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Wednesday 19 September 2018
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New York State Fair Breaks Attendance Records, Highlights Tech, and Offers Good Eatin’

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Every summer, the Great New York State Fair attracts visitors to the Syracuse area. Americans drive the most during this season, clocking an average of 30.6 miles on their odometers per day, and some attendees come from far and wide to see what the fairgrounds have to offer. This year, the fair has had more guests than ever — and they’ve gotten the chance to experience everything from surprise musical acts and indulgent food to farm animals and drones.

Visitors have been flocking to the fairgrounds in droves this year. In fact, the fourth day of the fair shattered all-time attendance records. According to officials, a staggering 127,394 people found their way to the fair that day — 2,500 more than attended on Labor Day last year, a record-breaking day in its own right, and 30,000 more than the same day in 2017.

Of course, it certainly helped that that day was a beautiful Saturday and that the Counting Crows made an appearance at Chevy Court. But not everyone comes to the fairgrounds to see their favorite band play. This year, the fair has a bit of a technological flair — a fact that might intrigue digital enthusiasts and budding agriculturists alike.

The fair hosted its second annual Drone Film Fest this year and subsequently received video submissions from all over the world. It’s a fitting contest for New York State, which has been named the leading state for drone technology. There’s also an educational CNY Drones booth and a nightly drone light show.

Drones aren’t the only cutting-edge technology at the fair. On the fair’s Agriculture Career Day, young participants got the chance to play farmer for a day — with a twist. They performed hands-on experiments on local produce and learned from one local dairy farmer that all of his cows now wear FitBits. It may sound strange, but the farmer explained that the technology can keep farmers informed about if and when the cows eat and whether they might have an illness that could otherwise go unnoticed. Plus, as the children learned, there are a lot of agricultural career opportunities that are extremely technical in nature, such as computer programming and even crop-related genetic modification.

And then there’s the technological advancements you might not immediately notice. Lumalon — an LED company based in Pittsford, NY — recently won a bid to install energy-efficient lights in six of the buildings at the fairgrounds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lighting has the potential to reduce American energy use by nearly 50%. That savings will be welcome news to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets (which runs the NYS Fair), as they could save an estimated $23,000 per year thanks to the switch. LED lighting is part of the fairgrounds’ plan to meet New York Governor Cuomo’s mandate to cut 20% of their energy use by 2020. Although Lumalon still has three buildings to tackle, the changeover has dropped energy demands in the Center of Progress Building by 70%. Fair visitors will likely already be able to feel the difference, as the old halogen bulbs gave off substantially more heat. After the fair end this year, lighting will be replaced in the areas in which cattle and horses are kept, which will likely be a relief to the animals.

But if tech and farming don’t interest you, never fear. The fair has no shortage of things to see and do. In addition to the cute barn animals, there are rides and the exhibits, nightly concerts, and even an ice skating rink. But arguably, the food is one of the most exciting offerings.

There’s something to suit everyone’s palate, particularly if you don’t mind loading up on calories. There’s the usual (and unusual) fried fare, including cheesecake chimichangas, fried olives on a stick, and a pulled-pork-and-mac-and-cheese fried taco. You can also essentially dine around the world: grab a Greek gyro, chow down on poutine, munch on a Belgian waffle, nosh on a kosher meal, or sample traditional Native American dishes. There are even Kool Aid pickles and liquid nitrogen popcorn, for those who don’t mind being a bit adventurous with their food. And then… there’s the barbecue. Although an estimated seven in 10 U.S. adults own a grill or a smoker, there’s nothing quite like a fair pulled pork sandwich, grilled sausage, or turkey leg. Make sure to come hungry and wear loose-fitting pants if you go.

For locals and visitors alike, the New York State Fair is a must-see. Before it ends this Labor Day, you might want to check it out.