Nothing marks the end of summer in CNY as the Great New York State Fair! It’s summer’s last hurrah for those of us who grew up here and continue to call this upstate location home.
I have been attending the fair since I can remember. This year as I walked around the fairgrounds with friends I reminisced about a time, long ago and, ahem, far away, when I was in a stroller and my best friend Jimmer was in his stroller next to me as our mothers pushed us through the mid-way. I can still feel the stroller jolt as it encountered the thick rubber coated electrical lines that were sprawled across all the walkways. My thanks to the hard plastic coverings used today that are stroller friendly!
My friend and I talked about the many memories we have as we walked through the buildings and made our way to our favorite food stands. I remembered how my mother made us go through every building before we could go to the mid-way. Torture!!
We both laughed when we shared how much thought we’d put into our choice of outfit to wear to the fair once we were old enough to go to the fair without adult supervision. There were some fairs I should not have gone to without an adult, however, fair thee well I did!
I also went to the fair this year with another friend from the mid-west. I love showing him my version of the fair. Where I like to get my Arnold Palmer lemonade and where the best food stands are located. I point to out to him the pool of water in the center of the park area that I jumped into one of those years I shouldn’t have been at the fair without an adult. I left the fair with only one shoe on that year. My mother, who picked me up, never questioned where it was; thankfully!
I recall the concerts where I danced away a summer day or night. I remember The Cowsills, Sonny & Cher, Ray Charles, Grand Funk Railroad, Whitney Houston, The Guess Who, Joe Cocker, and my all – time favorite, I’ve seen him 3 times now at the fair, Kid Rock!! There are many more on my list of show memories from over the years. I may not list them here, but in my memory they gather together as a collection of voices still present and warm on my soul.
I recall the grandstand track where my mother and I ate, till we were sick, a pound of fudge while watching the demolition derby! Who can forget the thunderous noise of the Labor Day Car Races or the Mid-Way where on any given day you could be enduring the heat, the cold, the rain, or a hail storm as summer in CNY ends and fall begins.
All the games! Whack a Mole, Shotgun Shooter, that miserable clown! This year I was concerned that I would not get my yearly fix of I Got It because of the new mid-way vendor, but praise be the gods of all good things, there it was like an old friend, “all ready now, you’re just in time, toss in ball number 1”…I Got It!
Of course what fair would be a fair without the rides! The SkyRide, the Big Wheel, the Himalaya, the Double Ferris Wheel each with competing speakers blaring music to attract riders to their rides and those ever sophisticated thrill rides along with the piercing screams from the riders. Along the periphery of the mid-way is where the Haunted House, the House of Mirrors, the Peep Show, and the Freak Show dominated! Remember the World’s Largest Alligator?!
Number one for satisfaction is the food! Where do I begin! The smells that make a memory come alive! The smell of sausage, peppers and onions cooking on a grill represents the smell I most associate with the fair. The Bloomin Onions, corn dogs, grilled corn on the cob, steak sandwiches of every kind, loaded or not; they made my fair shine! Then into the dairy building for ice cream and in my day a nickel cup of milk, still a value at 25 cents, but how come they don’t sell Strawberry milk anymore? Remember cramming through the crowd to get up close to the glass cooler with its revolving butter sculpture? The walk away sundae, fried waffles with powdered sugar, funnel cakes, apple pie or apple dumplings both alamode! The free, well almost free, baked potato! The beer tent, the wine slushies, sno-cones, cotton candy, candy apples, hot dogs 2 for a $1.00, fudge, cheese samples, and popcorn in every color of the rainbow! These are what memories are made of!
Come one come all, and we did, year after year after year. We grew from the kiddie rides to the big rides. We graduated, went away to college, came back home, got married, had children, bought houses and brought new generations to our Fair. We watched them as they created their own fair traditions. We pass along the fair to our friends and family the way we pass along a treasured possession, with love.
I still get a knot in my stomach as I leave the fair for the last time in a run. With pizza frites in hand I remind myself I don’t have to go back to school next week and I’ll most likely be back next year to relive the memories of the fairs past, create new fair memories, and pause to be grateful.
I’m grateful to have a place where I encounter the essence of those who walked the fair with me over the years. Some have moved away, some I’ve lost touch with over time, and others have seen their last state fair in this lifetime, yet every year I sense them enjoying the fair on another level! And they’re not alone. They’re joined by the many souls who’ve come to the Great New York State Fair over the years! The fair gets in your blood and spirit. I believe once I’m gone a part of me will still linger on the fairgrounds too!
In an ever chaotic world there is one thing for certain; during the last week of August thru Labor Day in Syracuse, NY, the Great New York State Fair is happening. The daily news will report the number of people who have passed through the turnstiles and compare the numbers with the attendance from years past. Imagine how the numbers would rise if they could count all those there in spirit too!
Roseanne Olszewski is a writer, thinker and all around spiritual disciple who believes in the power of owning your presence in the world. We are all here for a reason, what is yours? The owner of a Metamorphosis, Become Who You Are Meant To Be!, Roseanne works as an educator, consultant and counselor, focusing on personal development.