality of their recordings.

Classic Chevy Court rudeness made it even harder to enjoy. The Fair has promised to improve the fan experience there, so the Hound will jump in with some ideas in the form of rules fans should follow, recognizing that enforcement is most attainable through people being more considerate:

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Don’t smoke. It only lasts an hour to 90 minutes and you’re surrounded by people who will appreciate it.

If you’re in the bench area, use the benches. That means sit down most of the time. An occasional standing ovation or quick photo is OK, but many people wait for an hour or more to get a seat for the show, then have their view blocked by some knuckleheads who thinks they have to stand. There’s plenty of space for those who prefer to stand off to the sides and behind the benches.

If you want to talk to your partner or friend, do it somewhere else. People are there to hear the performers, not you.

Texting is OK, but if yakking on the phone isn’t.

Take up only the space you need to be reasonably comfortable and make room for others where possible.

It’s a start and we’re open to more ideas. The first two items (no smoking, sit down), we propose become actual rules, subject to enforcement by staff. Remember, even a free show is no bargain if you can’t see, hear and breathe.

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Peaceful Village

We took a stroll yesterday, getting off the blacktop to enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the Iroquois Village. It’s another one-a-year Fair locale we love, but so different from anything else on the grounds.


Take, for instance the 17th century Longhouse, an authentic portrayal of how the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) lived long before the area was named New York. There’s always a friendly staff person on hand to answer questions about how the structure was built, heated and insulated and how it’s inhabitants lived and cooked. There are examples of early tools and crafts and posters documenting construction of the building.

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Nearby, there are rustic structures exhibiting works of native handiwork including amazing beadwork on pillows, moccasins, quilts, some as fine as you would see in a museum. Iroquois-grown vegetables prove that farming is still a valued skill.
A handmade dugout canoe sits in the yard, near ear of corn obelisk and a peace pipe sculpture, icons of the Six-Nations culture. Amateur archers can try their skill at the rate of five arrows for $2.

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There are six-to-eight shacks with crafts–handmade jewelry, beaded items and dream catchers, many items sold by artists. Indeed, some artists are working on pieces as you watch. Mohawk Wood carver Tracy Thomas, carves and sells intricate canes, walking sticks and plaques with native designs.

Browse all types of jewelry, including turquois, precious metals and rare stones. There are some mass-produced toys, but they’re easy to spot. Handmade moccasins, including adorable baby sizes are hard to find elsewhere.

The Six-Nations Cookhouse features home-cooked meals, such as turkey, chicken and biscuits, spaghetti and mac and cheese, for those who’ve had enough deep-fried everything.
The cookhouse is known for its hearty breakfast.

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Demonstrations of Iroquois dancing and music are staged several times a day, one of the Fair’s great traditions. You can spend money in the village, but you can also have a great time for free. Photos by Nick LoPresti.

Coming and Going

A toast to one of the Fair’s new attractions, the Taste NY Wine, Beer and Spirits Village at the Colonnade. It would be a mistake to say that the wine tent is back. The new setup is far beyond what it was, much larger, a better atmosphere and, as the name indicates, selling beer, cider and liquor, though it’s still mostly wine.

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There are now about 20 vendors pouring drinks among the columns and more space has been opened up, particularly on the side of the Dairy Building where the Anthony’s stand had been located for many years. More area is covered by tents and there’s space to walk around and tables for both sitting and standing. And now, unlike the old wine court days, patrons are free to take their drinks along as they roam the grounds.

A helpful Fair employee at the Agriculture Museum today explained Nick Nichols absence from the tree-shaded spot he has been using to stage his antique tool demonstrations. She said that Nick had intended to be at the Fair this year, but is recovering from surgery that prevented his return. She said he was planning to make this his last year with us as he is cutting back his work schedule. But his health prevented him from making his farewell appearance, so we won’t have a chance to say so long.


Nick is one-of-a-kind, a master of his craft, who delighted in showing it to Fairgoers and did so with humor as he taught us with expertise and unbridled enthusiasm. Many of the woodworking tools his skilled hands manipulated have been replaced by modern technology, but Nick himself is irreplaceable. We miss him already.

The poultry building houses row upon row of domesticated birds (like the beauties shown here in Nick LoPresti photos) making it a mandatory Fair stop for something city folks would never see otherwise. It’s loud and smelly, but fascinating. Rabbits and cavies are also displayed there and the duck pond is great stop for some splashing fun.

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As the Wade Shows brought in some thrilling–or maybe terrifying–new rides, sometimes old favorites had to move out to make space. The only one worth missing is the beautiful and iconic wave swinger, the focal point in Strates Shows’ midway. It’s strange to stroll a midway without it, but it’s memory has been preserved with countless photos, including the one in the State Fair Hound masthead. We think we’ll keep it, at least for now.

Coasting Along

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Now nearing the mid-point of a Fair that has gone very smoothly, aside from unsettled weather at the beginning, you can’t argue, it’s been a great ride. As the slogan says, there’s a nice blend of new attractions and old favorites. That balance is crucial to making customers happy. One woman we encountered on day one, ventured a negative comment, something like, “This fair isn’t as good as before.” That was at 11:55 on opening day. The Fair had been open for under four hours. We’re betting that she’s changed her mind by now.

This would be a good time to review the Fair visitors guide and the website ( to check off everything you’ve done and everywhere you’ve gone and, more importantly, what you have yet to do and where you have yet to go. You don’t want to make your final visit before realizing you missed some great attractions and events. Check ‘em off so you don’t miss anything at the New York State Fair.

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Peter Noone charmed an overflow Chevy Court crowd on Monday afternoon, interspersing good humor with great old songs that brought smiles to the overheated senior day crowd. Between Herman’s Hermits’ hits, Noone and four Hermits played a few numbers by other acts, including a dead-on, only-slightly facetious version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

Still youthful and energetic, Noone said he sings the songs just as he did when he was 17, proving it repeatedly with everything from “Wonderful World” to “I’m Henry the Eighth, I am” to “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” He garnered laughs telling the audience the band got lost on the way to the Fairgrounds, but were OK with winding up in Liverpool. His best lines recognized his own senior status and that of the grandparents listening, at one point announcing they had 8-track tapes for sale. Of course they couldn’t compare with his dynamic live show.

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Many Fair visitors push through the turnstiles knowing what they’re going to eat, which sights they plan to see and which game they want to try. Some come armed with an all-day ride pass and coupons to save money on Restaurant Row.

But when it comes to the merchandise being sold from one end of the grounds to the other, vendors court buyer impulse to make a buck. For some reason, people who would never wear a cowboy hat are tempted at one of the western wear shops. Others paw through pet supplies, sunglasses, toys, gadgets, hand-made crafts, stuffed animals and souvenirs.

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Longtime traveling shops like Dancing Bear offer a variety of exotic treasures and sports memorabilia shops zero in on fans who see their favorite team’s logo on a cap, shirt or decoration. It may not be something you really need, but the Fair is the perfect place to overlook need in favor of impulse. Good thing it’s only once a year.

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Into Something Good

It looks like the torch has been passed at Chevy Court as this year’s featured senior day performers are solidly within the baby boom generation. Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone bring their 60s pop memories back on Monday at 2 p.m., while the inimitable Bowser hosts his rock & roll party on Tuesday.


Gone are the days of Rosemary Clooney and Lawrence Welk. If you are a member of the Elvis/Beatles/Dick Clark generation, you qualify as a senior. At the Fair that means free admission on those two days (age 60 or older) and some court acts that’ll take you back to the days of sock hops and pegged jeans.

One of the Fair’s favorite annual acts, street performer Hilby (seen in a photo by Herm Card) returns for his first shows of this year Monday at 1, 3:30 and 7 p.m. Juggling, unicycle riding and comedy come together for a great show that’s as much fun the 10th time as the first. Hilby usually draws a crowd in front of the Science and Industry Building at Chevy Court.


Another annual favorite, antique tool aficionado Nick Nichols (captured here by Nick LoPresti) is conspicuous by his absence, his traditional spot in front of the agriculture Museum vacant. State Fair Hound has reached out to the Fair to inquire about Nick and we’ll let you know what we find out.


For those who are looking for their gyro fix, Middle Eastern food vendor King David, run by Charlie (pictured) and Nader Hatem, has moved down a bit from their usual location in front of the Grange Building. They’re on the same roadway, but further from the Times Square tower, closer to the Science and Industry Building.


In and Out, Up and Down

Day four is upon us, a gorgeous Sunday, so get out there. Every day State Fair Hound will offer a few more observations to help you enjoy your time there. Today’s post features new photos by Nick LoPresti.

While the New York State Fair is best known as a place to have fun, some fairgoers are actually finding inspiration for a new career in the Science and Industry Building. At one booth leaders in the field of nursing and several New York colleges are providing a look at the future of nursing and opportunities available to people interested in pursuing a nursing degree. Staff is on hand, distributing printed material and answering questions from visitors as part of their Campaign For Action. Stop by to find out if a nursing career may be right for you.


Car enthusiasts should hit the brakes when they see a tent behind the Horticulture Building that houses a half-dozen classic rides. Alongside a 1932 Packard that was once owned by Franklin Roosevelt, an Olds 98 and a Lincoln Continental, four Mustangs from different eras are on display, recognizing this year as the 50th anniversary of that beloved Ford coupe. Most impressive is this silver blue ’64 beauty, top down and ready to cruise the coast highway or hit the drive-in.



Rides were flying on the midway this weekend, including several first-year attractions guaranteed to tousle your hair, churn your stomach and send your pocket change careening onto the pavement. Hairpin turns make the Crazy Mouse jolting, while the Vortex is a pendulum ride with seats that spin as the rotating post constantly flips them. The RC-48 roller coaster has lived up to billing with banked curves and a high peak.




Third Day Themes

Things are heating up at the Fair and we’re not just talking weather.

Hawk Creek Wildlife is back with their impressive birds of prey. Their tent is one site further down from their usual location.

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We always like to see what’s inspiring the youngsters in the youth building. The 4-H kids never fail to impress. This group for instance, is demonstrating robotics.

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Today’s tour of the midway saw everything operating and flowing smoothly. We’ll have photos of some of the newer rides soon. In the meantime, theses furry prize critters have a great view from their perch, surveying Wade Shows’ snazzy game alley.

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