People who say the Fair is always the same old thing must have missed professional boxing, a well-attended performance by ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, the state finals of the Colgate Country Showdown, two days of motorsport events at the grandstand and a variety of new attractions, most of them geared toward children.
The first weekend, weather was touch-and-go, with heavy downpours at times, especially the first Friday, but after that, it was clear sailing with moderate temperatures and bright skies. That sure helped draw more than 970,000 customers and overall attendance was good, though the elusive goal of a million rotations of the turnstiles hasn’t been repeated since back-to-back counts in 2001 and 2002. But with an annual event, you have to treat people well and inspire them to return next year if you want the event to grow. Team O’Hara could use some improvements in that area.
At Chevy Court, there were two different acts each day, rather than the traditional two daily sets by the same performer. It seemed like a great idea and some shows were very popular with fairgoers, but several overflow crowds made it hard to enjoy the music. The longstanding tradition of having special acts booked on Senior Citizen Days to appeal to the more mature set was largely absent.
Bwana Jim’s Wildlife Show, the Extreme Canine Triathlon and the Cornell Solar House were the best additions and the Fair’s past was honored as the 100th anniversary of the Dairy Building drew recognition to the venue’s handsome and historic architecture. Rumor has it that a refurbishing of the Horticulture Building’s art deco facade is in the works for the coming year. The relocation of the Sand Sculpture to the Center of Progress proved to be no big deal, but it did raise the question of how these great old buildings are used as there were no major exhibits booked in them as in the past.
Grumbling continued from wine drinkers and for some reason the new wine village next to the coliseum was shrouded behind a tent while the neighboring beer vendor was wide open. The Fair continued to give the same ridiculous spin to explain last year’s move from the colonnade area, that there were complaints about congestion. There aren’t many businesses that would complain there are too many customers, so that explanation still makes no sense, and the utter disregard for those who expressed dissent was a painful look into the future of a director who hears only his own voice.
The new tower in front of the Lottery Pavilion looks nice, but its use as another surveillance point for State Police doesn’t add anything to make it a valuable spot for Fair visitors. Another opportunity missed to add customer service.
At the grandstand, fans at some shows were again denied entrance if they were carrying a capped water bottle. Those in charge should stop wasting their time dreaming up and enforcing such illogical rules and spend more time and resources making that venue pleasurable for customers. How about cleaning off filthy, sticky seats between shows, for instance?
Meanwhile, O’Hara watch, year three, continues with a twist. If he isn’t forced out by a critical report from the IG, he’s likely to stay on another year After that, the next move is up to the voters with some observers considering Gov. David Paterson on life support. And a new governor often means a new Fair director, maybe one who actually considers popular opinion.