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County fairs ‘blindsided’ by state fair’s date extension

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Rides at the New York State Fair.

County fair administrators said they were blindsided by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement to extend the dates of the New York State Fair from 13 to 18 days. It’s a concern because now the state fair will overlap with eight other fairs, including Erie County. Officials were worried those extra five days could conflict with ride commitments, vendors and competitions. 

Ed Rossley, president of the Delaware County Fair, which is also affected by the change, said Cuomo’s announcement of the state fair expansion two weeks ago during his budget address took everyone by surprise.

“People had heard rumblings but you always hear rumblings," Rossley said. "All of a sudden, it became a reality and it became a reality fast and to no answers that anybody had. That’s the problem.” 

Rossley said if it was something county fairs knew last year, they could have planned for it.

“But all of our fairs are pretty much planned out," Rossley said. "Everybody’s fair dates are all set and it goes out. From that point on, it’s tough to change.”

Officials from county fairs with overlapping schedules met with New York State Fair Director Troy Waffner last week to discuss their concerns. One issue is the food and clothing vendors who may already be set up at one fair by the time the state fair now begins. Waffner said they’ll talk with vendors on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ll work with the vendors to make sure that if they want to play Erie County and they don’t have the equipment to play us, that we will make accommodations for them to come in at some point and play the fair,” Waffner said.

The state fair is also going to run the same 13-day schedule it had planned for agricultural and kids competitions.

Another problem for the Delaware County Fair are the rides. Wade Shows, which runs the rides on the state fair's Midway, uses the same company, Dreamland Amusements, Delaware County uses. After discussions, Waffner said Wade Shows will not book with Dreamland to avoid that conflict.  

In terms of the communication, Waffner said he first heard about the expansion late last year.

“Us talking about it in November, it’s still an idea, it’s not real until the governor announces it,” Waffner said.

And he said it’s not up to him to dictate policy. He implements it. He said the governor’s goal is to grow the fair and change it every year, not to hurt other fairs.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.