Attendance at New York State Fair hits 20-year low

Sep 4, 2012

The 2012 New York State Fair is over and in the books. The final day was a chance for some to hit the midway for the first time, and for others to squeeze in one last visit.

Joyce Orlandella from Liverpool is a self-proclaimed “fair-o-holic” and only missed two days this year. She said there’s plenty about the fair to keep her coming back so often:

"Everything. The people, the events, just the smells, the food. It’s just a happening."

But her ten trips through the gate didn’t help attendance from being down – off 71,869 from last year. In all, 845,595 people attended the fair this year. It's the lowest total since 1991.

The smaller crowds are good for one thing, Orlandella found.

"So it’s been actually easier to get around," she said. "But it lacks a little something when it’s not that, you know, there’s a certain ambiance to being in a huge crowd."

Fair organizers attributed a more accurate ticket counting system for some of the drop-off. In years past, tickets that were given away for free, but not used, were counted, according to fair director Dan O'Hara.

Fewer big name concerts also may have kept some people away.

But O’Hara said people seemed to enjoy their time more this year.

"This has probably been the best year as you walk around and see people smiling," O'Hara said Monday afternoon. "I don’t know what to attribute it to, but there’s just a certain positive energy out there and it’s exciting to see and refreshing to see."

Despite the lower crowd totals, revenues for the fair's midway are expected to beat last year's record of $2.4 million.

Labor Day parade

With the fair wrapping up on its usual Labor Day, that meant the annual Labor Day parade.

Dozens of central New Yorkers marched through the fairgrounds representing various local union chapters Monday morning.

Ronald Harrison, a Teamster from Ithaca, walks every year.

"It’s important to get together and let people know we’re still here. A lot of times people forget about the unions and forget about what’s been done over the years," he said.

Nationwide, the number of workers in a union has declined as traditional manufacturing jobs have declined. But those marching said unions are still important.

"We wouldn’t have the wages we have. We’d have less staff. Staffing is a big issue for the public," said Kaye Jaeger, who works at Crouse Hospital and is a member of the Service Employees International Union.

"We need to be able to take good care of the patients with good staffing. It seems like there’s less of a right to organize now."

You can follow reporter Ryan Delaney on Twitter @RyanWRVO