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The countdown begins in Western New York for the upcoming 175th Erie County Fair

THINK FAIR THOUGHTS — Assistant Fair Manager Jessica Underberg, CFE, speaks to the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce about the Erie County Agricultural Society and fair. Photo by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — “Although snow covers the grounds and temperatures hover in the single digits, we invite fairgoers to think of hot, August days filled with friends, family and fun at the fair,” said Assistant Fair Manager Jessica Underberg, CFE, about the Erie County Fair’s upcoming 175th celebration.

The countdown has begun for this milestone fair, which will be held Aug. 6 – 17.

Underberg and Marty Biniasz, director of entertainment for the 175th Erie County Fair, spoke to the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 20, to inform the public about events that can be anticipated, during the next few months, and also detailed upgrades that have been made to the local fairgrounds.

Underberg reminded those present that The Fairgrounds is home to many events year-round, beside the annual county fair celebration.

She said that the event center hosts more than 350,000 visitors per year, at events such as the Western New York Home & Garden Expo, Plantasia, Gem Street USA, Christmas in the Country, the Festival of Lights and more. The latter alone saw more than 45,000 attendees, this year.

Underberg said that the Buffalo Raceway has more than 45,000 annual attendance wagers from all over the world. Hamburg Gaming, at more than 55,000 square feet, and the Showplex, at approximately 52,000 square feet, are also large attractions, she said.

The assistant fair manager explained that the Erie County Fair, which has been ranked No. 11 in North America, based on attendance, brings about a positive economic impact for the local economy.

She broke down the “net-new” numbers, those which she said were unique, including individuals and monies coming from outside the county exclusively for this local offering.

Approximately 1.4 million visitors come to The Fairgrounds from outside Erie County; “they spend $67.7 million in new direct sales,” Underberg said, “and $42.3 million in indirect sales. That supports more than 2,000 jobs.”

Sales tax revenue for the fair and event center total approximately $2.9 million, while the casino generates an additional $695,000. Underberg said that $45,300 in sales tax revenue is distributed from the county to the town of Hamburg; the town additionally receives $577,000, because it hosts a casino.

She said that, based on its mission to preserve and enhance agriculture in New York state, the Erie County Agricultural Society has been working to restore and modernize The Fairgrounds in Hamburg.

The historic firemen’s building was recently updated. Several new barns were built, an outdoor show ring was added, the west grandstand was renovated, a first aid building was added, green space was created, midway park was added, Baker Park was updated, a new restroom facility was built, the Avenue of Flags stage was recreated, the food court was widened and the Armor Fire Company Building was added.

In addition, Underberg highlighted fair contributions to the local community, such as donations to local fire companies, $20,000 in scholarships, holiday adopt-a-family endeavors and more.

She reminded those present about the Agricultural Discovery Center, a60,000-square-foot, $8 million work-in-progress that Fair Manager and CEO Dennis Lang has said is anticipated to be completed by this August’s event.

The discovery center will feature many things, such as a milking parlor, Milkable Mabel, a blacksmith shop, the “moo-ternity” pens, a steel grain silo theater, livestock stalls and more. Underberg said that this new fair feature will “target the 98 percent of the population that is not directly involved in agriculture.”

Switching gears, Biniasz took the mic to highlight this year’s fair anniversary, which he reported is already in full swing. “We are preparing to make this year the biggest and the best,” he said.

He said that it is his goal to celebrate the fair’s history and tradition, while increasing its geographic reach, creating anticipation for opening day, strengthening bonds with and thanking the Hamburg community and supporting a primary mission of agricultural promotion and education.

In his sneak preview of this year’s 175th Erie County Fair, Biniasz explained that opening day, Aug. 6, will feature a full concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as one of three evenings of fireworks. John Fogerty, the Gatlin Brothers, The Fab Four, Dierks Bentley and Lady Antebellum are just some of the guests that will be appearing, during the fair.

In addition, high wire artist Nik Wallenda has confirmed that he will attempt the largest aerial walk of 2014 on Aug. 10 at the Erie County Fair. That day’s events will also include the “largest New York State barbecue,” with three main vendors. The Fairgrounds will also host local food truck vendors on one day, for its guests to enjoy.

“It’s a big year for us,” Biniasz said. “We want to think fair thoughts. It’s right around the corner!”

With that idea in mind, fairgoers have been asked to use the tag #ThinkFairThoughts to share their memories, stories and pictures from the Erie County Fair on the fair’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

“The campaign ‘Think Fair Thoughts’ challenges guests of the fair to bring to top of mind all their best fair memories and the emotions they evoke,” fair organizers said. “It will be a call to the anxiously awaiting public to join the countdown and begin to share their stories through social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter.”

For more information about this year’s event, visit www.ecfair.org.
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