The 174th Erie County Fair: Experience it!
BY: Jessie Owen, The Sun editor | July 31, 2013
This year’s Erie County Fair will kick off on Aug. 7, bringing with it the events, vendors, games and displays Erie County has experienced for more than 170 years.
This year’s fair, themed “Experience it!” will sweep into town for 10 days.
While event-goers can expect to see the animals, shows and features they always look forward to, Assistant Fair Manager Jessica Underberg said that this year’s fair will include a special focus.
In an unprecedented move, the Erie County Fair has announced plans to participate in The International Association of Fairs and Expositions’ “Dream Big” food drive.
Although this endeavor is year-long, the Erie County Fair is asking attendees to consider becoming a part of its efforts to feed the hungry.
The staff is working with the Food Bank of Western New York on this endeavor. “They amazed us,” Underberg said. The food bank feeds 101,000 people per month, including 42,000 children, throughout Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. The bank goes through approximately 1 million pounds of food, per month.
During the Erie County Fair, donations of canned food will be accepted, at all gates. In a stated effort of encouraging the public to participate, the fair will be hosting three special entry days.
On Wednesday, Aug. 7, fair attendees who bring cans of food with them will receive free admission. On Saturday, Aug.10, event-goers can purchase ride-all-day wristbands, which Underberg said have never been offered on weekends.
Attendees who bring cans of food with them on Sunday, Aug. 11 will receive a discount on admission.
“Our goal is to get as many cans here as we can,” Underberg said. “But I asked our board, ‘What are we going to do to help?’” The response: to commit to purchasing 10,000 pounds of cans. MAV Sales has pledged a matching amount of canned food.
To illustrate the donations of the donated food, three can creations, made entirely of canned goods, will be exhibited, in the ShowPlex and in the indoor living center.
“We want to support the communities that have supported us,” Underberg said. The food will be staying local, with a percentage’s remaining in Hamburg.
Food bank individuals will be manning this year’s Johnsonville Brats food stand on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9 – 11. That company has pledged two-thirds of those sales for the food bank.
Can and monetary donations will be accepted for the duration of the fair.
Lou Ann Delaney, the fair’s director of marketing, said that the theme “Experience it!” is a nod to the nostalgic feelings that she said many people get, when they think about the fair. “It’s more emotional,” Underberg said. “We are exploring what those feelings mean, when someone wins a ribbon or rides the rides or thinks about the fair as a tradition. A lot of people come because their parents brought them.”
New this year is a 20 – 30 minute “Laisertainment” show, every night at 10 p.m.
Free concerts will allow fair attendees to enjoy music at the Grandstand. Sawyer Brown, featuring guest Maddie Larkin of West Falls, will appear at 8 p.m. on Aug. 8. Eagles tribute band Hotel California will grace the stage at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 and Blood Sweat & Tears will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 13.
Also appearing on the Grandstand will be Three Days Grace; Austin Mahone, with Jake Miller, and Gary Allan. Other Grandstand features will include the Ultimate Night of Destruction, the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Truck & Tractor Pull and a demolition derby.
Featured will be the Skyriver Butterflies, the new Sea Lion Splash, the new In Jest comedy variety show, the returning Swifty Swine Racing Pigs, the new C&D Crylon’s Stagecoach, the new Extreme Canines stunt dog show, the new Flippenout Extreme trampoline show, eco magician Steve Trash, Commerford & Sons calliope hitch and another new feature, The Boys From Bushwood Caddyshack Duo.
The Tops Avenue of Flags Stage will welcome Those Show Idiots Band, hypnotist Jerry Valley, Ramblin’ Lou Family Band, balloonologist John Cassidy, The Gizmo Guys, Gary the silent clown, one-handed juggler Dale Jones, chainsaw artist Jerry Ward and more. Also new this year is Cirque Zuma Zuma, a 2011 America’s Got Talent finalist.
The daily parade will wend its way through The Fairgrounds, beginning at 4 p.m. from Gate 1.
The New York State Police and National Grid will give demonstrations, throughout the week, and the Nya:Weh Indian dance troupe will tell its stories through dance.
Chow down on the fair’s new foods, including the bacon bomb, deep-fried bacon cinnamon roll, alligator and shark kabobs/nugget bites, deep-fried gummy bears, deep-fried Rice Krispies®, pork butt on a stick, jumbo turkey wings, a perch and walleye sandwich and more, in addition to other fair favorites.
“We try to find things that are unique and different,” said Fair manager and CEO Dennis Lang.
The entry forms are already in, for this year’s agriculture and competitive exhibits. According to Lang, the fair contracts with more than 100 judges with various areas of expertise. “They are judged to a standard,” he said, about fair competitors. The judging is done both before and during the fair.
The 4-H swine, rabbit and poultry auction will be held on Aug. 11 and the steer, lamb and goat auction will be held on Aug. 17. Both events will take place in the ShowPlex.
A blacksmith demonstration, the fair camp, “Face of a Farmer,” chicken-bathing demonstration and a milking parlor will welcome attendees, as they view the 972 fair agricultural exhibitors’ 6,696 entries.
A total of 1,546 competitive exhibitors in the conservation, creative arts, historical and woodcarvers divisions have made a total of 5,211 entries.
Individuals will also participate in the “As seen on Pinterest©,” “bucket of junk,” “digital shoot out,” “dress it up,” “Lego© model,” pińata and plein air painting contests, as well as hair, cupcake and pie-baking competitions.
A fried dough-eating contest will be held at the Pine Grove Stage at 1 p.m. on Aug. 15. A turkey leg-eating contest will be held at the same location at 1 p.m. on Aug. 16.
Many changes have been made to The Fairgrounds itself.
The food court has been widened and more seating was added to the Tops Avenue of Flags. A new bathroom has been built and air-conditioned bathroom trailers were rented. “We have committed to renovating one bathroom every year,” Underberg said.
The New York Lottery building was replaced with a green space and park and a new First Aid location is now complete with private exam rooms, oxygen and a more convenient ambulance bay.
According to Lang, changes have been made, to provide a “more visible security force.” The organizers have increased the number of off duty police officers at the fair, and security will be checking bags at each gate.
Event-goers will be encouraged to download the CodeRED® app on their smartphones, so they can receive emergency alerts, such as a lost child or bad weather update.
A press conference on the lawn of the historical building at 2 p.m. on Aug. 14 will kick off the countdown to the fair’s 175th anniversary celebration. The first 10,000 people to walk through the gates will receive a commemorative calendar, featuring fair photos and a countdown.
Other special events and appearances will include the America Standing Tall 9/11 memorial, created by Steel Crazy Iron Art, as a memorial to those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. More than 600 artists created this 11-foot-tall structure, which may be viewed on the lawn of the Erie County Sheriff’s building.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will make a stop at the fair at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 10. The “Canines on the Catwalk” will allow fairgoers to donate to the SPCA or adopt a pet. This event will be held at the Pine Grove Stage.
Event-goers may also take part in the dedication of the turtle mound dance arena at the Nya:Weh Indian village at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 7. NASCAR events include driver Nelson Piquet Jr. inside Gate 4 from 1:30 – 3 p.m. on Aug. 11 and a car simulator behind the casino on Aug. 7 – 11.
High wire artist Nick Wallenda will meet with fairgoers on Aug. 14.
On Aug. 9, Firefighters Day, firefighters and auxiliary members receive free admission, with identification. A firefighter’s day parade will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 in the Grandstand.
The fair will present the Firefighter of the Year Award and hold a firefighter memorial ceremony.
Aug. 11 has been declared Veterans Day; veterans and active military personnel will receive free admission, with identification. A veterans memorial ceremony will be held, as well as a Veterans Day parade at 1 p.m.
Aug. 12 is the “WNY Moms Like Me” day, while Aug. 17 is “NY Lottery Day.”
The day after the Erie County Fair, three barns will be torn down, to make room for a 60,000 square foot Agriculture Discovery Center. This new center will feature exhibitor space, including a lounge, stalling areas and wash racks. It will also house interactive exhibits, a theater, classrooms, a kitchen and accessible restrooms.
“It will also offer agricultural education, year-round,” Underberg said.
“We analyze the fair every year,” Delaney said. “We want to always be making it better.”
The Erie County Fair will run from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Aug. 7 – 18. The midway will be open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Admission prices have not changed, from last year.
The fair is located at 5600 McKinley Parkway in Hamburg. Parking is available in any of the six lots surrounding The Fairgrounds.
A free shuttle service from Erie Community College’s south campus will run from 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays of the fair. Attendees may bring in food and beverages, but alcohol and glass are prohibited.
For more information, call 649-3900 or visit www.ecfair.org.