Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Joe Morrissey, 518-457-0752,
Dave Bullard, 315-487-7711 x 1377,

August 14, 2013

New York State Fair Celebrates Its Own History with New Exhibit

Exhibit Traces Nation’s Oldest State Fair’s Roots as Agricultural Promoter, Entertainment and Tourism Engine

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine today announced that the Great New York State Fair has created a major new exhibit that traces the history of the State Fair from the moment the gates first opened in 1841 to today’s record-breaking free performances at Chevy Court, and more.  The History of the Fair exhibit, located in the Grange Building, will feature rare artifacts, photos, and sculptures highlighting all aspects of the Fair, including agriculture, sporting events, entertainment, and visitors.

“When you trace the history of the State Fair, you are tracing the history of New York,” Commissioner Aubertine said. “This exhibit will allow visitors to travel back in time more than 170 years to see how the Fair began, who attended and who entertained. It will also show the evolution and importance of agriculture in New York State.  It’s going to be an incredible experience.”

Fairgoers will be transported into the early 1900’s as soon as they enter the building through a replica of the columned carriage entrance that was used during that time. They will then be greeted by displays showcasing sporting and entertainment events that took place at the Fairgrounds, illustrations and photos that trace the State Fair’s history as it spent its first 50 years on the road across New York. Among the many rare items that will be featured are:

  • A pre-Civil War map of New York State that shows the locations of where the Fair was from 1841 to 1889. There are very few of these maps left.
  • A gold medal from the 1980 Winter Olympics, which was held in Lake Placid.  The Fair hosted a mini-Olympic Village that year.
  • One of the last-known costumes used in the Karnivals held at the turn of the 20th century. Because the Fair closed at dark before 1919, Syracuse would hold a kind of Mardi Gras Karnival at night with floats that filled the Erie Canal and Main Street to keep fairgoers entertained. On exhibit is one of the last known Domino costumes that was worn by the Mystique Krew, the group that organized the event.

As visitors move through the building they will see clay models of butter sculptures from the last nine years, a 24-foot timeline showing agriculture’s strong connection to the State Fair, and a miniature model of the James E. Strates Midway.

There will also be a display highlighting the role the New York State Police have played at the State Fair since its formation in 1917. Additional displays will feature information on the Iroquois Indian Village, which has been part of the Fair since the 1930s, and a wall covered with pictures of the Presidents, astronauts, and other prominent people who have visited the Fair. As visitors exit the exhibit, they will see an 8-foot by 16-foot miniature model of the State Fairgrounds.

The nation’s first State Fair was held in 1841 in Syracuse. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people attended the event to view animal exhibits and sample manufactured goods for the farm and home. After spending years on the road, New York State took over the management of the Fair and purchased the present Fairgrounds in the town of Geddes. The first structure was built in 1908, with subsequent buildings added over the next two decades. The only period in which the State Fair was not held was from 1942 to 1947 when the Fairgrounds were used as a military base during and after World War II.  The State Fair resumed in 1948, and since then, many millions of people have attended.

The New York State Fair runs from August 22 September 2, 2013.  The Fair’s theme is “Sharing the Bounty and Pride of New York.”  Advance sale tickets that save 40% off the price at the gate are available across the state.  Visit for a full list of locations to buy advance sale tickets, as well as discount cards for midway rides and the Best Bets Bargain Book of money-saving coupons at Fair venues.  These items, as well as tickets to Grandstand concerts, are also available at the State Fair box office, which is open Monday Wednesday from 9 a.m. 7 p.m. and Thursday Friday from 9 a.m. 4:30 p.m.

In addition to the annual New York State Fair, the Fairgrounds host dozens of agricultural events throughout the year, including some of the Northeast’s most prestigious horse and livestock shows.

The home of the Great New York State Fair is a 375-acre exhibit and entertainment complex that operates all year. A year-round schedule of events is available on the Fair’s website.  Find The Great New York State Fair on Facebook or follow NYS Fair on Twitter. Also, New Yorkers are invited to send their ideas on the Great New York State Fair at

2013 Press Releases