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‘This is a really tough one’: New York State Fair canceled for 2020

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
The New York State Fair in 2019.

The New York State Fair will not open this year, due to the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference on Monday.

“This is a really tough one,” Cuomo said.

The decision was expected. Other states across the country have been canceling their fairs. Cuomo said back in April that partial reopenings would likely not include the fair. 

The fair was supposed to be expanded from 13 to 18 days this year. In 2019, the fair had a record attendance of more than 1.3 million people. The expanded fair was expected to create hundreds of additional jobs.  

“It’s been an economic boon for the whole region,” Cuomo said. “But this year we’re going to have to cancel it. That makes me personally, very unhappy, but that is where we are.”

Fair Director Troy Waffner said it’s not a surprise it came to this.

“You can’t help but feel a little sad that it’s happening,” Waffner said. “But the most important thing is you understand why it’s happening. We cannot allow for the spread of COVID-19.”

Over the past several months, fair organizers put together different plans on how they could have a fair. But ultimately, Waffner said, Gov. Cuomo couldn’t find a way to have the fair going while keeping everyone safe.

Waffner said they’re planning for the 18-day extension of the fair in 2021.

“It certainly gives us more time to plan for 2021 and make sure an 18-day fair goes off without a hitch,” Waffner said.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said while he supports the decision, canceling the fair is a huge blow to the economy.

“The reality is this year, we’re going to have a massive loss in sales tax and the businesses that usually make their living off these type of events, the hospitality industry, is going to have the worst year in its history,” McMahon said.

It's been more than 70 years since the last time the fair was canceled, when it was used as a military training base during World War II. 

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.