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20 Free, Family-Fun Ways to Enjoy the Fair

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The Great New York State Fair holds many distinctions: Founded in 1841, it’s the oldest state fair in the country. Just last month, it was ranked as the Fifth Best state fair in the United States, and it’s consistently recognized as being among  the top fairs in the country. Plus, at $6 admission for adults – free for children and senior citizens – it remains the most affordable state fair in the nation.

Once parking is paid for ($10/vehicle), or the Centro Bus drops visitors off ($1 per person) at the Main Gate, a family of six (two grandparents ages 65 and older, two adults, and two children ages 12 and under) can get through the gates for $12.

“As soon as fairgoers pass through the gates, they have access to an array of world-class entertainment, shows, exhibits, and programs without having to pay a penny,”  said Sean Hennessey, Interim Fair Director. “Agriculture attractions, educational exhibits, cultural traditions, and history, we’ve got it all. No matter what your interests are, there is something for you at The Great New York State Fair.”

On this evening before the biggest celebration in the state opens, The Fair is shining a spotlight on 20 free, family-friendly activities to enjoy while here:

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE FROM AN ENTERTAINMENT PERSPECTIVE:

  1. The Chevrolet Music Serieswill bring 48 national recording artists to audiences over The Fair’s 13-day run. Household names representing every musical genre will perform at Chevy Court and Suburban Park. Plus, new this year, there are two shows geared toward families with young children: Peppa Pig Live brings her adventure to Chevy Court at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 26, then Disney Juniors Costume Palooza dresses up the Suburban Park Stage at 2:00 p.m.* Sunday, September 3. The full musical line-up is posted on The Fair’s website at pages dedicated to Chevy Court and Suburban ParkAll performances are included in the price of admission.
    *Please note, the 2:00 p.m. time and location for Disney Jr.’s Costume Palooza reflects a change to the concert schedule. On Sunday, September 3, the Elvie Shane concert – originally scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at Suburban Park – will now take place at Chevy Court at 1:00 p.m..
  2. Talent Showcase Returns:Fairgoers don’t have to be positioned at one of the Main Stages to see great entertainment. Talent Showcase, back at The Fair for the first time since 2019, will bring dozens of the brightest young stars from 20 New York Counties to perform in a competition that kicks off August 24 and continues through August 29. Then, fairgoers are encouraged to cheer for their favorite aspiring stars on September 1 and 2 during Talent Showcase Finals. Click here to see the full schedule.
  3. TheRegional Showcasewill shine a spotlight on nine well-known musical acts representing a number of regions throughout New York State. Check the schedule to coordinate your calendars to sing and dance along to your favorite hometown celebrities.
  4. Dinosaurs Stomp In:The Dinosaur Expedition in the Exposition Center will take fairgoers back in time to the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. There are more than 100 true-to-life size, life-like dinosaurs, ranging in size from babies, measuring three-feet tall, to full grown massive creatures standing as tall as 35-feet tall. With Story Time scheduled every hour on the hour, a fossil dig, selfie spots, and Dinosaur Dance Parties, Immersive Productions’ exhibit –  a new addition to The Fair this year – offers plenty to see.
  5. Unlock the Entertainment Finder: From a streetscape perspective, street-level surprises, strolling performances, and other great shows are spread throughout The Fairgrounds. Laugh with fan-favorite Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy, dance with Bandaloni the One Man Band, and gasp with anticipation as a new-to-The-Fair entertainer, Lady Houdini escapes from an impossible situation. Cheer for racing pigs, take a selfie with a Sea Lion, andwalk with the dinosaursClick here for a recap of all of the exciting Grounds Entertainment acts available at The Fair, and bookmark The Fair’s Entertainment Finder on your browsers and smartphones.

Pro Tip: Use The Fair’s Showcase of Stars Entertainment Map to plan your Fair activities! Stars mark the locations where to find your favorite performers, while music notes denote places to listen to live music.

AGRICULTURE AND EDUCATION:

  1. Attractive, Active Animals:With eight barns and several animal tents distributed throughout The Fairgrounds, visitors have ample opportunities to interact with animals and meet new furry and feathered friends. Take a selfie with a llama, cheer as goats and chickens strut their stuff in costume contests and parades, and take in the wonder of an “udder miracle” by witnessing the birth of calves in the Dairy Cow Birthing Center – which is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year! Bookmark this link, or scan a QR code on The Fair’s map to read about all of The Fair’s agricultural attractions.
  1. Hoof It to a Horse Show:Whether it’s Showmanship in the 4H Arena, or Barrel Racing in the Toyota Coliseum, there are dozens of opportunities to watch majestic animals show off their skills at Horse Shows. Fairgoers should check the Agricultural Attractions Schedule to plan which events to watch.
  1. 13. Agriculture Attractions:One of the best kept secrets about the Great New York State Fair is the countless educational opportunities it provides, and the “behind the scenes” exposure to what it’s like to work in the Agriculture and Entertainment industries. Careers in Farming, Veterinary Science, Food and Beverage Services, Emergency Management, Event Planning, and more are on full display throughout all 13 days. And, there’s even a Special Day dedicated to learning about what it’s like to work in the Agricultural sector!Click here to learn more information about the 2023 Special Days planned for this year’s Fair.
  1. What’s Hatching in The Youth Building?Visit 4-H to watch children and teens from all over New York State show off their skills – whether it’s explaining a successful science project, cooking, singing or dancing. Plus, one of the best kept secrets at The Fair are the fuzzy friends who inhabit the Youth Building. This is the home of an exhibit where you can hold a baby chick, and watch others hatch in an incubator.
  1. Discover a Hidden Talent – It just might be Blue Ribbon worthy!The Fair is well known for showcasing the best that the state has to offer in food, beverage, entertainment and agriculture – and it’s a place where visitors can show off their hidden talents too! With competitions involving singing, hay bale throwing (held at 12:00 p.m. on August 23 and 1:00 p.m. on August 29), daily rooster crowing (Pro Tip: Check out the championships held Monday, September 4 at 11:00 am), arm wrestling and more, there’s plenty of friendly competitions to engage in. Peruse the Daily Schedules on The Fair’s website to get the lowdown.
  1. Voice of The Farmer Garden Tour:New to The Fair this year, The Great New York State Fair is the first state fair in the United States to host the Voice of the Farmer Garden exhibit. Visitors can learn about the variety of crops grown here in New York State and across the county, and gain an appreciation and understanding of the economic and environmental impacts of Agriculture in America. Located near the Goat Pavilion, kitty-corner from the Family Fun Zone, the Voice of the Farmer Garden offers opportunities to see and smell what’s “growing on.”

Pro Tip: Take the Garden Tour in person and/or virtually, and scan the QR codes at each stop to hear from farmers in their own words. 

  1. Follow Your Noses to the Flower and Produce Show:For the first time since 2019, the Daily Flower and Produce Show is back in Center Court of the Horticulture Building. Each day, a different theme will be highlighted, enhanced with demonstrations and talks led by representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension, regional Flower Societies, and Future Farmers of America (FFA) groups. Fairgoers are encouraged to visit this link to plan the best time(s) to take their noses on a tour.

 

Pro Tip: On select days at 8:00 p.m..flowers will be given away for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Check the schedule for more information!

  1. Meet & Greet with Micron at The Fair: For one day only, Opening Day of The Fair on August 23, Micron Technology – an Idaho-basedsemiconductor company that will soon have headquarters in Central New York too, will introduce an educational, interactive exhibit in The Exposition Center. The exhibit’s focus is to educate fairgoers about the semiconductor industry and peel back the curtain to show people what it’s like to work at Micron. Organizers want to raise awareness about the skills needed to pursue a career in the technology field, and educate the public about the training and tools needed to be successful in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). There will be opportunities to participate in interactive exercises and win prizes. A “Memory Race” will challenge fairgoers to put their memories, computer skills, and reflexes to the test as they see how fast they can install Micron memory modules into a motherboard.

Pro Tip: The first 3,000 children to visit the exhibit will receive a free STEM activity kit, which contains everything needed to build their own LED lights at home.

  1. Sand Art Marks Milestones:The Sand Sculpture located in the Center of Progress Building is a fan favorite exhibit and stopping by to watch artists at work is a beloved tradition for many Fair families. Watch as sculptors carve New York’s bounty to honor Taste NY’s 10th Anniversary, and pay homage to hip hop which started in The Bronx 50 years ago.
  2. Butter Sculpture: “Dairy Every Day is a Healthy Way – Keeping Kids’ Health on Track” is the theme of the 55h Annual Butter Sculpture, which was revealed earlier today in the Dairy Products Building. The sculpture depicts a train conducted by a cow, carrying young passengers who are fueling up on dairy foods. This year’s kid-focused sculpture incorporates colors onto the station sign and rail cars.Artists Jim Victor and Marie Pelton of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania constructed the sculpture over 11-days using more than 800 pounds of butter from O-AT-KA Milk Products in Western New York. After The Fair, the sculpture will be deconstructed, with help from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, and taken to Noblehurst Farms in Western New York where it will be recycled into renewable energy.

Pro Tip: While you’re waiting for a turn to view the Butter Sculpture, dare to be dairy and see what you’d look like in butter form. Scan this link to see what you’d like as a Butter Sculpture and share it on Facebook and Instagram.

THE FAIR IS A SHOWCASE OF PEOPLE TOO:

As much as The Fair is a showcase of New York agriculture, food, and entertainment – at its core, it’s a celebration of all people. The Department of Agriculture and Markets and the administrative team at The Great New York State Fair has made it a priority to ensure The Fair is a welcoming place for all visitors, and a place where we can celebrate our unique heritage and cultural backgrounds, while learning about our neighbors too.

  1. Asian Village: “Breaking through the Bamboo Ceiling” – in the words of Superintendent Tai Shaw – has become a metaphor for establishing Asian Village at The Great New York State Fair. New this year, fairgoers are invited to immerse themselves into Southeast Asia, as they experience the smells, flavors, and experiences that Asian and Pacific Islander communities are known for. Starting tomorrow, August 23 at 10:00 a.m. to Saturday, August 26 at 10:00 p.m., fairgoers will be able to sample traditional Asian cuisine, take in singing, drumming and Lion Dance, and watch fashion shows representing the styles of 20 different nations. A full entertainment line-up of what’s planned in Asian Village will soon be posted to The Fair’s website at a page dedicated toAsian Village. For planning, Asian Village is located closest to the Gate 4 entrance, near the Youth Building.

Asian Village joins Latino Village, Pan African Village, and Indian Village in providing fairgoers with opportunities to experience and enjoy the many backgrounds and cultures of New Yorkers.

  1. Latino Village, established in 2018, will be back for its fifth year. The vibrant area was established by Elisa Morales, Superintendent of the Village and Executive Director of La Liga, the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County to provide a sense of place for people with Latin roots and inspire people who may come from non-Latino backgrounds to experience special parts of the Latin community. In Latino Village, fairgoers can taste authentic dishes, browse Latin-infused creations, and of course, listen and dance to regional and national recording artists playing through a variety of Latin music styles. One of the most vibrant elements of Latino Village is its Drag Show, which promotes diversity beyond race and ethnicity. Latino Village returns to the Fair on Friday, September 1 through Monday, September 4. Fairgoers will find it in the same place as Asian Village, closest to the Gate 4 entrance, near the Youth Building.Visit this link for a full entertainment line-up planned in Latino Village.
  1. Pan African Village, established in 1996, has grown tremendously in its 27 years. Positioned closest to Gate 11A—in between the Center of Progress Building and the Art and Home Center—Pan African Village is the place to go to participate in drum circles, shop for handmade crafts, feast on delicious African and Caribbean meals, and listen to live music. In 2018, Pan African Village was renamed to honor and recognize former Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson, whose life mission is community activism and service. Pan African Village runs all 13 days of The Fair.Visit this link for a full entertainment line-up happening in Pan African Village.
  1. Indian Village, established in 1928, will celebrate its 100th year at the Great New York State Fair in 2028. For generations, people of Native American descent, friends, and visitors come here to immerse themselves in the culture and heritage of the original New Yorkers. The Village, positioned at Gate 4 behind the Youth Building, is dedicated to Six Nations programming. The Turtle Mound—built to resemble a turtle, an animal that is sacred to the Iroquois—serves as a stage for daily social dances. Fairgoers may walk through longhouses to go back in time to see how the Iroquois lived long ago. Indian Village continues all 13 days of The Fair. Social Dancing takes place at 11:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. in Indian Village every day. A full schedule isposted here.
  2. History of the Great New York State Fair: For those who like history, The New York State Fair History Exhibit in The Grange Building might be one of the best kept secrets at The Fair. See replicas of Butter Sculptures through the years, find out if your city hosted The Fair before it made Syracuse its permanent home, and reminisce on the hundreds of entertainers who have graced The Fair’s stages.

BONUS – MEET US AT THE MIDWAY:

The Magic of the Midway is always a big draw for families across the state. This year, Wade Shows, The Fair’s Midway operator, will bring more than 60 rides to entice fairgoers of all ages and thrill-seeking levels. New to The Fair this year, Wade Shows is introducing two new rides, the Double Deck Carousel and the Borazon Wave Swinger. Plus, fairgoers have an opportunity to be among the first to slide down the newly refurbished Mega Drag Strip Slide. While rides are not included with the price of Fair admission, there is still time to score a deal. “Ride All Day” wristbands are still available for $25 online until 12:00 p.m. tomorrow, August 23. After that, wristbands increase to $35 for Monday through Friday, and $45 for Saturday and Sunday.

Save the Dates to Score the Deals:

  • On Two Dollar Tuesday, set for Tuesday, August 29, all rides cost $2.
  • Dollar Day, where all rides cost $1, returns to The Midway Monday, September 4.

The Fair continues through Monday, September 4.  Founded in 1841, the Great New York State Fair showcases the best of New York agriculture, provides top-quality entertainment and is a key piece of the state’s CNY Rising strategy of growing the Central New York economy through tourism. It is oldest state fair in the United States, and the third largest fair in the country.

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