Many local enthusiasts of the New York State Fair learned recently about the enormous contributions made to its success by former marketing director Joe LaGuardia. Sadly, they learned about LaGuardia’s transformational 32-year career in Geddes through news coverage following his death on May 14.
Conversely, those who worked with him in entertainment- and tourism-related fields knew very well about the dedication and professionalism of the Syracuse native son. And they’ve joined with friends and fans near and far to support a suggestion put forth in the June 20 Syracuse New Times advocating for formal recognition of LaGuardia by naming the State Fair’s Grandstand stage in his honor. While The New Times’ Facebook page lit up with 45 likes from readers, emails from as far as Pennsylvania and Vermont documented the respect and affection LaGuardia enjoyed among his peers and colleagues.
Great Allentown (Penn.) Fair marketing director and talent buyer Bonnie C. Brosious said LaGuardia’s ability to engage major performers for the State Fair was legendary. “Following his departure from the fair,” she continued, “companies had to be secured to replace his duties and contributions. That alone is evidence of his stature in the entertainment industry.”
David F. Grimm, general manager of Vermont’s Champlain Valley Exposition, credited LaGuardia with taking the lead in routing big-name acts through several fairs in the Northeast. “Representing the largest fair,” he wrote, “Joe was always at the center of ideas.” While pointing out that many similar businesses have named facilities for individuals deemed deserving, he closed by saying, “I agree that the stage in front of the Grandstand should be named for Joe LaGuardia. It is a wonderful gesture and I hope it happens.”
New York City booking agent Adam Kornfeld praised LaGuardia’s “care and diligence in booking talent and his uncanny follow-through all the way to the day of the performance.” He said that he will be calling it the Joe LaGuardia Stage from now on. “I hope that name becomes official before the fair opens this year.”
We’ll have to add Nashville to the places from which we got responses. Bonne Sugarman, a senior vice president in the Nashville office of APA, Inc., a national talent agency, praised LaGuardia’s character as “rare in our business, or in any business,” and asserted “naming the Grandstand Stage at the New York State Fair the Joe LaGuardia Stage would be more than fitting.”
Closer to home, endorsements for the idea came from management of Turning Stone Resort and Casino, the University Sheraton and the Doubletree by Hilton. Among the friends, musicians and fairgoers joining the campaign, bandleader Len Colella, the son of longtime State Fair musical director Stan Colella, for whom the Chevrolet Court stage is named, gave LaGuardia a rousing fanfare, calling him a mentor.
As momentum in building the case for a tribute grows, these responses, together with any others we receive, will be forwarded to state officials.