Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What's New at the State Fair?



Visitors to this year’s New York State Fair are going to be so bombarded with new they’ll think they’re at a completely different fair.

Even before you enter the fair, you will start noticing some of the improvements taking place as part of the $50 million state fairgrounds redesign – the most significant transformation since it first opened its gates in 1890. 

Changes include:

  • Electronic ticketing at the new Main Gate, getting you through the gate even faster;
  • Free USB phone charging in the expanded Midway – which now includes at least 70 rides, a Kiddieland area, and shaded rest areas;
  • Free samples of New York food and beverages at the new Taste NY Market; and
  • RV parking at the brand new Empire RV Park with 315 sites.
From the front gate to the midway to the food to a slew of special events, there are new things to see and do and ingest at every turn at the New York State Fair, which opens Aug. 25 and runs through Labor Day.

There also is an app that you can download for the fair. Go to http://nysfair.ny.gov/your-visit/get-our-app/ to get the app.

Here are some of the new and exciting items awaiting fairgoers:


** Centro’s State Fair Park-N-Ride network will debut two new locations (Destiny USA and Long Branch Park) in an effort to increase bus frequency, shorten wait times and move more people during the upcoming 2016 New York State Fair. 

Buses will leave every 8-10 minutes from Destiny USA and every 12-15 minutes from Long Branch Park. The Park-N-Rides at Destiny USA and Long Branch Park will replace Park-N-Rides previously operated by Centro at ShoppingTown Mall, Seneca Mall and the Regional Market.

** Trams around the fairgrounds will be free every day this year. Trams used to be free only on the Senior Days, but now, you can jump on a tram to get to your favorite building or event any time during any day. This is thanks to Chevy, which is donating Silverados to pull the trams for the 12-day fair.

The Yellow Fellow
** The Big Yellow Fellow. Syracuse’s Big Yellow Fellow barcycle is another way to see parts of the fairgrounds. The device has a table area in the middle (where samples of New York state food and beverages can be served or musicians can perform) and 10 bicycle seats along the outside in which people sit and peddle to propel the barcycle around the fairgrounds. 

The Big Yellow Fellow will be set up next to Pizza Villa behind the Dairy Products building. The cost is $5 per seat. Michael John Heagerty and Michael Giannattasio run the operation, which began earlier this month in Syracuse.

** Bicyclists can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Onondaga County’s trail along Onondaga Lake and a day at the Great New York State Fair on the brand new “Ride For $5 Day,” Wednesday, Aug. 31. 

Fairgoers will be able to participate in a group ride that begins at the Salt Museum at Onondaga Lake Park at 9:30 a.m. and then will travel along the western shore of Onondaga Lake on the Onondaga Lake Trail past the Lakeview Amphitheater concert venue and ending with a ride through the brand new Main Gate of the fair.

All riders must wear helmets and must sign a waiver before participating. The ride is free. The discount admission price is available to anyone riding a bike to the fair that day even if they do not participate in the group ride and is good for only that day.

Once inside, bikes will be checked into a secure parking area with staff on hand, provided by Mello Velo. The bike shop will also staff a tent outside the Science and Industry Building for the day, offering free light adjustments and lubes for bikes, product demonstrations, and will be selling bike accessories and other items.

** There will be no fairgoer parking (other than handicapped) in the gray lot and there will be more handicapped parking in the pink lot.


The $50 million construction project at the fairgrounds has brought many new sites to see.

The first is the new entrance. The historic quad of the fair will be more open, with more seating than ever. The quad begins with the new main gate and new entrance plaza inside the gate. Nearly all vendors have been moved out of the area to make this area of the fair more open, comfortable and welcoming.

There also is a new layout to the fairgrounds. Vendors and activities have been moved into a unified district, centered on the new main street through the center of the grounds called Broadway. The Midway, the popular Dairy Cow Birthing Center and most vendors and activities will be there.

There also are many more benches and open areas for people to enjoy, including some beautiful landscaping on Hiawatha, which runs behind the Science & Technology, Dairy Products and International buildings.

New York Harvester is Thanksgiving in a sandwich.

** The New York Harvester is this year’s new food at the Great New York State Fair. Jim The Fry Guy will cook up a sandwich complete with deep-fried turkey breast, deep-fried mashed potatoes, deep-fried stuffing, deep-fried bacon, melted cheddar cheese, cranberry sauce, gravy and secret Fry Guy sauce on two slices of sourdough bread. It’s Thanksgiving in a sandwich.

** The Great New York State Fair’s first-ever kosher food booth will debut at the 2016 fair. Catering by The Oaks will be located in the Horticulture Building next to Doug’s Fish Fry. 

The menu will include a mix of traditional kosher dishes such as potato knishes, bagel and lox sandwiches, gluten-free citrus salmon lettuce wraps and chopped salads as well as kosher dishes given a fair twist — deep-fried apple blintzes coated with cinnamon and brown sugar, deep-fried cheese blintzes served with sour cream and fried matzo balls.

** The ever-popular $1 Baked Potato Baked Sweet Potato Booth has been moved to the former Horticulture Building restaurant site, which also will house other agricultural exhibits. It will anchor one end of the new Agricultural Experience area. 

The Taste NY sampling area will anchor the other end, moving from a tent near the main gate. Also in this area will be the honey exhibit and the New York Apple Association exhibit.

** The Rainbow Milk Bar in the Dairy Products Building is dropping the word “Rainbow” from its name. It now is simply the Milk Bar and it will continue to serve 7-ounce cups of white or chocolate milk for 25 cents each..

** My Lucky Tummy is a one-day (Saturday, Aug. 27) popup food event along Chevy Court, featuring Pakistani dishes such as pakora chaat and qeema bhare karela and a special milkshake.

** A Texas twist on tater tots, an eggroll suitable for dessert, and more.

** Other new food vendors include The Chicken Bandit (specially seasoned chicken and more); Smokin Pete’s; Toss n’ Fire Wood-Fired Pizza; The Nut Shack – Flavored and roasted nuts; Carolina Snobiz – Shaved ice and a Hawaiian hot dog; Carvel Dewitt – Carvel soft ice cream and specialties; TJ Food Holdings – The “Empire Plate in a Cup” and a variety of other meaty specialties; Maurice Grove – Snack items that appeal to wine and beer customers; Essence of N’Awlins – Gator n’ Taters, Gator on a stick, Andouille sausage on a stick, fried frog legs, boiled crawfish, jambalaya; Varano Super Jump – Italian ice; Cocoa Forte – Chocolate-dipped cheesecakes on a stick with a variety of chocolate dip flavors with dry toppings and syrups; Cuban Sandwiches; and Gance Complete Catering – Ice cream


** The Live Stingray Exhibit is new this year and you can catch it in the Toyota Coliseum. These graceful sea creatures can now be seen up close and personal. This interactive exhibit lets you safely touch and view stingrays, while learning more about these wonderful creatures and their sea life from knowledgeable educators and videos. Free.

** Fans of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” will have a unique opportunity to hear from and meet Teresa Giudice, who will be discussing her new memoir at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Empire Theater in the Art & Home Center. 

Tickets are on sale now and are $30 for admission to the moderated question-and-answer session and a meet-and-greet with Giudice afterwards, or $20 without the meet-and-greet opportunity.

Meet-and-greets include an autograph, a 5”x7” photo of Giudice, a photo taken with her, and a gift. All tickets include admission to the fair. Tickets are available at http://www.etix.com/ticket/v/8927. Etix, the fair’s official ticket vendor, charges a small additional fee per ticket. Beer, wine and other beverages will be available in the theater.

Giudice is a mainstay in the cast of “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” which begins its seventh season in July by chronicling her emotional return to her family from prison.

** In honor of Beef Day Aug. 30, the New York Beef Council, along with Tops Friendly Markets, has challenged NYS FFA Student Chapters, to “Create the Perfect Burger” as a way to win money for their FFA chapters.

Eleven FFA Teams will cook off in an Iron Chef type competition at this year’s annual event. The FFA students will grill-off at noon on Beef Day. Competing will be FFAs from Beaver River, Genesee Valley, Gouverneur, Hamilton, Madison, Marcus Whitman, Otselic Valley, Penn Yan, Stockbridge Valley, Tri-Valley and Walton.

Each team will receive 1.5 pounds of ground beef and four buns and is allowed to bring one “secret ingredient” and “plan” their recipe in a first grab, first keep market basket ingredient offering. 

The grand prize is a $500 check.

** Several new Midway rides, as the Midway expands to fill a larger space. There will be at least 70 rides this year, about eight more than in previous years, including the largest traveling roller coaster in the east. And the Kiddie Midway is in a defined space much closer to the heart of the Fair.

** PAW Patrol. The popular Nickelodeon TV show spends three days at the fair as part of a national tour.  The New York State Fair is the only stop on the East Coast for this event and calls are coming in from as far away as South Carolina from people interested in bringing their children to it. Kids take part in their own interactive PAW Patrol adventure and meet the characters.

** Baseball and football skills competitions. In the new grassy area along Broadway, an eight-day baseball and football skills competition will take place. The first three days will feature young people testing their football passing and kicking skills, while the remaining days will feature young home run hitters, pitchers and fielders.

** A new culinary competition will be held for jellies and jams made without commercially-prepared pectin, sponsored by Hunter & Hilsberg.

** There will be no antique car show this year at the fair.

** The Indian Village has undergone some new entrances many renovations in the off-season. 

Butterfly exhibit
** The popular Butterfly Exhibit will for the very first time feature butterflies from around the world. The exhibit’s owner, SkyRiver Butterflies, worked for several years to secure federal government permission to show foreign butterflies in a traveling exhibit. The Great New York State Fair will mark the first time that has happened.

The exhibit, located in the Horticulture Building, features up to 1,000 live butterflies. The beautiful creatures fly around the enclosure and land gently on people, creating some of the most unique photo opportunities available at the fair.

The exhibit used to house about a dozen domestic butterflies. SkyRiver Butterflies is building an all-new enclosure for the exhibit and extra precautions will be taken to ensure the butterflies do not escape the exhibit, in line with the federal government requirements to prevent the spread of foreign, invasive species.

Admission to the exhibit will be $2.

** Big cats. An exhibit called Cats Gone Wild will show people the large cats of North America and explain how they live. It is located in an exhibit area adjacent to the Youth Building.

** The Lost Person Booth, where parents can get tags for their kids, is now located next to the State Police exhibit between the Horticulture and International Buildings.

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