As the dust settles and we begin to experience a last surge of heat for the season during this balmy November, it seems like the perfect time to reflect back and savor the amazing week of events, shows, and spectacular activities and eats offered this year at the 2015 Great New York State Fair. After all, the week immediately preceding is generally so busy with back to school running around, Labor Day celebrations, etc… you don’t really get an opportunity to sit down and digest what an amazing week (twelve days really) we really have right here in New York State. After all, it was voted the fifth best State Fair in the nation by USA Today in 2015. Nothing to sneeze at. We also can bolster that we hold the prize and honor of being the first State Fair ever. So take that Minnesota. Wait till next year, you’ll be looking up to us as we sit at number one.
Breaking records on Day One with more than 16,042 above last years opening day, it was a great start for the Fair, as crowds visited throughout the twelve day event. With gorgeous weather, stellar performers scheduled each day, and special $3 Thursdays, and $1 Labor Day, attendees were able to take advantage of the fun at an affordable family price. Day One’s attendance record could possibly be attributed to the first of only a few final Grandstand shows scheduled. With the new Lakeview Amphitheater opening across the street, it’s exciting to be able to offer patrons the best in the business with state of the art equipment once again in this region. But, it also was bittersweet to be part of the final days at this venue before it’s demolition this year.
Over the thirty eight years the Grandstands at The Great New York State Fair hosted shows to fair goers. Memorable acts such Whitney Houston, Garth Brooks, Frank Sinatra, Neil Young, James Taylor, Ted Nugent, Rihanna, Brittney Spears, ZZ Top, Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys, and so many others graced the stage and filled the seats bringing Central New Yorkers some of the greatest names in the business while Chevy Court attendees were treated to free shows. Over the years the tide turned and the free concerts became the place to be.
As larger names were brought in to Chevy Court, records began to be set, with this years Steve Miller Band hailing the largest crowd ever at Chevy Court with approximately 36,900 attendees. Nonetheless, all good things do come to an end, while some have bright new beginnings. Next year fair goers will sadly reminisce about those days at the Grandstands, but will return to a brand new Chevy Court as national acts will once again treat those patrons to free entertainment with state of the art equipment and stage.
So as we reflect back on the final shows at The Grandstands this year, it was only fitting that country favorites Eric Church and Hank Williams Jr. held the last hooray and gave it a final farewell, fittingly deserved of those thirty eight years. The throw back ticket pricing for all acts including legendary Patti LaBelle and comedian Jim Gaffigan, and was a proper thank you to all attendees as they enjoyed the final moments at was once Central New York’s summer venue place to be.
Eric Church started the party off right with special guests Cadillac Three on Day One. This group of long haired rowdy boys, set the bar high with their country rock and roll and introduced those newcomers to their Cadillac Three style of in your face hard core rock with an edge of country thrown in. Eric Church, well of course this handsome mysterious country star shone bright as he filled to near capacity once again a venue paying homage to those before him. Playing hits such as “Cold One,” “Talladega,” “Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Drink In My Hand,” “Smoke A Little Smoke,” and of course the hot and steamy song, “Like A Wrecking Ball.” Yep, this down home country boy did this crowd proud and started this party off right.
Hank Williams Jr. brought his rowdy friends to the Grandstands on day four of the fair and kicked up some some dust with his Honky-Tonk hits. The Louisiana born country star brought some of his most well-known songs such as Neil Young’s “Are You Ready for the Country,” “All My Rowdy Friends,” “The Blues Man,” “There’s a Tear in My Beer,” and “A Country Boy Can Survive.” The audience was ecstatic to have Hank visit Syracuse, and Hank was equally happy to be performing to grateful audience. Among the crowd favorites in the set, was an impressive collection of his father’s songs including “Move It On Over,” “Kaw-Liga,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Adding even more intensity to the show, were a few unforgettable mash-ups, the greatest one covering “Outlaw Women” > “Dinosaur” > “There’s A Tear In My Beer” > “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down” > “Good Ol’ Boys” > “I Walk The Line.” Of course, the evening would not have been concluded without an epic sing-a-long version of “Family Tradition.”
While Hank was bringing down the house over at the Grandstands, Chevy Court had a few shows to bring in the crowds themselves on Day Four. Up first for the 2p.m. show was country favorites The Swon Brothers.
The Swon Brothers are perhaps known by most as the lovable country brothers on season four of The Voice. On team Blake, these two siblings made their way to third that season, but are number one with all their country fans. Singing their hits “Later On” and “Pray for You,” Colton and Zach revved up the crowd and had them singing along in no time. In fact, the crowd even became part of the show with a sound of cheers as to which brother they liked best. Like a good mother always says, I love you both the same.
As the evening began to roll around Chevy Court was filling up with eager fans awaiting the amazing Nate Ruess. Best know perhaps as lead singer of the indie group Fun, it seems like every song he touches becomes a hit.
With his new band the Romantics, their set list was ridden with hits from both his bands Format and Fun with songs “Oceans” > “We Are Young” > “Some Nights” > “Carry On,” to some songs from his new solo album Grand Romantic (“Great Big Storm” > “You Light My Fire” > “What This World Is Coming To” > “Nothing Without Love” > “Harsh Light” > “Ahha”), and covers (Prince’s, “Let’s Go Crazy”). This amazing musician may be best known for his strong vocals, but don’t count him out as his songwriting abilities are top notch as well. As part of a collaborative effort, Ruess partnered with Pink in 2014 on the number one billboard song “Just Give Me A Reason” which was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2014. Yes, the NY State Fair surely brought in the big guns on day four, for sure.
On Tuesday, Day Five, Chevy Court once again welcomed Bowzer’s Rock & Roll Party back to rock out the afternoon crowd. This lovable 50’s icon, known to most as a member of the popular 50’s Doo Wap group, Sha Na Na, has entertained us with not only his humor and personable demeanor, but his musical talents for more years. Jon Baumann, his real name, is a native of Brooklyn, New York and studied classical music at Juilliard at a very early age, and whether it was playing Mozart or with Sha Na Na, his mothers greatest moment was seeing her son at Carnegie Hall.
One Day Six, Chevy Court was packed with fans awaiting their favorite new 2015’s ACM New Artist of the Year, Cole Swindell. With such an amazing group of new artists this year to be nominated, what was it about Cole Swindell that stood out above the rest? One quickly learned it was his stage presence. He had the ability to draw an audience in like no other. Perhaps it was the eye contact, the waves, or the pointing to individuals that made you feel like he was singing right to you.
An accomplished songwriter way before releasing his self titled debut album, Cole Swindell, Cole was no stranger to the music business. Penning hits for other country artists such as “Roller Coast,” “Get Me Some of That,” and “This Is How We Roll,” to name only a few, Swindell had made his mark in country music and touching souls of those his words spoke to. Singing his hits “Chillin It” > “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” > “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” > “Let Me See Ya Girl,” he had this crowd in the palm of his hand. With a mischievous smile and a country charm, this down home country boy was definitely a crowd favorite at the Fair this year.
On Tuesday, September 6th, Day Six, country was once again represented by country favorite Joe Nichols at Chevy Court. Joe’s smooth country sound is clearly what some critics consider “traditional country” music and not the new “Bro Country.” His vocal comments against the turn of the tide has not gone unheard by many in the business and he even joked about it this year at the Fair. Singing Sir Mixx A Lot’s, “I Like Big Butts,” as only Joe could, the audience loved his countries version of rap as it confirmed why he is best suited for the country genre.
On Wednesday, September 7th, Day Seven of the Fair, Snoop Dogg was scheduled to perform but was forced to cancel the night before. To everyone’s surprise, the fair was able to bring in rapper Nas as Snoop’s replacement. The fair on Wednesday didn’t seem as packed as it had been the last week but that didn’t stop an estimated 30,000 people from coming to Chevy Court.
On Thursday, Day Eight, R&B superstar Jason Derulo performed for a packed crowd at Chevy Court. Derulo put on an excellent performance that included a backing band and a group of dancers. For a night that featured two other major artists at the Grandstand and the new Lakeview Amphitheater, Jason Derulo filled Chevy Court with no sign of any competition. As someone who just played at the fair last year, Jason Derulo drew an estimated 25,000 screaming teenage girls.
On Saturday, Day Ten, Chevy Court welcomed home many local talented artists right from our own back yard. At the 2pm Chevy Court Show, crowds welcomed Amanda Lee Peers; Syracuse native, Josh Batstone; and season eight’s winner of The Vocie, Sawyer Fredericks. It was heartwarming to be able to welcome all our hometown heroes to the stage and celebrate their music.
The 8pm show on Day Ten welcomed Motown greats, The Jacksons. Consisting of original members, Jackie, Tito, and Marlon Jackson, the crowd went wild as they danced and sang along with hits “Can You Feel It,” “Rock With You,” “2300 Jackson Street,” “ABC,” “Dancing Machine, ” Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and many, many more.
It’s hard to believe that this marks their 50th anniversary tour, but still today fans went crazy, dressed in costume, and got up on their feet to sing and dance along to all their favorites. For me, it was a walk down memory lane watching video clips of live shows and interviews and clips of their Saturday morning cartoon that I watched so many years ago. A fun evening of music, those guys still have the moves for sure.
The Steve Miller Band came to the Great New York State Fair on the second to last night and brought along a record 37,000+ (the largest crowd to date). As the quintet hammered down on Syracuse with their hits from the last five decades, the performance got better as the crowd sang louder to each song. Opening the show with “Jungle Love,” gave a great representation of the fair with how all of the fun, food, crafts, and entertainment can sometimes feel overwhelming. The show included major plays consisting of “Take The Money,” “Shubada du ma ma,” “The Joker,” “Fly Like and Eagle,” and “Keep On Rockin’ Me.” Little Walters’ own “Blues With a Feeling” made an appearance during the show and despite Millers’ tender age of 71, he showed some animation during a rendition of “Loving Cup.” Before the crowd knew it, the enhanced encore had arrived with the group playing “The Stake,” a very bouncy “Swingtown,” and ending the high ride with extended “Jet Airliner.”
As the final day approached, I knew that an early arrival was mandatory to secure my seat amidst the Millennium generation that was sure to have already staked out the best seats available awaiting teen heartthrob, Nick Jonas. Arriving at 11 a.m. I realized that I was in for the longest day ahead, on what was to prove to be the hottest day of the fair. Surprisingly enough, the crowd of Nick Jonas fans remained upbeat with little to no complaints, and by midday the NY State Fair staff began handing out free waters to those who refused to budge from their seats, lest give up the prime real estate while in absence. The refreshing donation hit the spot and spoke volumes on what a great event and what great folks work to bring this event to everyone.
As the time neared and Nick Jonas came out to the stage, he set right out playing his number one song “Chains” following it up “Numb” > “Levels” > “Wilderness” > “Good Thing” > “I Want You” > “Santa Barbara” > “Under You” > “Roses” > “Teacher” > “Take Over” and for an encore, “Jealous.” How he managed to wear that jacket through half the show was beyond me as I was literally melting into my seat. Jonas’ first solo tour, and one of the first times out by himself, it was a great ending to the Fair, and great beginning for his new upcoming tour to get his footing on stage with his ultra hip band.
Okay, so we’re number five in the top ten best state fairs in the nation. Perhaps you can see why this twelve day event becomes the traditional ending to New Yorkers summers’. Whether you come for the rides, the events and competitions, the exhibits and opportunity to buy some Ginsu knives, the food (you know you do), or the music, it proves each year to raise the bar and bring in what fairgoers want. Looking forward to the 2016 Fair, they will once again raise that bar, and hopefully continue to bring in the biggest names in the business to their ultra new and state of the art Chevy Court. I predict that next years shows will exceed this years, they’ll book much quicker than years past, and once again the Great NY State Fair will prove to be the place to be to end our summer on the highest note possible.