Not just blue-ribbon pies and pig races

1426524-948225458_sm_1400790866_sm_14007908661
The Spectrum

Just before University at Buffalo students embark on another demanding semester, they can celebrate the end of summer at one of Western New York's oldest traditions.

Established in 1819, the Erie County Fair will make its annual warm-weather appearance Aug. 11-22 at the Hamburg Fairgrounds.

A half-an-hour drive from North campus, the Fairgrounds' 275 acres have been the permanent residence of the fair for nearly seven decades and this year, will include $500,000 in free entertainment, over 2,500 animals, and a mile-long midway.

Louann Delany, marketing director for the Fairgrounds, says that the fair attracts so many Buffalonians because it offers something for everyone.

"We average about 950,000 [guests] over the 12-day period," she said. "The top reason people come to the fair, according to our surveys is to see the livestock and next is the tradition and the next reason is the food."

Animal-adoring students can make the trip to Hamburg this summer to come face-to-face with nearly every farm animal imaginable, along with some more exotic species like sea lions, tropical birds, lions, tigers, and monkeys. They can even watch a cow giving birth or feed a bottle to a baby pig in the "moo-ternity ward."

Joshua Skabry, a senior communication major and Buffalo native, says visits to the fair were a part of his childhood and for the past three years, he has been working behind the scenes at it.

As a cook for some of the fried foods stands, Skabry has deep-fried everything from vegetables to Twinkies and Oreos, and encourages his peers to come sample the food.

"I love trying all the different foods that I wouldn't usually eat," Skabry said. "A lot of [it] is really good, [and] it's not that expensive."

With over 800 vendors offering products at fair specials, the Erie County Fair is also a surprising shopper's destination. And gamer's ages 18 and older can make their way over to the adjacent Fairgrounds Gaming and Raceway to gamble away their paychecks before, during, and after fair season.

With this year's theme catching "Fair Fever," some of the musical acts for 2010 will take guests back a few decades. The Village People and the Four Tops are scheduled to host free concerts and will be joined by classic rock and country artists Jason Aldean, Peter Frampton and Jamey Johnson.

But the top attraction is always the World's Largest Demolition Derby, according to Delaney. On the final day of the fair, thrill-seekers can watch cars smashing into one another and witness the occasional rollover or fireball if they're lucky.

The Erie County Fair boasts itself as being the largest county fair in North America. The Erie County Agricultural Society, a not-for-profit organization, operates the fair with the mission of preserving and enhancing the agricultural and historical legacy of New York State.

Adult admission to the fair and most of its attractions is $10, and students with a proper I.D. will receive half-price discounts after 5 p.m.

Jessica Tornabene, a senior electrical engineering major, has been a regular fairgoer since she was eight years old, but insists the fair isn't just for families.

"UB students would be interested in going for the music, food, games, and rides," she said. "And there is always some sort of show going on, whether it be a concert or some sort of competition to watch."

Skabry thinks students should check out the fair if for no other reason than to people-watch. He says it is always entertaining.

"Most of the people from around here go to the fair so you always see familiar faces," he said. "There are a lot of cool attractions and friendly people walking around – we're the city of good neighbors for a reason."
For more information, visit: www.ecfair.org.

E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com