State Fair will be back but no guidelines yet for county fairs

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2021 at 9:19 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Ferris Wheel, pictured at sunset during the Orleans County 4-H Fair in July 2013, is among the many attractions at the fair.

The New York State Fair will be back in August, with capacity limited to 50 percent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.

The governor, in touting the upcoming State Fair, did not mention county fairs, and the state hasn’t released guidance if those events can also continue this summer, and how they can operate.

“We’re all hopeful that it comes by week’s end,” said Robert Batt, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, which runs the annual fair in Knowlesville. This year’s event is scheduled for July 26-31.

The state would need to provide how to measure capacity for county fairs, which are generally held on a sprawling campus.

The Orleans County 4-H fair usually draws 25,000 to 30,000 people during its week-long run in late July. Last year the county fairs and State Fair were all cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Every fair is working through the difficult decisions and new challenges that our volunteers and partners are concerned about,” Batt posted on the Orleans County 4-H Fair’s Facebook page. “We really do hope to make it happen and are waiting to see just what we can do to bring the fun.”

The State Fair will be back Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 with live music and entertainment, Midway rides, and agriculture education and awareness in four different, concurrent festivals. They will take place exclusively in the outdoor areas of the fairgrounds in Syracuse.

“This celebration is a unique reward for New Yorkers who have made so many sacrifices during this pandemic and will allow visitors from across the state and the country to enjoy some of the best attractions the Fair has to offer with all necessary safety guidelines in place,” Cuomo said on Monday during an announcement at the fairgrounds. “This is an important step towards the full return of New York’s largest events as we continue to reopen and reimagine our state’s economy.”

Nicole Mrzywka, left, and Will Trembley hand out trophies last July 27, 2019 during the Orleans County 4-H Fair.

At the State Fair this year the fairground’s buildings will not be open to the public, except for bathrooms. Attendees will be required to observe social distancing and wear masks, except when eating or drinking.

People buying food and drinks will be asked to sit while they eat and drink, and ample tables and dining spaces will be made available. Midway rides, games and attractions, as well as all surfaces of frequent customer contact will be rigorously and frequently cleaned and sanitized, according to the Governor’s Office.

Tickets will be sold for each of the outdoor areas, so families can decide which areas they want to visit and plan their day accordingly. To ensure capacity limits and social distancing, attendance at concerts and other live performances will be limited.

The Genesee County Ag Society, which is planning a July 24-31 fair in Batavia, said it is encouraged that the State Fair is going forward. The Genesee fair last year held livestock shows and looks forward to expanding what is offered this year.

“We are hoping that, in the near future, the Governor and his office will be addressing how the County Fairs should proceed, so that we can move forward with some great entertainment and Livestock shows for our community,” the Genesee County Ag Society said in a news release.