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Regional News

NY State Fair opens with first makeover in more than a century

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Ellen Abbott
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WRVO News File Photo

The 12-day New York State Fair begins today in Syracuse. And it will be a different experience for everyone, after a $50 million state-funded renovation of the fairgrounds.

This is the first massive makeover of the fair since it opened in 1890, according to Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner.

"People will be amazed by the newness of the fairgrounds, how different it looks, and how open it looks, and how much cleaner it is, and the sight lines, and the grass, and the softness that was added as part of this project," said Waffner.

The first thing fairgoers will notice, is, some significant changes when they park. All the parking inside the fairgrounds has been reserved for people with disabilities. Waffner says that leaves the primary fair parking across the street from the fairgrounds.

“Parking’s going to be tighter than it’s ever been. I don’t think we’re going to run out of parking. We also encourage people to take the park and ride, CENTRO does a good job with that,” said Waffner.

Among the physical changes include a new entryway, which will reflect the historic buildings at the fair. Gone are the hot tubs and vendors that surround Chevy Court, pushed out to an area next to the new midway, which is bigger and easier to navigate.

The question is, whether these changes boost attendance, which has hovered in the 950,000 range in recent years. A million visitors has always been the holy grail of attendance, reached for the first time in 2001. But will a shiny brand new fairgrounds bring in a million visitors to eat sausage sandwiches and watch the acts on Chevy Court?

"With the right weather, and the marketing and the promotions we’re doing and the draw, and the curiosity seekers, I think we’ll be far and above next year. Whether we reach a million or not, it’s a number and I hope we do, but I think we’ll be above last year.”