The Chevrolet Court lineup brought out thousands of music fans, including State Fair Hound photographer Nick LoPresti.
Every August, the grassy yard in front of the Youth Building on the grounds of the New York State Fair is transformed into a tent city. Young performers and their families arrived early to pitch the makeshift dressing rooms to allow scores of talented kids to don their costumes and apply make-up to their wrinkle-free faces in preparation for a brief turn in the spotlight at the Talent Showcase
Each contestant will cross the blacktop walkway and climb the stairs to stage level for their chance to be part of the State Fair version of American Idol. Every year about 2000 aspiring stars put their talent and dreams to the test, their sights set on taking home the grand prize in their age group. There are the minis, ages 12 and under and the maxis, over 12.
While the youngsters clearly get a thrill from their time in the spotlight, parents and coaches revel in the reflection, packing the bleachers to applaud and shoot photos or videos of their little stars. A trio of judges reviews each round from a tower that faces the stage, with the 10 top-rated acts chosen from each preliminary event to advance to the semi-final round on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The champion is crowned at the finals on Labor Day.
Every year the New York State Fair’s Center of Progress building hosts dozens of vendors who pitch their products with the chutzpa, showmanship and humor.
It’s a unique sales method since fairgoers may not be ready to buy the gadgets, cleaners, polishes, housewares and toys that abound in the Center of Progress Building. So the sales pitch has also to be a show, entertaining and enticing the visitors to stop and see what’s going on instead of strolling by. They make some lofty promises that spark some onlookers to reach for their wallets and others to scurry toward the door.
Keep in mind that just as the sales people need to be highly skilled to make a living selling at fairs, the consumers have to use some skills of their own to make sure their getting their money’s worth. It’s trickier than buying in a local department store or specialty shop, since theses sale people will be long gone in a few days. Some products clearly display the name and address of the manufacturer on the packaging, but some don’t offer a hint. That may be one reason you should pay with a credit card if possible, since your Visa or Mastercard bill will list the company name and city.
One big advantage is that you can buy infomercial products without paying shipping, while still getting a good deal.
Seasoned hands and mature hearts produce a stunning array of inspired works for the Senior Arts and Crafts Show in the air-conditioned Somerset Room, on the lower level of the Art and Home Center. Sculptures, pottery, paintings, quilts, afghans, photos, stained glass, miniature models, needlepoint, dolls, teddy bears, embroidered clothing, woven baskets and wooden furniture, all created by artists 60 years and older provide plenty of reason to linger and browse.
This year’s entries are impressive as the senior artists reflect favorite themes of their age group, with children, cats and old-fashioned items perennially popular. Grandma Moses has nothing on these talented folks, so pay them a visit.
Chevy Court fans were treated to a passionate and sultry blues concert on Thursday night at the New York State Fair. Just after dusk, LeAnn Rimes’ strong, supple voice caressed the lyrics of her often funky, always bluesy songs filling the crisp evening air with steamy perfection.
You definitely couldn’t complain about the quality of the performance unless, and this is the big caveat, you attended expecting Rimes to deliver the lone country music concert on the Stan Colella stage at this year’s Fair.
Country it was definitely not. Even when the still-young songstress dipped into her songbook of country hits, she modified the style to conform to her blues identity, slowing down “One Way Ticket,” her first country chart-topper, to a barely recognizable torch ballad. Likewise, her maiden hit, “Blue,” was rendered as a syrupy dance.
You can’t say that Rimes didn’t sing any country songs, but her cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” was a performed as a molasses-slow wail. To her credit, she is one of the few singers performing today who can do justice to Patsy Cline covers and her Cline medley was as close as she came to country, but really, Patsy herself often bent toward blues.
Country fans hearing LeAnn sing Diane Warren’s “How Do I Live” could never be blamed for wishing they were hearing Tricia Yearwood’s more commercially successful and artistically superior version of that song. This night, fans who came expecting country were probably already wishing that they were hearing Yearwood or one of dozens of other country singers. Instead, although LeAnn Rimes’ Chevy Court nocturne was lovely and solid, many fans went home disappointed.
There are so many country acts on the road, it’s hard to accept two consecutive Fair’s without one or two lighting up Chevy Court. Acting Director Troy Waffner says they’re trying to get them here and he’s a straight shooter, so he deserves to be believed when he says that. But they’ve got to try harder. This is something that can be accomplished and something that must be done.
Waffner says he hears from country fans. He needs to hear from more of us. Contact him on the Fair website, www.nysfair.ny.gov, or call him at (315) 487-7711.
State fair visitors, surrounded by food vendors selling deep-fried twinkies, chocolate-covered bacon, Dippin’ Dots and rainbow-colored cotton candy may think that there isn’t anywhere on the grounds to buy real food, but they’d be wrong. A large corner stand across from the dairy cattle barn takes pride in serving tasty and wholesome food, something they’ve been doing in the same location since the early 70s.
The Grange Ox Roast stand is a rare oasis in a sea of junk food fads. They have no deep fryer and no interest in joining the competition, passing off culinary novelties as fair food. They’re best known for serving a dinner of sliced or barbecued beef with sides including a baked potato, applesauce and tossed salad. But if your party includes a finicky kid, you can get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—skip the peppers and onions.
Not to forget breakfast, Fair workers and early arrivals know that the Grange serves a fine one featuring eggs, bacon, ham, home fries and omelets. New Hope Mills pancakes are topped with genuine New York maple syrup. The stand opens daily at 7 a.m.
The all-volunteer crew is the friendliest on the grounds. Most staffers are Grange members there to support the rural community service organization as all profits go to the Grange.
The New York State Fair’s best entertainer–the torch-juggling, unicycle-riding, wisecracking phenomenon known as Hilby is back, performing three times a day through Labor Day. Take note–Hilby has a new performance venue, the Sports Activity Center, which is a basketball court on the State Fair Blvd. side of the Coliseum.
While it may be less convenient for some fans, there’s bleacher seating and more space to accommodate spectators. It’s near tram stop 10. Of course, the show is still hilarious and spectacular.
Don’t forget your camera.
The I Love New York Tourism folks have taken over the main gate-adjacent wing of the Center of Progress with a novel and whimsical photo set. Really, there are four sets, each featuring scenery from a famous Empire State locale to serve as a backdrop for visitors to take a shot of friends and family posers. You can choose a canoe trip, a fishing expedition, a mountain peak or a race track–or maybe all four. The realistic murals and 3-D props will make convincing pictures to take home as a Fair souvenir. There’s no charge and photographers who post their pics at #NYStateFairSelfie may see them on the big screen at Chevy Court.