State Fair Hound

An independent view of the New York State Fair

Month: September 2014 (Page 1 of 3)

Falling for the Fairgrounds

For those of us who can’t get enough of the New York State Fair, there are plenty of off-season activities going on the grounds, from horse and livestock shows to trade shows, motorsports events, theater, ethnic festivals and so much more. Find them all on the Fair website,

But it occurs to us that with so many major fall festivals taking place throughout Central New York annually, why not another big blowout at the Expo Center? Picture the Horticulture Building and its reflecting pool surrounded by the fiery colors of fall and brought to life by a swarm of visitors celebrating the Empire State’s most distinctive season.

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We’re not suggesting anything nearly as grand as the Fair itself, but the facility lends itself to something to rival the Lafayette Apple Festival, the Golden Harvest Festival, the Central Square Apple Festival and really any you can name that are as much parts of autumn as falling leaves and pumpkin pie.
It could be a more relaxed, but still exciting and fun backdrop with less high-tech, sophisticated attractions than the Fair, not to mention less emphasis on glowing neon, and centering around great food, kid-sized rides and entertainment, a special autumn version of the Iroquois Village, antiques and fall products from wine to apples.

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The sky would be the limit if the event was successful and popular as we all know that the grounds can handle the parking, the staging of events at Chevy Court, indoors areas in any of a number of buildings, food stands galore and barns for animal events.

We don’t envision this fest as an extension of the State Fair, but rather as its own special event. We also don’t expect the Fair staff to take this on, but maybe deal with a major promoter to do the organization, promotion and operation. We remember an early version of the Taste of Syracuse being held at the Fairgrounds and Syracuse Nationals has grown into a tremendous perennial favorite, so we know unique festivals like this can succeed there. Might be worth a try.

Fair on the Air

You may not have noticed among the wave of campaign commercials on the television airwaves lately that one scene was filmed at the New York State Fairgrounds. A Cuomo commercial touting his pro-labor record features a photo of the gov shaking hands with UAW member Mike LaNasa near the Veterans Memorial.

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LaNasa is one of the labor leaders who have worked tirelessly to make the vets memorial a Fair landmark and one of the many reasons our Fairgrounds could never be duplicated anywhere in the state.

A Word From Our Sponsors

The Fair sent out an email press release today announcing a banner year in sponsorship with nearly $2 million in sales. As we pointed out in an earlier post (Counting on Success, Sep. 5), sponsors—you know, Chevrolet, Gianelli, Toyota, Budweiser, Time Warner and all of those– recognize the benefits of seeing attendance approach a million visitors, so this further validates promotions and improvements that boosted 12-day numbers to 965,147 fun seekers. Higher attendance equals more sponsorship dollars.

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It also gets us thinking about the proposed amphitheater and how moving concerts from the Grandstand to the lakeside would impact sponsor dollars coming into the Fair. Logically, Grandstand sponsorship would go down. Would other sponsors spend some of their money at the new venue and less on the grounds? As you know if you’ve been keeping up with State Fair Hound, we think it would reduce Fair attendance. Would that hurt sponsor intake? We don’t know the answers, but the questions need to be asked.

Incidentally, the release also said, “Four national brands and several regional brands that have never participated in the Fair have already begun discussions about participating in 2015.” More great news.

Six Nations Sensation

This lovely weekend is reminding the Hound of Labor Day at the New York State Fair, when this shot of the Iroquois Village was taken.

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The tiny Haudenosaunee reservation is a favorite Fairgrounds spot of ours, the perfect combination of relaxing, inspiring, artistic and historic. Resolve now to spend a little extra time there at next year’s Fair.

Your Ideas Wanted

When a Thursday rolls around, quite often we remember that the New York State Fair always opens on a Thursday, so you could say we’re one week closer to opening day 2015. OK, so it’s 49 weeks away, giving us plenty of time to anticipate, plan and voice ideas and opinions.

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Coincidentally, the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets sent out an email on Thursday encouraging suggestions and ideas from the general public. So come on, jump in. It’s easy enough, just email to

State Fair Hound readers know we’ve already ventured few, including improving the Chevy Court experience, expanding on the Agricultural Extravaganza, bringing back Toothpick City, featuring a daredevil act like a jet pack flyer or Nik Wallenda and reducing paid-admission acts, even if it means raising gate prices.

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Of course, Fairgoers’ annual requests will score high—more rest rooms, more benches and strawberry milk. OK, if you must, ask for those. But don’t forget to request your favorite musical acts and endorse the appointment of Troy Waffner as permanent director.

Wade to Go!

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Here’s one last (?) look back at the Wade Shows midway, which we found colorful and gorgeous. The excitement of having some new rides charged up interest and brought out the crowds. We’d have to give the Fair high marks for having the foresight to make the move after decades of partnership with the Strates Shows. Even if you didn’t judge the new midway as better than the old, the fresh start itself was great promotion. Throw in the one dollar ride special on Labor Day and you have to give this move a blue ribbon.

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Riding Into the Sunset

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Now two weeks after Labor Day, it’s time to move on from the 2014 New York State Fair. We’ll still take an occasional look back, but there’s so much to which we can look forward. We’re currently working on a list of topics for Fair discussion and we’d love to have you keep in touch as we move into the official off-season.

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Along the way, look for some great photos from the lens of State Fair Hound photographer Nick LoPresti, like these shots from the Fair’s closing days.

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If you didn’t get enough of the Fair and its home, sometimes called the Empire Expo Center, there will be plenty of events there throughout the year. This fall, you can get another look at some great horses at various horse shows on the grounds. Admission and parking are free. Just enter, usually through gate 2, and tell the security guard you’re there to see horses. He’ll wave you through and provide directions if needed.
If you get hungry while you’re there, the Bosco’s stand on Restaurant Row is usually open for horse shows, serving some food that’s similar to their Fair menu.

See you there.

Taking the Fair home

Some of us left this year’s New York State Fair with something that could be considered a souvenir. Perhaps the most coveted would be a prize snagged on the Wade Show’s midway, won by combining some skill and nerve with a little luck. If there’s an enormous stuffed dog guarding your bedroom right now, you can be proud. It’s not easy to break those plates, swish those free throws or ring those bottles.

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There are, of course, other ways to bring home a special reminder of the Fair. We heard about people who had cans of Coca Cola personalized, which is fun, but doesn’t really say State Fair. Same goes for fossils youngsters could mine from the Discover the Dinosaurs tent, cool, but not really Fair souvenirs.

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There were the usual t-shirts and baseball caps, along with a few assorted toys, mugs, pins, posters and other stuff, but one great souvenir debuted this year in the Grange Building at the State Fair history exhibit. There you could buy a metal Christmas tree ornament in the shape of the Horticulture Building. It’s the first in a planned series of pieces, with other Fair landmarks to follow in future years. We’re hoping this year’s will also be available next Fair as we forgot to get one before leaving on Labor Day. So we have another reason to look forward to State Fair 2015.

Picking a Winner

While the fun of New York State Fair 2014 is still resonating, we can’t help but think about more terrific times to come. A story today on CNY Central (if you can find it on their website, you’re ahead of us) reacquainted us with an old friend who had a moment of glory at the Fair that we’d like to see repeated.

It seems that North Syracuse resident Stan Munro has recently achieved a world’s record for building structures out of toothpicks. His replica of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai was certified the world’s tallest toothpick structure in the 2015 Guinness Book of World Records. It’s 16 feet high.

Munro’s first major project, Toothpick City, drew crowds of amazed onlookers to the Art and Home Center in 2005 to marvel at his scale reproductions of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building, the St. Louis Arch and many other famous buildings, a total of 50 in all.


That original project was sold soon after and is now on permanent display in the House of Katmandu, a museum in Mallorca, Spain. Munro subsequently went back to work, gluing together an even more spectacular collection he called Toothpick City II: Temples and Towers. That collection was displayed at the MOST in downtown Syracuse and is now a traveling exhibit.

Maybe it’s time for a return to the Fair for Munro’s quirky architecture. A steady stream of Fair visitors filed past the display, making it one of that year’s most popular exhibits. Next Fair will be 10 years after and we’ll bet the artist’s newest project would be just as popular. See for yourself at

Worth noting is that that same year, 2005, another traveling exhibit attracted crowds to the Horticulture Building to see a display of Elvis Presley Memorabilia. That type of spectacular collection is another thing that could make a great Fair even better.

Concerted Success’s Chris Baker has an article on the website with the concert attendance counts from this year’s grandstand concert series at the New York State Fair. We can’t figure out why the concert numbers weren’t released sooner, but it’s always interesting to get a look.

As expected, not-quite-country rocker Jason Aldean’s sold-out Aug. 30 concert was the big draw with 17,505 fans on hand, while the multi-band Uproar Festival was lowest with 3,487. Overall it looks like a good year with eight concerts averaging 8,641 seats filled. (The photo below of Brad Paisley performing during his Aug. 21 show is from the State Fair website)


Motorsports events on Labor Day weekend added 6,851 to the attendance numbers. Both concert and motorsports figures are significant increases over the 2013 Fair.
Overall, Grandstand events contributed over 75,000 to the total Fair attendance, a number we contend supports State Fair Hound’s position that a new concert venue belongs on land within or adjoining the Fairgrounds rather than on the lakeshore. More on that was spelled out in our July 11 post, Hold the Shows.

If you look around the edges of the grounds while passing, especially on I-695 (ideally while someone else is driving) there seems to be potential there to either build the amphitheater or to add parking/camping lots in order to make space elsewhere for a concert shell. We don’t know all of the details, nor have we done a study, but we think those in charge should take a look.

While we’re in the neighborhood of the Grandstand, we want to mention that we noticed an absence of attractions on the infield during the 2014 Fair. A number of things have been tried there over the years, but it’s tough to attract Fairgoers to what seems a somewhat remote, off-the-beaten-path location. Thrill-seeker adventures like go-carts or that giant human slingshot have been tried, as well as a circus and petting zoo and some sideshows like pig racing.

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You can take the ramp from the midway or the tram will take you there, but you have to know where you’re going and that creates a barrier for those who prefer to wander the grounds haphazardly. So this year, campers, cars and trucks had it all to themselves. There’s so much land there that there has to be a way to use it. We suspect this is an agenda item for Fair planners and maybe it could fit in with concert venue projections.

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