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Erie County Fair looks for compromise over State Fair extension

Posted at 11:40 PM, Jan 23, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The sights, the scents, the sounds of the New York State Fair could last for five more days. Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to have the 2020 New York State Fair last 18 days, meaning it would overlap with the last weekend of the Erie County Fair in Hamburg.

Jessica Underberg is the CEO and manager of the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, and said the plan is unfair.

"It doesn't do anybody any good for them to be 150 miles apart and run on the same days," Underberg said.

She said it could affect attendance and the livelihoods of the approximately 30 food vendors she said go to both fairs. The move would force them to pick one, or use a second set of staff.

"It impacts eight other county fairs in the state, all over the state," she said. "It impacts livestock exhibitors, it impacts the business model of people who plan on that revenue, so if they have tho choose between us and the State Fair that's a significant decrease."

Dave Bullard, State Fair Marketing and Public Relations Manager, said the State Fair is already working with other fairs to address concerns.

Why the change?

"The Fair has become a major driver of tourism and economic growth, and extending the Fair better leverages the more than $120 million in upgrades in recent years to the New York State Fairgrounds," Bullard said.

Buffalo Distilling Company made its first appearance at the State Fair this past year. Frank Weber, a co-founder, said it's a way to showcase their local business to the entire state.

"If you're promoting New York, then you're promoting where I'm living, and you're promoting my neighbors and the community around us, so I'm all about it," Weber said.

The operating cost of the State Fair is separate from the state budget, but there's an exception. Cuomo is asking for almost $5 million in his new budget proposal so the fair could be extended.

A meeting is now planned for Friday, January 31 to discuss these concerns. A spokesperson for the New York State Fair issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon concerning the upcoming meeting.

“The Great New York State Fair is excited by this new opportunity to attract more visitors and grow the largest state fair in the East. The State Fair is hosting a meeting Friday with our county fairs to hear and address any concerns they may have. Our goal is to accommodate vendors from Erie County or other fairs who will arrive after the start of the State Fair.”