Syracuse woman celebrates 100th birthday
Pictured here in 2019, 1.3 million visitors came to the fair when it was last held.

Syracuse woman celebrates 100th birthday

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Everything you need to know about 2021 New York State Fair before buying a ticket

Pictured here in 2019, 1.3 million visitors came to the fair when it was last held.

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The Great New York State Fair returns on August 20, following a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic.

After a record-breaking 1.3 million people visited the fair in 2019, this year’s staff expects to see even more business due to the fair’s increased duration this year, fair spokesperson Dave Bullard said.

With the fairground running at 100% capacity and concert venues expected to draw up to 20,000 people, COVID-19 precautions will be in place throughout the fair to mitigate the spread of the virus. Troy Waffner, the fair’s director, doubts the fair will have to close or reduce capacity at any point during the event.

“I’m confident we can put on the fair safely,” he said.

This year’s festivities will run 18 days — several extra days were added this year — and will feature a star-studded lineup of musicians from all genres. While guests can still find the showcase of agriculture and local foods on display, some classics like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Tully’s Good Times will be absent from the fair scene this year.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon signed an executive order on Tuesday to require masks inside all buildings at the fair. The fair also made many changes to the structure of the fair following CDC guidelines, Waffner said.

“We’ve spaced out the vendors a lot more than we have in the past in the buildings and outside, just to give a little more social distance between vendors and to make sure lines don’t collide with each other,” Waffner said.

Pictured here in 2019, attendees will once again be able to attend agriculture events and concerts when the fair returns on August 20.

A new addition at the fair this year is the vaccination center. The fairgrounds will continue to administer free vaccines during the fair and will also have free COVID-19 rapid tests for vendors and fairgoers available at all times, Waffner said.

Musical entertainment this year will be shown at the fair’s two stages, Chevy Court and the larger Chevy Park. Concerts at both stages are free with the $3 daily entry fee to the park and seating is first come, first served.

On opening night, Crown Heights rapper Nas will take the Chevy Park stage for a performance. The last time the artist performed at the fair, he drew a crowd of 30,000.

Syracuse-native rapper Scorey will perform on Aug. 27, while YG, Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow will all perform during Labor Day weekend. Tickets for SU students will be reduced to $1 throughout Labor Day weekend, Waffner said in a Q&A with syracuse.com.

“That’s why I always book hip-hop — the Syracuse students flood in,” Waffner said.

Additionally, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Foreigner and The Beach Boys are just a few major names in classic rock that are set to stop at the fair this year. There will be country and pop music representation as well, including Noah Cyrus and Jesse McCartney.

“I think it’s mainly the food and music that really draws people in,” Waffner said.

There will be about 200 food vendors at the fair, Waffner said. The fair has secured restaurants like returning restaurant Toss & Fire Wood-Fired Pizza and Oh My Darling, which is new to the fair.

Attendees will not be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the fair, but there will be signage and fair representatives around to enforce mask mandates indoors, Waffner said.

Syracuse University is planning to provide free shuttles from campus to the fair over Labor Day weekend, said Butch Hallmark, assistant director of the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs. But for students looking for daily routes, Syracuse’s Centro bus line will also run directly to and from the fair every day of the fair from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Students can catch the Centro bus at one of three stop locations: the Centro Transit Hub, Destiny USA and Long Branch Park, for $2 each way.

The fair, seen here in 2019, will host both new and returning food vendors.

Toss & Fire’s food truck is adding six fair-inspired pizzas to the menu this year, like the caramel apple pizza topped with wood-fire roasted New York apples, icing and caramel sauce. Customers can also try any of the six pizzas at either of Toss & Fire’s North Syracuse or Camillus locations during the fair’s run.

“It wasn’t a hard decision for us to return to the fair,” Toss & Fire manager Nick Baiamonte said. “The fair is probably one of our favorite events of the year, and we are excited to be coming back to all our loyal customers.”

CNY classics Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Tully’s Good Times will not be returning this year, both citing staffing issues amidst a larger New York labor shortage as the reason. While fairgoers may not be able to enjoy Tully’s Good Times’ food, its Draft House will be available at the Beer Garden, stocked with cold beers of all varieties on draft for $4, and mixed drinks for $8.

In addition to food, drinks and music, the fair hosts several arts and agriculture competitions that are a historically important part of the events, Waffner said.

“The animals and the competitions really are the core mission that we highlight,” he said.

In addition to the many dairy cow shows and competitions in the Beef and Cattle Barns, fairgoers can also check out events for goats, horses and llamas. Also on display will be photography and other fine arts competitions that showcase work of New York state residents.

The return of the fair will have a huge financial impact on the central New York region, Bullard said.

“We provide economic benefits to the region of more than $100 million a year when we are open,” Bullard said. “This is a way to leverage that investment over a greater period and provide greater economic benefit to the region.”