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Regional News

State Fair experiments with electronic tickets

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One of the biggest changes at the New York State Fair this year involves something everyone visiting the exposition will have to deal with -- tickets. This year, the fair in Geddes has started selling some tickets electronically.

Selling tickets at the state Fair hasn’t changed much over the years: you need a paper ticket to get through the turnstiles on any given day of the 12-day fair. And to figure out attendance, the fair counts them by hand, according to interim director Troy Waffner.

"Now we live with this arcane system when a truck comes through, picks up the paper tickets at 1:55, a bunch of 15-year-old kids count them under the grandstand, and we do that three or four times a day,” said Waffner.

This year, the fair is experimenting with online, electronic ticketing. You can get advance sale tickets, ride books, bracelets and multi-day passes online, on the state fair website. From there, you can print a ticket or have it sent to a smartphone, where they’ll be scanned at one of the fair’s entry gates. Waffner says it will give fair officials real-time attendance counts and other information they can use.

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"What it also does is tells us, Gate 3 between 11 [a.m.] and 1 [p.m.] on your average day of the fair, 6,000 people come through it. And it allows you to plan how do you redesign that gate eventually and how to get traffic there, and all that.”

And since the state has put aside $50 million dollars to renovate the fairgrounds next year, that information could be quite useful.

Paper tickets will still be available this year in advance at your local grocery stores, but this might be the last year you’ll be able to do purchase them that way.

"The idea is that next year, we’ll … go to exclusive electronic tickets and advance sale. And we’re taking an old system that’s been in place since the fair was founded with paper tickets, and trying to convert it to an electronic ticketing system, because that’s the way venues are going.”

So far, Waffner says sales online have picked up the closer it gets to the fair, which starts this year on Thursday, August 27.