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New York State Fair changes midway, keeps traditional flair

Courtesy of Wade Shows
One of the new rides coming to this year's New York State Fair.

Every year there are new attractions or cosmetic changes at the New York State Fair in Geddes. This year, when the fair gates open Thursday, visitors will see some of the most dramatic differences in decades.

It’s the biggest change at the fair in 73 years, says Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner. An all new midway, with long-time show operator James E. Strates out and Michigan-based Wade Shows in.

Credit Wade Shows
Wade Shows is introducing several new rides to this year's fair, including two roller coasters.

"Wade came in with a great proposal that includes a huge selection of thrill rides, kiddy rides, there’s actually going to be two Kiddylands now -- probably the biggest selection of thrill rides the fair has ever seen," Waffner said.

"On top of that, they came in with misting stations, covered seating areas for hundreds of people on the midways. And they’ve made a commitment to New York state, by all the food that they need for the New York State Fair, when they can, they’ll purchase from New York state growers, producers and manufacturers.”

For thrill seekers, this specifically means a new list of rides, including a couple of big roller coasters.

“This midway is coming with the second largest movable roller coaster in the country," Waffner said. "And then they actually purchased another new roller coaster they are bringing called the Crazy Mouse, that spins individually while you’re going over the track.”

Wade Shows won the contract to run the midway for the next decade, beating out Strates, that had been the face of the midway for more than 60 years. Waffner says Wade will give fairgoers more value by offering all day wristbands every day, as well as a $70 megapass that covers the duration of the fair.

Credit Wade Shows
One of Wade Shows' new thrill rides, which will debut at this year's New York State Fair.

As far as other changes, the wine court is back on the Colonnade near Chevy Court, and it’s expanded to include craft distillers and craft brewers.

There is also a move to get more people to come out on Labor Day by keeping prices for admission, some food and rides to a buck and changing concert schedules.

"We’ve moved our eight o'clock concert to six o'clock and it’s going to be the Doobie Brothers, because I think a lot of people don’t want to come out at 8:00 Labor Day; you have to go to school, you have to go to work," Waffner said.

"So we’ve moved that to six, so that gets over at 7:30 or 8:00 and then we’ll have fireworks as kind of the end of the fair, and we’re closing the fair at 9:00.”  

And this year’s new fried food? Deep fried spinach dip.
"The deep fried spinach dip actually sounds somewhat appetizing," Waffner said. "You get into some of these foods, it’s more for the glamour of saying sausage wrapped in bacon, but deep fried spinach dip doesn’t sound bad.
The fair is also adding a few Wi-Fi hotspots at the International building, the Colosseum, and the Dairy Cattle building, and other tech offerings.  

“It’s Wi-Fi, we’re going to have electric car charging stations, we’re going to have cell phone charging stations," Waffner explained. "For the first time ever, we’ve done or we’re doing online advance sales of advance sale ride bands, and tickets. We’re slowly moving ourselves into the 21st century. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close now.”

Waffner says bringing Wi-Fi to the whole fair is a major undertaking.

"We’re not going huge this year," Waffner said. "But the plan is to build out the system over the next few years. Because to make the investment to make the entire fairgrounds Wi-Fi available or Wi-Fi hotspot is fairly expensive. Because you’re asking about sometimes 100,000 people on the fairgrounds who might want to access Wi-Fi at once.”

In the end Waffner says every edition of the New York State Fair is a lesson in how to balance the new, and the old.

"We always fight the battle that everyone wants to come to the fair and have the traditional thing they’ve always done," Waffner explained. "The sausage sandwich, the butter sculpture, the sand sculpture, the 25 cent glass of milk. And everybody else who says to us, 'You don’t change a thing. We’re not coming back until you change it.’

"So it’s always those two competing worlds. I think this year we have 24-25 new ideas, exhibits and attractions, and we’ve hung on to everything people love about the fair. So if you like traditional, we have that. If you like new, we have something for you to check out."

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.