Crowds return for State Fair concerts, thrills

Crowds return for Fair concerts, thrills

A summer-closing tradition, the 13-day celebration includes a variety of musical acts, food choices and fair attractions.
Published: August 29, 2022 | Updated: September 9th, 2022 at 12:08 pm
Nick Grzymala kisses girlfriend Thao Nguyen's head while riding the gondolas over the midway Saturday, August 28, 2022, at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
Couple Nick Grzymala and Thao Nguyen share a kiss while riding the gondolas over the midway Saturday at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.

Following two years affected by the pandemic, The Great New York State Fair welcomed back thousands of fairgoers from far and wide in late August and early September for 13 days of celebration.

Notable musical headliners like COIN, Tai Verdes, and Nelly created a soundtrack throughout the fairgrounds as cows were birthed, antique tractors were displayed, and local woodworkers competed at events across the New York State Fairgrounds.

The nation’s oldest state fair has been cultivating moments surrounding music, butter sculptures, pig races, and everything in between since 1841. Final attendance number for this year’s fair tallied 878,110 — about 10% less than the 1 million annual attendees pre-pandemic, according to Syracuse.com.

Check out the highlights from this year’s fair happenings captured and documented by The NewsHouse staff.

Three-year-old Nova Johnston, visiting with her parents from Canandaigua, looks up at her dad while petting a newborn calf inside the dairy cattle building on Saturday, August 28, 2022, at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York.
Three-year-old Nova Johnston, visiting with her parents from Canandaigua, looks up at her dad while petting a newborn calf inside the Dairy Cattle Building on August 28.
Gen Z shows up for NYS dairy
September 9, 2022 11:45 am

Standing in front of a life-sized glass of chocolate milk, passing out fliers that read, “Reset Yourself with Dairy,” is Elsie Donlick, one of many young people leading the charge to promote dairy at the New York State Fair.

The Cortland County Associate Dairy Ambassador has been attending the fair for the past few years wanting to educate fairgoers about the importance of supporting New York State dairy.

“I just want to spread the word that dairy is good for their bodies,” Donlick said.

New York State has more than 3,500 dairy farms and is the fifth largest milk producer, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture. The use of young people to promote dairy and its benefits enables a new body of people to support farmers and their products across the state and brings light to an industry that often falls under the radar.

On the other side of the Dairy Products Building, Vicki Giarratano, the assistant director of food systems for the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), supervised volunteers ranging from 13 to 17 years old as they pour 25-cent cups of white, chocolate and strawberry milk at the New York State Milk Bar.

Giarratano said the goal of the Milk Bar is to give people an ice-cold glass of milk, so they learn to appreciate it, but there are benefits for those behind the bar, too.

“For most of these guys, it’s the first job they’ve ever had, so the Milk Bar is doing workforce training, customer service training, and teaching our young volunteers about the dairy industry,” Giarratano said.

2022 New York State Fair attendees pass through the Milk Bar at the New York State Fairgrounds
The New York State Fair's Milk Bar where cups of milk are sold for a quarter was a popular destination for 2022 visitors.

Efforts to include young people in the dairy industry is a strategic choice by CCE.

“By providing workforce development and opportunities to youth in Central New York, Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County is also helping to train the next generation of employees and leaders in the food system,” said Dan Welch, the executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension Cayuga County.

Utilizing young people to bolster the benefits of dairy is not limited to the Milk Bar. Across the way in the Dairy Cattle Building, Hannah Wieboldt, who has been showing her calf at the fair since she was five years old, said that competitions promote the versatility of cow breeds.

“Seeing all of the cows makes you think of where all of your food comes from,” said Wieboldt, the 2021 NY Guernsey Farmer Scholarship calf winner.

Concert: Dropkick Murphys
September 4, 2022 12:00 pm

As has become an almost annual Fair tradition with four appearances in recent years, Boston’s Dropkick Murphys drew thousands to the Chevy Park stage Saturday night for its Irish-fueled punk rock.

Niko Moon NYS Fair 2022
Dropkick Murphys' singer Ken Casey, right, and multi-instrumentalists Tim Brennan perform while the crowd raises their arms during their set at the Chevy Park Stage on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the New York State Fair.
Niko Moon NYS Fair 2022

Dropkick Murphys' Jeff DaRosa plays the banjo, one of many instruments he played during the set, during the opening song on the Chevy Park Stage.

Niko Moon NYS Fair 2022

The crowd cheers before the Dropkick Murphy's come on stage for their set.

Concert: Tai Verdes
September 3, 2022 4:00 pm

Known for the hit “A-O-K,” up-and-coming pop/soul singer Tai Verdes performed Chevy Court stage on Friday, Sept. 2.

Verdes was the Bandersnatch concert headliner at Syracuse University in October 2021.

Niko Moon NYS Fair 2022
Tai Verdes comes into the crowd during his last song, "A-O-K", while performing on the Chevy Court Stage on Friday Sept. 2, at the New York State Fair.
Concert: Lizzy McAlpine
September 3, 2022 4:00 pm

On Friday, Sept. 2, Lizzy McAlpine played to a small crowd of mostly young women, who swarmed the barricade beneath the stage and sang back every word.

McAlpine, 22, sprung to internet stardom through singing on TikTok, on which she touts more than 447,000 followers. Amongst her opening songs was “all my ghosts,” during which she played acoustic guitar as the sun beat down on the Chevy Park stage.

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Lizzy McAlpine performs at the Chevy Park Experience stage in the blazing sun on Friday, Sept. 2, at the New York State Fair.
Concert: Niko Moon
August 28, 2022 11:00 am

With his genre-blending music, Niko Moon entertained the diverse crowd with hits like “NO SAD SONGS” and “SHE AIN’T YOU” from his GOOD TIME album.

This was not Moon’s first show in Syracuse. Moon performed in front of a full crowd in 2021, before the official release of his GOOD TIME album, when he opened for Lady A at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview. 

Niko Moon NYS Fair 2022
Niko Moon, guitarist Jared Martin and drummer Jon August perform bits of songs that Moon wrote for other artists, including Zac Brown Band and Morgan Wallen, on the Chevy Court Stage on Friday, August 26.

In the middle of the set, Moon and his band mates all sat down with guitars for a breakaway session where they performed several tidbits of songs that he wrote for other artists including Zac Brown Band, Morgan Wallen and Dierks Bentley.

The crowd was full of fans young and old, including families with young children, which was fitting as Niko Moon and his wife, singer/songwriter Anna Moon, are expecting their first baby in November of this year.

He performed “ALL THAT WE NEED” from his most recent EP, COASTIN’, which he wrote for his wife, who has been with him since the very beginning and has encouraged him to follow his musical dreams, even when they were living in his parent’s basement.

He ended the night by taking photos and signing shirts for a long line of grateful fans.

Niko Moon NYS Fair 2022
Niko Moon interacts with the crowd during his performance of "SHE AIN'T YOU" at the New York State Fair at Chevy Court State on Friday, August 26, 2022.