Thursday December 20, 2012 | By:Felice E. Krycia-associate editor | News
A view of the Erie County Fair midway at dusk
There is an excitement in the air at the Erie County Fairgrounds and it is not even the summertime.
When the fair opens Aug. 7, 2013 fairgoers will notice some changes on the grounds.
Missing will be the old lottery building (which used to sit beside the Firemen’s Building), the firemen’s bathroom building, Chiavetta’s brown wooden building, the first aid building and the North Pole Village
“We removed these buildings in an effort to open up the area, creating more space, as well as showcasing the extensive renovations (costing $640,000) made to the Firemen’s Building this past year,” said Dennis Lang, fair director and chief executive officer of the Erie County Agricultural Society. “People expect more seating, more green space and a cleaner environment than ever before.”
Part of this plan is pushing the whole food court apart by 10 feet, making the space between the two sides of the food court 40 feet wide.
“We were looking at aerial photos and saw all this dead space at the back of the food concessions and the Midway.” Lang said. “That just didn’t make sense, when the food court area is so congested. We also run the daily parade through there, so that will alleviate some issues with the eight-horse hitch team.”
The entrances to the food court will now be curved, helping to move the flow into and out of the area in a less congested manner, Lang said.
According to Lang, Chiavetta’s location at the foot of the McKinley Parkway end of the food court will only be changed slightly.
“We will put in a cement pad with the plumbing and sewer hook-ups they need and they will still have the three tent locations they’ve use. They will have to rebuild the fire pits, because we wouldn’t really know what they needed,” Lang said.
Replacing the North Pole Village is a new village-style park, with a small outdoor entertainment stage and seating placed all around.
The old first-aid station at Hickory Park is being replaced with a more modern facility.
Bathroom facilities are being repaired or replaced all around the fairgrounds. In some cases there will be either new buildings or large trailer facilities, that are handicap accessible.
Other projects include the replacement of three barns ($710,000), upgrades to others and this January, Buffalo Raceway attendees will see brighter lights around the track as well as renovations to the West Grandstand and a brand new video and sound system, featuring new graphics and speakers throughout the entire racing operation.
More blacktop work has been done on the grounds ($636,000 worth) and about 2,000-linear-feet of electrical wiring has been buried, removing poles and wires from some locations on the fairgrounds, at a cost of $879,000.
There has also been maintenance work done on some of the other buildings (including roof and window repairs), upgrades of equipment, bleachers, striping of the parking lot and other items.
There is a new Armor Fire Company building and a new maintenance warehouse is scheduled to be built for next year.
The improvements (over $4.5 million) are all funded by the income provided by the casino, who also paid $550,000 in taxes this year.
“The money that we receive from the casino is put back into the fairgrounds, including our next big project,” Lang said.
At the close of the 2013 fair, on Aug. 18, work will begin on the new Agricultural Discovery Center, to be on the McKinley Parkway side of the fairgrounds.
Scheduled to be demolished are three buildings: the Ag-Sperience building with the blacksmith shop and the adjoining diary barn and the milking barn.
“We’re estimating this will be around a $6 million project,” Lang said.
The proposed 60,000-square-foot building will house three separate components and will open in time for the 175th Erie County Fair in 2014.
Using 22,000-23,000-square-feet in the front will be the Agriculture Discovery Center.
Here people of all ages will learn how the food they eat gets from the farms to their table.
There will be hands-on permanent displays, where one can try milking a cow, from doing it by hand to using the robotic milkers and possibly displays with fowls and other livestock.
Plans also include having farm machinery that is used to harvest crops as well as showing what a silo is and how grains are separated.
The blacksmith shop will be incorporated inside the building.
“This Discovery Center is dear to our hearts and is what our mission statement is all about,” Jessica Underberg, assistant fair director said.
The Erie County Agricultural Society Mission Statement is “The basic purpose of the Erie County Agricultural Society, sponsors of the Erie County Fair and Exposition is to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of New York State.”
According to Lang, the plan is to run the Agricultural Discovery Center all year and expand the current “Farm to Table Program” to possibly include senior citizens.
“We have had several senior groups voice an interest in coming here and participating in this type of program” Underberg said.
All along the north side of the building will be a state-of-the-art milking parlor.
There will be glass walls so that people can observe the entire milking process, including the washing of the cattle.
The lines leading from the milking stations will be clear, so that people can see the actual milk product, which will later be transported to a milk/dairy processing plant.
The entire back section of the building will be used for stalls for both horses and cattle.
“It is our plan, once this building is complete, to be able to house up to 500 horses for events at the Showplex,” Lang said.
“This is a very exciting time here at the fairgrounds,” Lang said. “We are very excited about the future of our organization.”