It’s a common procedure at the state fair: step right up and try to win a prize at one of the midway’s many carnival games.
Pop a balloon with a dart; sink a basketball shot; hook a ring around a bottle. Do so, and spend the rest of a day at the fair slinging an oversized plush gorilla over the shoulder, or carrying a stuffed monkey under an arm.
But one game, and an iconic fair prize, is missing this year.
"You threw the ping-pong ball into the little goldfish bowl of water. And if it went in, you won a goldfish," reminisced Shane Thornton, who was at the fair with his three daughters.
It was a tradition, he said, for his daughters to play that game until they won a goldfish every year, no matter how much money it cost him.
But there are no more ping-pong balls bouncing off of fishbowls. Gone are the golden orange fish, bobbing in little plastic bags. There are no new aquatic additions to the family in tow after a day at the fair.
Too bad. None of the goldfish the Thorntons won are still around.
"Some of them lasted a couple of weeks, some of them didn’t make it home," he said.
His daughter Brittany usually didn’t even bother to give them names, "because they were going to die anyway," she said.
That’s a common sentiment felt around the midway. Not much love lost for goldfish from past summers’ fair trips.
Are any of Kassie Vosburg's prize goldfish still around?
"No, they all died the next day," she replied.
She doesn’t remember any of her fish’s names. They were given the usual unceremonious funeral: flushed "down the toilet," Vosburg recalled.
Kacen Chigaridas won a stronger-than-most goldfish at last year’s fair that’s still swimming. He just got lucky, he said.
He named the fish Bernie. The goldfish his little brother won is no long floating alongside Bernie.
So where are all the goldfish this year?
"I'm not going to comment on goldfish," said Frank Zaitshik, owner of the new midway company, Wade Shows.
The answer lies with the fair itself, which is run by New York state.
A spokesman gave WRVO this written statement after inquires:
We received a number of calls after last year’s fair expressing concern for the wellbeing of these fish after our vendors leave the grounds. Out of an abundance of caution, and in light of the fact that we have a new operator on our Midway, we have decided not to allow them as prizes this year. We plan to revisit this issue next year.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of heartache or longing for bringing the goldfish back. Brittany and her sister were more interested in a different prize, a big stuffed monkey.
And does she miss the goldfish?
"No," she said. "They're ugly."