There's every reason to think this summer's fair will be as good as last year's, which had the largest attendance in decades -- about 21,000 -- and plans are afoot to bring in thousands more to the fairgrounds for new events that include a statewide sheep show and Christian music concerts.
That was what the Human Service Committee was told at its Monday afternoon meeting by Norm Pimm, treasurer of the Genesee County Agricultural Society, which oversees the fairgrounds.
"We ran out of parking two nights," Pimm said, noting they found more space somehow, because "if they were going to pay $5 for parking, we were going to find a place for them."
Pimm credited the record-breaking number of fairgoers to lots of positive publicity by local media and the most coverage to date from news outlets in Buffalo, including TV channels 2, 7 and 4, The Buffalo News, and a morning radio show, which drew more people than ever from the neighboring Erie County.
"We had to get the kids up early so they could be out with the animals," Pimm said about working to get publicity.
Another plus in 2015 was the biggest midway yet, including 18 mechanical rides, and the bonanza that ensued from having a $5 three-hour limitless ride opportunity for children on a Saturday.
"Parents said you couldn't go to another amusement park for that price," Pimm said.
The plan is to expand the three-hour ride bonanza by adding one more day this year -- a Friday AND a Saturday.
"I like the price for the kids' rides," said Committee Member John Deleo, who represents District 7.
The fair officials also want "to try and pick up some pieces" of the shattered good times due to the necessity of fair cancellations by fire departments in Elba and Stafford. To that end, they plan to hire the Syracuse-based band Under the Gun, which regularly played the Stafford gig, to entertain fairgoers.
"They have a huge following," Pimm told the committee, and so does the country band Branded and the Buffalo-based blues trio the Jony James Band, both of which are also going to be on the 2016 roster.
Of Jony James, a Buffalo News writer noted "(Jony’s) slashing, quivering guitar cuts like lightening through the smoke and grit of rough and tumble roadhouses, while his voice carries a touching sort of quiet sadness.”
Also, a magician has just been signed to perform daily at the fair. The price for parking will remain unchanged at $5 per vehicle and admission will remain free to the fair, despite the fact that many others are starting to charge an entrance fee.
The Batavia Speedway will continue its operations.
Beyond the fair, the Empire Sheep Show is a statewide showcase that will bring people to Genesee County for four days. And the largest hitched horse show in New York is in the plans, too, one of two new horse shows planned for the venue.
To accommodate these and upgrade the fairgrounds, a loan was just signed to build a new 60 by 130 foot barn. The old barn will remain standing and can be used when additional show space is needed. Grants are being pursued for electrical improvements at the fairgrounds.
This fall, a brand-new Farm Museum will open at the fairgrounds, and a key goal is to attract youth to agricultural pursuits. Local farmers provided the seed money for a 40 by 130 foot building to house the museum, which will include a classroom, exhibit space and room to expand. Plans call for an animal clinic for youth focusing on both health and showmanship.
"At the end of the day, if we don't get youth involved, there won't be a fair in 10 or 20 years," Pimm said.
Lastly, Pimm said the Ag Society was approached by a couple of local churches wanting to hold Christian music concerts. The estimated number of potential attendees quickly ballooned he said, and is now hovering between 3,000 to 5,000 people.
Ed DeJaneiro Jr., committee member representing District 9, said Pimm's report of the Ag Society underscores its aim to provide educational and entertainment value at affordable prices.
By the by, here's a video of the Jony James Band from 2011's Artpark festival in Lewiston.