Photoessay: A Day At The 2012 New York State Fair

The New York State Fair signals the end of summer here in the area, but it certainly goes out with a bang.  The event is held in Syracuse, NY, and is consistently rated one of the top state fairs in the country filled with food, entertainment, and farm animals.  In addition to being one of the best, the New York State Fair also happens to be the oldest in the country, holding the nation’s first festival 165 years ago in 1841.  A trip to the fair is reasonably priced for families with $10/person admission, children 12 and under are free, and parking costs $5.  So come along with our family as we give you a sampling of what’s going on in our trip to the 2012 New York State Fair.

We arrived around 1:00pm, found a seat for the free 2:00pm Bridgit Mendler performance in the Chevy Court, and studied the guide to plan the rest of our day.  Bridgit Mendler’s a Disney Channel teen who stars in Good Luck Charlie and the TV movie Lemonade Mouth.  My girls were excited to see someone they’ve watched so much on television singing live and in person.

Bridgit put on a really good show, has a lot of talent, and sung for nearly 45 minutes in the hot sun – definitely a treat to be included with our $10 admission.  The Fair has a number of free concerts everyday as well as national headliner acts in the Grandstand.  Note, the Grandstand acts require a separate ticket, but Fair admission is included if tickets are purchased in advance.

After the concert, we headed inside the Dairy Building to cool off.  This building is home to one of the Fair’s top attractions, the annual butter sculpture (44 years running).  Eight hundred pounds of butter were used to create a tribute to the 2012 London Olympics, and the role New York’s Greek yogurt Chobani played as an official Olympic sponsor.

Hmmmm, butter and world class athletics? I don’t think those Olympic athletes were eating much butter, but just go with it.

The Dairy Building was also a great place to get a cold glass of rich, chocolate milk for $0.25, sample New York cheese and yogurt, and indulge in some ice cream, custard, or gelato.  Note, this would not be our only stop inside the Dairy Building on this day.

In addition to the butter sculpture, there was an artist carving a 40 pound block of cheese into a “Hello Kitty” sculpture.  When I asked why she chose cheese for her medium she replied, “I’m from Wisconsin.”  Wisconsin?!?  Hey!!!

Exiting the Dairy Building, we were confronted with Fair food central.  Everything fried and “on a stick” that you could think of including shark, alligator, and kangaroo.  That’s when Evie spotted the “Pig & Potato Parfait” and proclaimed, “I’ve made my choice for dinner!”  It didn’t seem to matter that it was only 3:00pm, and we just had our gelato, free cheese, and yogurt snack.

We made our way over to the “Hot Dog Pig Races,” always a Fair favorite, and brought to you by the Hofman Sausage Company.  Hey, I didn’t make it up…

Make sure you arrive early to get a seat.  By 3:30pm we secured the last seat for the 4:00pm races – the final session of the day.  Look at that crowd baking in the hot August sun.  Hot… baking… pigs… bacon… mmmmmm… bacon…

The pigs ran around an enclosed course and delighted the crowd.  What was the “hot dog” portion of the race you ask?

That refered to the short-legged, long bodied, dachshunds that also ran around the track – at one point outfitted with bun and mustard costumes.  Go weiner dogs!!!

You can’t go to the State Fair without seeing some of the farm animals on display and competing for prizes.

I always admired the farm families who raised these proud animals, and you could see many exhausted boys and girls catching some much needed rest next to their livestock.  There was also trivia to play in each building. If you answered 7 of the 12 questions correctly, you could be eligible for a daily prize.  The prize when we visited was an e-reader.

We visited on an unusually hot day, with the temperature topping out over 90 degrees, and by this time, we were in desperate need of air conditioning.  So we made our way to the Center of Progress Building filled with retail stands and a sculpture made from 180 tons of sand.

The sand artists were still working on creating the impressive sculpture dedicated to New York’s recent Olympians.

It was now dinner time!  Behold, the “Pig and Potato Parfait” – adorned with bacon no less ($7 each).

The parfaits were good.  I enjoyed the mix of spicy BBQ with the mashed potatoes, but one of my daughter’s didn’t like hers.  She thought the mashed potatoes were instant, and didn’t taste good.  “I have high standards for mashed potatoes,” said the self-proclaimed mashed potato-tarian.

After dinner, we rested for a bit on the lawn, turned around, and there was the 6:00pm parade.  Sing with me!  “I…….. love a parade…..” especially a parade with kids in bread costumes and antique tractors rolling down the route.

Even if you don’t go in any of the buildings, the New York State Fairgrounds are full of gorgeous scenes.  The buildings themselves are wonderful pieces of architecture, festooned with colorful gardens.

New for 2012, the Fairground’s natural setting was enhanced by “Living Floral Trees” – artistic dancers on stilts blending into the scenery.  These dancers were similar to the “DiVine” attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  However unlike Animal Kingdom, two dancers appeared at the same time during the Fair, and the interaction between the pair was beautiful.  Keep an eye out for this new addition.

As we started to make our way towards the exit, a circus wagon caught our eye.  We entered the air conditioned building to find an entire floor filled with miniature model circuses, big tops, and trains – a total feast for the eyes.

Although, the girls were a little “disturbed” by the LEGO model circus featuring Harry Potter throwing knives at Hermione.  “That’s so wrong!” exclaimed Evie.

It was now 7:30pm, and even though we had only seen about half of the Fair, it was time to go.  We spent 6 hours seeing the sights in the hot sun, and we if tried to do any much more we risked a kid (and parent) meltdown.  Although we did allow ourselves one last stop at the Dairy Building for an ice cream cone for the road.

We loved our visit to the Fair.  We paid $20 for admission for myself and 2 girls (ages 11 and 14), and maybe spent another $40 on food.  I think ~$60 for 6 hours of food and entertainment for 3 people is fairly reasonable, and that was without visiting the Midway or Adventure Zone.  The 2012 New York State Fair runs everyday through Labor Day – September 3, 2012.  Have you been to the State Fair either in New York or your own home state?  Are you planning a trip to the Fair, or have memories of going in the past?  Please leave a comment below, and share your experience.

For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.  Disclosure, everything described in this article was paid for by the author, and there was no additional consideration or compensation by the New York State Fair.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.