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Changes coming to next week's NYS Fair

Ellen Abbott
Finishing touches are being put on the new Expo Center at the State Fairgrounds before the Fair opens Aug. 22.

If you are dreading going through withdrawal symptoms when the Erie County Fair ends on Aug. 19, you can still get your fair fix with a drive down the I-90. The New York State Fair starts Aug. 22, the capstone of which will be a 136,000-square-foot Expo Center described as the largest indoor event space between Boston and Cleveland.

Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner says the new Expo Center is part of the second phase of a $120 million plan to revitalize the fairgrounds.

"You actually walk onto an outline of the State of New York that's been embedded in the floor," said Waffner as you walk into the Expo Center. "It's a beautiful structure just in the lobby. And you walk in the expo space, it's 250 feet wide and 440 feet long. You can slide the statue of liberty in there, and she'd have plenty of room to roll around."

For the Fair, a temporary ice rink will feature all sorts of ice related events from hockey to broomball. Waffner says once the ice is gone, the venue is already two thirds of the way booked with shows for next year. 

Another big part of the state investment also went into a new parking lot, called the Orange Lot, which will hold 7,000 vehicles as well as a new exit. Waffner expects parking to become more efficient.

"Last year on Labor Day, which was our biggest in the Orange Lot, over the entire day which means we turned the lot over, we parked 7800 cars," said Waffner. "This parking lot will now hold 7,000 cars without turning it over. So if you turn it over you hold 14,000 cars."

The Fair is also spending more on entertainment this year than ever before. Waffner said they are spending $2.1 million this year on acts, compared to $1.8 million last year. One of the reasons is that the Fair is booking big acts not just for Chevy Court, but also a new six-acre festival grounds on the west end of the fair. 

"We're programming more and more down there this year, including bigger national acts," said Waffner. "Putting a free ride down there to draw people down there. In five years, it's going to be the gem of the fairgrounds. It can actually hold twice the number of people in a concert than Chevy Court can dream of.  It's just a big open spot."

These investments follow up earlier renovations to the fair, which the state says helped set attendance records in recent years. The 2018 edition of the New York State Fair runs from Aug. 22-Sept. 3.

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