State Fair and local county fair leaders iron out some solutions to 2020 overlap


GEDDES, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – New York State Fair officials say they will make accommodations for all the local county fairs affected by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 18-day State Fair. That includes the Erie County Fair.

As News 4 has been reporting, fair leaders state-wide were unpleasantly surprised to learn that Cuomo wants the State Fair to be five days longer. The proposal adds those five days to the front end of the event, which conflicts and overlaps with eight other local county fairs.

Exhibitors, vendors, and carvival companies are caught in the middle.

On Friday, fair and agricultural leaders from across the state met in Syracuse to try and fix that. A group of about 20 discussed that goal: Figure out how to make a longer State Fair work and minimize its impact on local county fairs.

Among those at the table was Jessica Underberg, the CEO of the Erie County Fair.

“I would say that we’re moving in the right direction. I’m not going to say it’s totally resolved, I’m not going to say that there’s not going to be an impact, I would say we’re moving in the right direction,” she said.

While contracts between the the Erie County Fair and vendors haven’t been signed yet, Underberg says the agreements are for the full 12 days at the Hamburg Fairgrounds.

So what does this mean for the many who go on to the State Fair next?

State Fair director Troy Waffner says they’ll be allowed to come to Syracuse late.

“When the Governor announced this, we weren’t looking to do harm to anybody, whether it’s the agricultural competitors, the Midway companies or the vendors,” Waffner said. “So on a cases-by-case basis, we’ll work with the many great vendors that come out of the Erie County Fair to address that and make sure that if they want to play both, they’re able to play both without upsetting the apple cart.”

Waffner says the State Fair will work to fill the void in the five new days tacked on to the front of the fair until the Ag exhibits are ready.

The statewide association’s main concern is for the kids who work hard on their exhibits and want to get to Syracuse.

President of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs, Jason Lawrence had this to say when asked if he wished the Governor would have asked for their input before the announcement:

“I think we all wish that, but that’s behind us. We’re working to up with a way to work and to fix and to allow our youth, our agricultural exhibits, our vendors, everyone a way to come play at our county fairs,” Lawrence said.

Underberg agrees – it’s frustrating to not have been part of the conversation.

As of Friday afternoon, she and Lawrence say they have solved the agricultural and 4-H concerns, but not all the conflicts. How to work with companies that provides the rides has yet to be determined.

“We’re still working on the carnival piece, that’s a bigger animal to try and figure out, but I would say two positive steps in the right direction,” Underberg said.

Additionally, many people have wondered how the State Fair extension can be official when the legislature hasn’t voted on the proposal yet. After all, the State Fair’s website and social media accounts already reflect to new dates, but a vote wouldn’t happen until April.

Fair leaders say lawmakers won’t be voting on the days, they’d be voting on the approximately $5 million Cuomo proposed to help fund the extension.

On Thursday, Erie County lawmakers asked the Governor to reconsider a proposal that would see the State Fair overlapping with the Erie County Fair.

“The Governor is consistently shooting first and asking questions later,” said legislator Joe Lorigo.

Lorigo and three other legislators wanted to get the message to Albany that actions can have consequences.

“People rely on that for their income. Erie County relies on that for sales tax dollars and tourism dollars. It will have a negative effect,” he said.

The 181st Erie County Fair is scheduled for August 12-23, 2020.

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