You never know who will show up at the annual New York State Fair, running Thursday, Aug. 21, through Labor Day Monday, Sept. 1. Since it’s an election year, it’s a safe bet that Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be hanging out on Governor’s Day, which takes place on opening day. (Fairgoers with long memories will recall the many times that Nelson Rockefeller was a perennial no-show.) Yet even though Hillary Clinton has a new book to promote, and possible presidential aspirations down the road, nobody knows yet whether she’ll be dropping by for a sausage sandwich.
The only sure things will be the concerts and guest appearances that have already been booked, everyone from Pitbull to charter members of The Brady Bunch sitcom, as the State Fair takes full advantage of its several performance venues. On some nights the entertainment menu goes into overdrive: On the evening of Monday, Aug. 25, the decision is between Kid Rock at the Grandstand, Dave Matthews tribute band Big Eyed Fish at the Midway Stage or stepping back in time with Steppenwolf at Chevy Court. Anybody got a three-headed coin?
Big touring acts usually hit the big-ticket Grandstand, which can seat up to 17,000, with country acts often capable of luring the most traffic. Aside from music, the Grandstand also hosts a pair of automotive spectacles: the annual Monster Truck show on Sunday, Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m., and the state Championship Demolition Derby on Monday, Sept. 1, 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.25 for each show.
Seating at the free shows of Chevy Court is quite variable depending on a headliner’s popularity; many patrons stand on the sidelines for an earful during concerts, which can attract more than 15,000. Fans have learned to stake their Chevy Court stomping grounds way early in the day, around the time that WSYR-Channel 9’s 10 a.m. infotainment show Bridge Street takes the stage, and long before the court’s evening show starts at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Midway Stage, located at the opposite end of the fairgrounds near the kiddie midway, has seen steady growth with its booking of statewide and national acts. This year’s admission-free shows, all at 7:30 p.m., include a warbling trio of former contestants from the NBC talent show The Voice (Thursday, Aug. 21), country crooner John Anderson (Friday, Aug. 22) and TV-made stars from Big Brother and The Amazing Race (Sunday, Aug. 31).
The air-conditioned Empire Theater, located within the Art and Home Center, also gets into the act this summer with two boob-tube events. On Saturday, Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m., fans of the soon-to-be-canceled gabfest Chelsea Lately can meet comics Fortune Feimster, Heather McDonald and Brad Wollock. And on Sunday, Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m., Brady Bunch alums Barry Williams, Susan Olsen and Christopher Knight will chat about their deathless sitcom. Tickets are $20 for either show, although the venue has limited seating capacity.
Brad Paisley. Thursday, Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m. The Grammy-winning Nashville cat will certainly boost opening-day attendance numbers at the fair. Also on the bill: Randy Houser, Charlie Worsham and Leah Turner. Tickets are $45, $55 and $65.
Uproar Festival. Friday, Aug. 22, 2 p.m. Grandstand backstagers will have a dickens of a time tearing down the Paisley setup and then working to install two separate stages to get this hard rock fest going for an afternoon start. Longtime rockers Godsmack climax the daylong blowout, which also includes music from Skillet, Pop Evil, Escape the Fate, Suicide Girls, Redlight King, Three Years Hollow, Sons of Revelry and more. Tickets are $40, $50 and $60.
Pitbull. Saturday, Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m. The Miami rapper specializes in hot-and-heavy dance grooves that will get lots of backfields in motion amid the rumpshakers. Tickets are $37, $47 and $57.
Kid Rock. Monday, Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m. The durable Detroit blues rocker, not quite a kid at age 43, can still deliver a kick-ass concert. Tickets are $47, $57 and $67.
Train and The Wallflowers. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m. An inspired teaming of two popular modern rock bands that got their starts in the early 1990s, with plenty of chart hits between them. Tickets are $35, $45 and $55. .
Carrie Underwood. Wednesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m. The second salvo of country music at this year’s Grandstand features the State Fair return of Underwood, perhaps the best-known alum from the American Idol series. Tickets are $50, $60 and $70.
Journey and Cheap Trick. Thursday, Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m. This double-barreled blast of rock from the 1970s and 1980s features the endearing pop hits of Journey (with lead singer Arnel Pineda now hitting the long-ago high notes of Steve Perry) and the forever crunchy power punk personified by Trick veterans Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander. Tickets are $45, $55 and $65.
Jason Aldean. Saturday, Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m. The white-hatted country hitmaker wraps the musical entertainment at the Grandstand, with Florida Georgia Line getting the party started. Tickets are $57, $67 and $77.
Kellie Pickler. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2 p.m. The country star from American Idol jumpstarts the venue with her high-spirited music.
Barenaked Ladies. Thursday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m. The Canadian alt-rockers will probably receive royalties for years thanks to their contribution of the musical theme for the sitcom smash The Big Bang Theory.
Smash Mouth. Friday, Aug. 22, 2 p.m. The pop rockers garnered a new fan base when their cover of the Monkees’ hit “I’m a Believer” turned up in the Shrek flicks.
Jason Derulo. Friday, Aug. 22, 8 p.m. The urban rapper behind the catchy “Talk Dirty” and “Wiggle” should attract a huge posse to Chevy Court.
Sean Kingston. Saturday, Aug. 23, 2 p.m. Expect reggae riddims and more during this afternoon concert.
The Bacon Brothers. Saturday, Aug. 23, 8 p.m. During actor Kevin Bacon’s downtime from starring in the Fox procedural The Following, he teams with his composer brother Michael and hits the road for some music dates.
Ashanti. Sunday, Aug. 24, 2 p.m. The alluring singer brings hubba-hubba hip-hop to a Sunday afternoon.
Young the Giant. Sun. 8 p.m. Not to be confused with Andre the Giant, this Southern California quintet will appeal to the indie-rock demographic.
Herman’s Hermits. Monday, Aug. 25, 2 p.m. Peter Noone brings back the innocence of the British Invasion with his substantial catalog of 1960s chart smashes.
John Kay and Steppenwolf. Monday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. Vocalist Kay will always be identified for his classic-rock contributions to “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.”
Bowzer’s Rock’n’Roll Party. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2 p.m. The Sha Na Na veteran presides over a medley of acts (Gene Chandler and Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon among them) and goofy audience-participation segments.
Night Ranger. Tuesday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m. Enjoy 1980s-era stadium rockers from this big-hair band behind “Sister Christian.”
Anne Burrell. Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2 p.m. TV chefs are always fun to watch, but it’s even more amusing when Chevy Court visitors start drooling.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Wednesday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m. Looking unchanged since her 1980s heyday, Jett’s primal rock’n’roll never goes out of style.
Angie Johnson. Thursday, Aug. 28, 2 p.m. Nashville starlet has The Voice to thank for her musical career moves.
Eli Young Band. Thursday, Aug. 28, 8 p.m. Texas-bred barnstomers Mike Eli and James Young return to Chevy Court with their smooth country grooves.
The Neighbourhood. Friday, Aug. 29, 2 p.m. The indie rockers, formed way back in 2011, are just getting warmed up.
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Friday, Aug. 29, 8 p.m. The purveyors of authentic Jersey Shore rock’n’roll return after getting rained out at Chevy Court a few years ago.
Uncle Kracker. Saturday, Aug. 30, 2 p.m. The kinetic country rocker entertains the afternoon shift.
Bell Biv Devoe. Saturday, Aug. 30, 8 p.m. The 1990s-era soul popsters behind hits like “Poison” will kick out the dance jams.
MKTO. Sunday, Aug. 31, 2 p.m. The newbie pop duo of Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oiler specialize in catchy tunes.
Phillip Phillips. Sunday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m. The 2012 American Idol winner already has two albums on his resume.
The Doobie Brothers. Monday, Sept. 1, 6 p.m. Chevy Court closes with a bang with this early-evening concert by the rock veterans, followed by a fireworks display.