The coronavirus pandemic has put many of New York’s favorite traditions on hold, such as the New York State Fair, which was shuttered last year for the first time since World War II.
But with virus rates continuing to go down, the fair is expected to make a long-awaited return this year.
“The Fair must go on,” Cuomo said Monday morning during a live press conference from the fairgrounds in Syracuse “The State Fair is special. It’s special to all New Yorkers. It’s a great institution.”
Some safety precautions will give the Fair a different look and feel this year.
The Fair will be broken up into four different, concurrent festivals that will take place exclusively in the outdoor areas of the fairgrounds: one for food and drinks; another for rides and amusement games; a third for concerts; and one for agricultural exhibits. Separate passes will be sold for each to try to reduce mingling of crowds, but attendees can buy a pass for as many, or few, of those areas as they are interested in attending.
Daily admission will be limited to approximately 50 percent of capacity for the areas available for attendees to allow for social distancing. Capacity limits will be reexamined and adjusted if necessary to comply with health and safety guidelines.
The fairground’s buildings will not be open to the public, except for bathrooms.
Attendees will be required to observe social distancing and wear masks, except when eating or drinking.
People buying food and drinks will be asked to sit while they eat and drink, and ample tables and dining spaces will be made available. Midway rides, games and attractions, as well as all surfaces of frequent customer contact will be rigorously and frequently cleaned and sanitized.
These plans could change, and the restrictions might be loosened if infection rates continue to go down, Cuomo and others suggested.
“So these are general operating principles,” Cuomo said. “They will be revised between now and August, and if things keep going the way they’re going, they will be revised up. More capacity, more flexibility.
“If we keep that COVID positivity going down, we keep the vaccination rate going up, you’re going to see more and more economic activity and you’ll see that here at the State Fair also. So, these are estimated guidelines to operate, but I believe they’re going to be adjusted up by the time we get closer to the actual fair date.”
As of today, April 26, the statewide percentage of coronavirus infections is 2.39 percent, with 41 deaths, 3,100 hospitalized, and 429 in an intensive care unit.
“The positivity rate is going down, vaccination rates are going up, and that’s what we want to see,” Cuomo said.
Across the state, approximately 4.5 million coronavirus vaccinations have been administered, with numbers continuing to grow daily, as those able to be vaccinated have now opened up to anyone 16 years or older.
“With the vaccine, we can finally see an end to the tunnel,” said Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, who joined the governor at Monday’s press conference.
As it was not able to happen this past year, instead, the fairgrounds were used as a vaccination site, with over 345,000 having been administered at the fairgrounds alone.
“Not only is it a major economic boon to our region, but it’s also a major part of our community and our identity,” Magnarelli said. “We went from record attendance of more than 1.3 million people here for the state fair in 2019 to zero in 2020. It was painful, but that was what we had to do to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.
“With the vaccine, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Magnarelli said.
Reopening rates are continuing to increase as infections rates continue to drop. As of today, outside of New York City, offices are able to go up to 75 percent capacity, and 50 percent capacity is now allowed for gyms and casinos, and 33 percent for outdoor stadiums.
“The arrows are all pointed in the right direction, and we have to keep them pointed in that direction,” said Cuomo.
In recent years, the state has invested $120 million into the fairgrounds and attendance has increased dramatically, with a record 1.3 million people having visited the fair in 2019, according to the New York State Fair website. People from 28 states and six countries have come to New York to visit the renowned fair.
Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball expects that the fair will have a very special spirit about it this year. “The people of New York have fought valiantly,” said Ball. “We can look forward to the sights, the sounds, the smell, the taste once again of the New York Fair.”
The fair will take place from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6.
“The fair will be open, mark your calendars,” Cuomo said.