Saturday, August 22, 2015

New York State Fair Opens Next Week

If there’s anything that says late summer, it’s the Great New York State Fair.

Twelve days of animals, rides, music, fun, education and of course, food, at the Aug. 27 to Sept. 7 event in Geddes, just outside of Syracuse.

2014 State Fair butter sculpture
Probably the least exciting of those is education, but learning is a big part of the fair, according to Acting Director Troy Waffner.

Fair-goers often ask questions of farmers and other producers who show animals or items they grow at the New York State Fair — the first such event ever held in the United States, in 1841.

“It’s our mission to promote everything agriculture in terms of education,” Waffner said. “When I was a fair-goer, I didn’t come here to be educated, but if you tricked me into it, I could find out the most interesting things in the world.”

This year’s fair will offer several new agricultural exhibits for fair-goers and even farmers and producers to check out:

** Equine Avenue exhibit: an interactive demonstration that allows patrons to interact directly with horses, their owners, vets and nutritionists. In a tent outside the Toyota Coliseum.

** Canning demos in the demonstration kitchen. On Aug. 27 and 28, this will feature demonstrations on the best way to can homegrown or locally grown food.

** Sweet potatoes offered in the potato booth for $1. That's in the Horticulture Building.

2014 State Fair Dairy Day Celebrity Milkshake Contest
** A youth horse show in the coliseum on Labor Day.

** New stalls and renovation in the DVM Barn. Dave Bullard, assistant public information officer for the fair, said these improvements will make working in the barn much easier and more pleasant for exhibitors.

** Vegan delight. The first all-vegan/vegeterian food vendor will be in the International Building. Syracuse’s Strong Hearts Café will serve 100 percent vegan fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner and will offer its menu of more than 40 popular milkshakes from its restaurant on East Genesee Street in Syracuse and its satellite location on the Syracuse University hill.

** Gladiola competition. Anyone at the fair at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 can join the new gladiola competition in the Horticulture Building. Fairgoers can try to make a gladiola bouquet arrangement in 10 minutes and then the audience will vote on their favorites.

**  War Dog Memorial. The unveiling of the new memorial honoring canines who have served in the military will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 3. The event will include a wreath laying by members of the military, assisted by Gold Star mothers, as well as brief memorial speeches from dignitaries. The memorial is at the Veterans Memorial in front of the
2014 State Fair maple winners
Horticulture Building.

** There will be no poultry exhibits due to concerns about the Avian bird flu. The flu has not been found in New York state, and state Agriculture and Markets officials want to keep it that way, so they canceled all poultry exhibits and competitions at county fairs and the state fair this year. 

** The piglets and sows will be back this year in the Swine Building. They were absent last year because of a problem nationally with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.

The most exciting of these new exhibits is the Equine Avenue. Waffner said there were comments in the past from fair-goers who were dismayed at not being able to get closer to all the horses for the International Horse Show.

Sheep at the 2014 State Fair
“They couldn’t get that close to them in the horse barns to see their beauty,” Waffner said. “With the horses outside on Equine Avenue, people will be able to pet them, take photos with them, paint them, and people who want to study equine science can check out all the breeds up close. Horses have a special allure, heritage and history.”

Another big change at the fair this year: the poultry building won’t contain any poultry.

The state fair and all county fairs in New York state canceled all bird shows and exhibits this year because of concerns about the Avian flu. 

None of the flu strain has been found in New York state, but the state Department of Agriculture and Markets wants to ensure that poultry in the state remain flu-free.

This also means the popular daily rooster crowing contest will not be held. The poultry building instead will house rabbits and cavies. The state fair is replacing the rooster contest with a rabbit-hopping demonstration on seven days.

There will be a special demonstration on Sept. 1 of combing and cutting fur from angora rabbits and spinning the fur into yarn to make hats and mittens.

The New York State Fair has operated since Sept. 29 and 30, 1841, except for 1942 through 1947, when the fairgrounds were used as a military base during World War II.

With state money given for the promotion of county fairs in 1841, the New York State Agricultural Society created the state fair, and more than 10,000 people attended that first year.

The fair moved around after that — to Albany, then to Rochester and other New York cities. But in 1890, Syracuse was chosen as the permanent site of the event.

This story originally ran in Empire Farm & Dairy magazine. If you're interested in more stories like this, subscribe to the magazine by sending $50 for a one-year subscription or $75 for two years to Empire Farm & Dairy, 260 Washington St., Watertown, NY  13601 

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