State Fair History

  • 1832 – In February the New York State Agricultural Society was founded in Albany by a group of farmers, legislators, and others to promote agricultural improvement and local fairs.
  • 1841 – The nation’s first state fair is held in Syracuse, New York. on September 29 & 30th. There an assembled 10,000-15,000 people heard speeches by notables and viewed animal exhibits, a plowing contest, and samples of manufactured goods for the farm and home.
  • 1842 – The second New York State Fair is held in Albany, and ushered in an era of growth and travel for the institution.
  • 1842-1889 – The fair traveled among 11 different cities—Albany, Auburn, Buffalo, Elmira, New York City, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Utica, and Watertown.
  • 1889 – Syracuse Land Co donated to the Agricultural Society a 100-acre tract of land in Geddes (Onondaga County) crossed by railways that facilitated exhibit transport. The project continued through September of 1890.
  • 1890s – Burdened with debt from constructing permanent buildings on the site, the Agricultural Society turned to state government for relief. New York State purchased the grounds in 1899 and took over management of the fair the next year, creating the 11-member State Fair Commission appointed by the governor.
  • 1908 – The first structure in a $2 million long-term building plan was erected, with subsequent buildings completed at intervals over the next two decades.
  • 1928 – The opening of an Iroquois village exhibit and an agricultural museum addressed a growing and nostalgic public interest in local history.
  • 1938 – The fair acquired a new name—New York State Agricultural and Industrial Exposition—reflecting closer ties to industry, while extended to a 14-day schedule featuring popular entertainment acts increased attendance.
  • 1942-1947 – No fair was held, as the fairgrounds became a military base during World War II.
  • 1948 – A six-day, full-scale exposition returned to large crowds.
  • 1950s-1960s – The fair expanded to nine days and gained an attendance of over 500,000 by the end of the 1950s. The midway is added to the fair along with nationally known entertainers both of which attracted families.
  • 1962-1966 – The fair temporarily changes its name to New York State Exposition.
  • 1967 – The New York State Exposition is renamed to the New York State Fair.
  • 1972 – Sonny and Cher perform at the fair’s Empire Court, breaking the fair’s concert attendance records.
  • 1978 – The fair expands to 10 days and the buildings at the fairgrounds begin to be rented during the off-season.
  • 1990 – The fair expands to 12 days.
  • 2001 – Over 1 million fairgoers attend the 12 day fair for the first time. With 1,011,248 attendees, this year still holds the over all attendance record.
  • 2009 – The fair changes its Chevy Court format to include two different performers each day.
  • 2010 – Country trio Lady Antebellum’s performance on Chevy Court breaking the previous record with an estimated 30,000 attendees. A record of 206,000 fairgoers attends Chevy Court concerts during the 12 day run. Paid attendance at the fair hits an all-time high, while the total attendance was the third highest in history at 999,845.
  • 2011 – Bruno Mars breaks the Chevy Court attendance record yet again with an estimated 35,000 in attendance.
  • 2013 – The New York State Fair opens an exhibit in the Grange Building celebrating their history.
  • 2013 – The addition of the first ever Dairy Cow Birthing center at the New York State Fair attracts crowds of thousands to watch live births of calves three times a day during the Fair 12 day run.
  • 2014 - On Saturday, August 30 the Fair breaks their highest one day attendance record of 120,516 with 120,617 visitors. Two days later on Monday, September 1, that record is broken again with 122,870 visitors.
  • 2014 - A new tradition is started with “Dollar Day” on Labor Day including dollar admission, dollar rides and dollar food and drink specials.

Share the Fair

Email this page »

Our new Podcast

Go behind the scenes

The Fair Begins in...

Gates open in 61 days

Be the First to Know