By DEBRA J. GROOM
Were you stopped as you left the New York State Fair this summer and asked to answer some survey questions?
If you did, the results of that survey are in.
Officials with the New York State Fair did the survey during the 12-day run of the 2016 fair to find out what people like about the fair, what they don’t like about the fair, which attractions are visited the most and if people are aware of some of the biggest exhibits at the fair.
A total of 600 fairgoers answered the questions. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
In all, visitations increased for most exhibits and attrractions. The Midway food, rides and games wre all rated highly and showed improvement over 2015.
There was high awareness of the wristbands, Megapass and Gold Access programs for the Midway and there also was high awareness for the Taste of NY program and the Dairy Cow Birthing Center.
The Dairy Cow Birthing Center had a highly positive rating of those who went there, with 83 percent giving it a thumbs up. Of those who saw the State Fair History exhibit, 76 percent gave it top ratings and 74 percent thought the equine demonstration was great.
Of agriculture exhibits, the butter sculpture and cheese sculptures in the Dairy Products Building are a big draw. A total of 81 percent of the people taking the survey said they checked out this exhibit. That is up from 63 percent in 2014 and 72 percent in 2015.
The entire Dairy Products Building is another popular spot, with 85 percent of the fairgoers surveyed saying they are sure to stop into the building to check out what’s happening there. That was up from 63 percent in 2015 and 61 percent in 2014.
The Horticulture Building is extremely popular, with 66 percent saying they always stop there. And one exhibit in the Horticulture Building — the New York Maple Center — always hit a sweet spot with fairgoers as 54 percent said they stop to check out all that is maple.
In fact, the maple center saw a huge increase in visitors — up from 38 percent in 2015 and only 28 percent in 2014.
Even though awareness of the Dairy Cow Birthing Center was more than 50 percent, only 33 percent of those taking the survey said they went to the center. That was the same percentage as in 2015 but up from the 22 percent in 2014.
Less than half of the respondents were aware of the equine demonstration ( 46 percent) and the State Fair history exhibit (42 percent). Awareness of the equine demonstration was down from the year before, when it was at 60 percent.
The fair’s annual survey found that 87 percent of the 2016 attendees rated the changes to the fairgrounds this year as positive. The fair also received record-high ratings for its family friendliness and affordability.
As part of the fair’s record approval ratings and record attendance for 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set up a new task force to provide recommendations to further improve the New York State Fair.
On Nov. 2, he announced the task force will recommend improvements for Phase Two of the State Fair Master Plan and evaluate options to maximize the state’s historic investment and grow the region’s economy.
He said the task force recommendations will build on the state’s $50 million plan to revitalize the historic fairgrounds in Onondaga County. The state will invest as much as an additional $50 million for the completion of Phase Two of the Master Plan, pending the recommendations of the Task Force and Legislative support.
“From the new Main Gate and Empire RV Park to the expanded Midway, we are bringing the New York State Fair into the 21st century to showcase Central New York’s beauty to more fairgoers – and this year’s attendance record is proof positive that our investments are working,” Cuomo said.
“We will continue our renewed focus on the fair to drive tourism in the region and move the economy forward,” Cuomo said. “I look forward to receiving the Task Force’s recommendations this fall and exploring new ways to transform one of Central New York’s greatest assets into a year-round economic generator.”
“The governor’s $50 million plan truly reinvented the State Fair, while remaining true to its focus on agriculture, great food and music and family fun,” said state Agriculture Commissioner and task force co-chair Richard A. Ball. “The changes were clearly met with great enthusiasm and the record crowds were proof positive that we got it right.”
“The success of this year’s fair also reaffirmed its importance as a major economic engine for Central NY and the State, and it is critical we continue to invest in its growth,” Ball said. “I look forward to the discussions of the new task force, which, I have no doubt, will provide valuable feedback and innovative ideas on phase 2 plans that will take the New York State Fair to a whole new level.”
“Our fair team worked hard to give people the best fair in our long history in our beautiful new home, and we look forward to the hard work necessary to make this second phase of the project into an even greater success,” said Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner.
Phase Two Improvements to the State Fair
The governor charged the new task force with making additional recommendations and developing fresh ideas for Phase Two of the state’s ongoing investment in the fairgrounds.
The task force will meet in November to review the State Fairgrounds Master Plan developed in 2015, and provide the Governor with their recommendations for additional investment opportunities by the end of the year.
Specifically, the task force will focus on:
** Improving transportation options between the amphitheater at Onondaga Lake to the fairgrounds, so fairgoers can make the most of this state-of-the-art facility during their visit;
** Addressing public transportation and parking around the fair to better accommodate the increasing number of attendees and make it easier for people to get to and from the fair;
** Building the partnership between the county and the village of Solvay to connect the work being done on Milton Avenue and along the Bridge Street corridor;
** Ensuring the fair remains a world-class showcase for our TasteNY entrepreneurs and leveraging the state’s beer, wine, spirits, yogurt, cheese, maple syrup industries.
Members of the Governor’s State Fair Task Force are: co-chairs Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County Executive and Ball; state Sens. John DeFrancisco, Dave Valesky and Patty Ritchie; Assembly members Bill Magnarelli, Pam Hunter, Bill Magee and Al Stirpe; RoAnn Destito, state Office of General Services commissioner; Matthew Driscoll, state Department of Transportation commissioner; Rick Fedrizzi, International Well Building Institute, president and chief executive officer; Charlie Smith, Populous Group; Eric Mower, chair and chief executive officer of Eric Mower and Associates; Christine Nycholas, Nicholas & Lence Communications; John Trimble, C&S Engineers; Frank Zaitshik, Wade Shows; Brian Schuman, Fair Productions; Eugene Cassidy, chief executive officer, Big E; Richard Lee, CENTRO; and Rob O’Conner, The Nationals.
Also contributing: New York State