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2019 New York State Fair open for business

The 2019 New York State Fair runs through Labor Day
Tom Magnarelli
The 2019 New York State Fair runs through Labor Day

The New York State Fair opens its gates for a 13-day run today, with more than a million visitors expected to descend on the Syracuse fairgrounds.

A decade or two ago, a million visitors to the yearly exposition was the exception. Attendance settled in the 800,00 to 900,000 range. Compared to other state fairs, it didn’t break the top ten.   But since the state started sinking millions into fair infrastructure, and a new administration started different programming and marketing initiatives, attendance has increased 41% in the last three years, according to State Fair Director Troy Waffner, making New York the third largest state fair in the country, behind Texas and Minnesota.

Beyond the state’s $120 million investment, Waffner credits the ability to offer new attractions to fairgoers every year as one of the reasons more people are coming.

And this year is no exception.

Among some of the new things visitors can experience is yoga on a paddle board, which can be tricky says SUP Yoga’s Michael Calogero.

The 2019 New York State Fair butter sculpture
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
The 2019 New York State Fair butter sculpture

"Some of the benefits of stand up paddle board yoga is a little bit more focus," said Calogero. "So you’re focused on your posture. Some of the things you take for granted on land, you focus on."

There will be nine new rides on the midway according to Frank Zaitshik owner and operator of Wade Shows.

"The ride with the most sex appeal is called The Frisbee, it’s made in Germany and the only one that travels in North Americam," Zaitshik said.

And of course there are new food offerings, including Sudden Death, described by Fried Specialties owner Jim Hasbrouck as two hamburgers stuffed with macaroni and cheese and pork belly, wrapped in a basket weave of bacon strips, and deep fried.

"We think we hit one," said Hasbrouck. "People love bacon, people love pork belly, people love cheese, so let's put it all together."

Waffner believes there's enough entertainment and traditional fair offerings to keep the momentum going at the revamped fair after  three record setting attendance years in a row.

"Whether we set a record for a fourth year in a row or not, we’ve established the fair as a fair that the expectation should be 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 million," said Waffner.

This year's State Fair runs through Labor Day.

Copyright 2019 WRVO

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.