August 12, 2016

Grains of Salt (v12): The Great NY State Fair

The Great New York State Fair is just around the corner.  The twelve-day extravaganza of food, music, rides, games, competitions, and people-watching starts on August 25th, and as might be expected, things are moving a furious pace to get ready.

We all remember the implosion of the Grandstand, and the resulting landscape changes - sort of our version of someone coming in to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. When the Fair is not in town, that's what it looks like - a giant stone parking lot, with a few street lamps and not a whole lot else.  This helps make the midway bigger and allows for more rides, but it's hard on the eyes, and harder on the reminiscing.

Of course, had they not taken down the Grandstand, there would be no Lakeview Amphitheater, the new venue for paid Fair concerts. I think this will be an interesting test for the Fair. Will people still come and spend hours on the grounds before their concert and then head over to the Amp for a show, or will they skip the Fair and go straight to their concert?  And how will either of those scenarios impact the bottom line for Fair vendors?

Other changes that have made the news include two of the most popular attractions at the Fair.

First, there was the threat to double -- double! -- price of the 25-cent cup of milk at the Rainbow Milk Bar, a long-time Fair staple. Not only that, but we learned that the powers that be are changing the name to just the Milk Bar, since there are only two flavors now. The name change will likely go through, but there's been a reversal on the price change.

David Lassman photo/
Why, you ask? Because ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes sometimes come when politicians see an opportunity, and our Sonofa Gov is no slacker in this department. In a statement announcing that the state will kick in $90,000 for the non-profit that runs the milk bar, Governor Cuomo noted
The Great New York State Fair showcases the very best New York has to offer, which includes milk and dairy products that are second to none. This action will help ensure more visitors drawn by the Fair's $50M renovation will taste the difference for themselves.
I'd have paid the 50 cents for a cup of nice cold New York chocolate milk, one of the highlights of the Fair for me, but I admit it'll taste better at half the price.

And -- this is a big one - they're moving the baked potato booth to the empty restaurant in the Horticulture Building.

Readers not from around here might wonder what the attraction is of standing in line for a long time -- I mean, a long time -- to get a piping hot baked potato in the heat and humidity of late August or early September in Central New York, but this is a huge draw and, next to four cups of chocolate milk, it's the best dollar you can spend at the Fair.

The latest kerfuffle involves the park-and-ride spots. Centro, our public transportation company, has long offered State Fair shuttles from various locations. This year, three spots in Onondaga County are being consolidated into two, including one moved from a mall to a park somewhat off the beaten path. Centro is facing some pressure on this, as they do with every change they propose in the area's transportation schedules.

Will everything work out in the end, like the battle over the milk prices? There's less than a week to get everything squared away, so one can only hope.