A look ahead at the 2011 New York State Fair promises that the pattern established in recent years will continue, with a concentration on presenting a wide variety of musical acts, more infrastructure improvements, plenty of sideshow entertainment for kids, another location change for the wine village, some new rides on the midway and at least one rookie entry in the sweepstakes for the most ridiculous food item.
The Fair will try a couple of methods to cope with massive crowds for Chevrolet Court shows, including a new sound system featuring a line array speaker arrangement, promising better listening with smaller, more efficient speakers angled to provide to the most bang for the buck. At the entrance to the Dairy Building, WSYR-Channel 9 will be back, but this year their jumbo monitor will depart from station programming during Chevy Court concerts to broadcast a view of the stage.
The Uncork New York Wine Village’s new location features a larger, more open tent behind the Horticulture Building. Vinophiles who don’t get the message and show up at last year’s location, down near the Coliseum, won’t be disappointed as a satellite stand with three wineries will hold down that spot. This change allows the popular Butcher Boys restaurant to reclaim their longstanding location in front of the Agriculture Museum.
The replacement of the rundown P-Z- O’s eatery eliminates the rare design of the old stand that actually allowed diners to sit inside the structure, rather than around the perimeter. But it looks snazzy and an expanded dining area will extend to next-door neighbor Danny D’s as a brick patio covers the ground formerly occupied by Gepetto’s as a common seating area.
Among the relatively slim lineup of new entertainment this year:
• A troupe of African acrobats tumbling, vaulting and forming human pyramids on the colonnade.
• A petting zoo stocked with such exotic animals as apes, wild cats, llamas and kangaroos behind the Horticulture Building.
• An artist who will set up in the colonnade to paint at high speed, dashing off portraits of celebrities and famous scenery.
• The Caboodlestoppers, a mixture of puppetry, costumed characters, singing and dancing in Kiddieland.
• The Walker Brothers Circus, replacing the Coronas Circus in the Adventure Zone, near the entrance to the grandstand.
Returning favorites include the venerable sand sculpture, being built by a new team of artists at the Center of Progress Building. A trio of dandy animal acts, the Extreme Canine Stunt Show, the Wild World of Animals and Wild About Monkeys is back as are the dazzling juggling stunts of Hilby. Check the Fair’s website, www.nysfair.org, for performance times.
The James E. Strates Shows promises some new rides including the Sky Flyer, a 98-foot tower swing, and the Ali Baba, an all-ages ride that simulates floating on a magic carpet. Strates will be using a credit card-style scanning system instead of paper tickets for the first time.
One new food item is the donut burger featured at the Big Kahuna stand. As the name implies, it’s a grilled hamburger nestled on a glazed doughnut instead of a burger roll. Serving it with a slice or two of bacon completes the case for just calling it the cholesterol burger.
One favorite food stand that won’t be on hand this year, after 16 Fairs, is corn roaster Shukkers. The business owner, Mike Bambrick of Syracuse, moved since the 2010 Fair, causing him to miss getting his renewal application in the mail.
“When we didn’t hear from them by the February deadline,” explains Fair assistant director Troy Waffner,” we had to make the assumption they didn’t want to return.”
Bambrick applied as a new vendor, but was notified in May that he was not selected by the new vendor application committee for a spot this year. The family business sold its golden ears at a few small festivals this summer to keep active and has a website, www.shuk kerscorn.com, where supporters can get information and buy a Shukkers T-shirt. They’re hoping to return to the State Fair in 2012. “They said they’d try to work with us to get us back next year,” Bambrick says.
There’s been more progress toward the completion of the Iroquois longhouse, so it looks like this year we’ll finally be able to tour the Haudenosaunee model home. The first longhouse, built in 2000, was tremendously popular until it collapsed in stormy weather in 2006. The framework for a new model was erected last year, but not completed in time for the Fair.
With grandstand tickets selling well and a Chevy Court lineup Fair director Dan O’Hara thinks may be among the best ever, a good run of weather could mean this will be the year Fair attendance once again tops a million. Those who visit and have some feedback to share are encouraged by O’Hara to submit suggestions on the Fair’s website.