The 13-day run of the New York State Fair begins Wednesday, and officials say they’re gearing programming to reach a more diverse audience. They’re trying to build on a 40 percent increase in attendance since the state poured $120 million into the fairgrounds.
Director Troy Waffner says Governor Cuomo’s tale of the long-forgotten coke can on a wall actually makes a good point about how the fair was stale without a lot of new ideas.
"He's changed the culture by telling his Coke can story over and over, so we plan something new and different every day. We have biker appreciation day, we have adopt-a-pet day; then we add paddleboard yoga and so much more. It gives people a reason to keep coming back. When I was young and used to come to the fair, you could come to the fair one day and be done with it because nothing changed the next day. Now there's something new and different every day."
Biker appreciation day, by the way, is August 24th with free motorcycle parking and one dollar admission with a valid motorcycle license. Fair spokesperson Dave Bullard says part of appealing to a wider crowd means some different performances in Chevy Court other than the typical country or classic rock.
"With only 13 days to program, if we're going to include other genres, we're going to add rap and hip hop, classic country and modern rock. With Lindsey Stirling this year, I don't know what genre she'd fit into as an electric violinist and dancer. If we're going to include all of those things, it means less of some of the things you got used to."
Lindsey Stirling performs in Chevy Court this Friday at 8:00 p.m. Other changes include nine new rides on the Wade Shows midway. Above the crackle of radios and ringing phones, Bullard and Troy Waffner say the partnership with President and CEO Frank Zaitshik has been mutually beneficial since it began in 2014.
"As soon as they got here, ridership on the midway and revenue to the fair grew substantially. It's a revenue share for us," Bullard said.
"They've doubled revenue on the midway in the last five years," Waffner added. "To Frank's credit, because he travels all over the country and does most of the state fairs, he isn't afraid to share advice, so he's given us a lot of pointers and helped us up our game in our presentation because his is so fantastic."
Just off the midway, the fair is adding seven family movie nights in the Expo Center, where there’s also an indoor turf field featuring soccer, lacrosse, and bocce tournaments, as well as large lawn games. Other changes include a new name for the International building…now called the Eatery for all the food served there. And, naturally, there are dozens of new and strange food and drink offerings.
Parking’s been tight with so many visitors…1.27 million last year…so the fair added a new 1,800 space parking lot on Willis Ave. where Centro shuttles will take visitors to the new gate 10 bus depot near the Gray lot. The new accessible Emerald lot replaces the former bus depot at gate one. Details, schedules, maps, and more are at nysfair.ny.gov.