SYRACUSE — The Great New York State Fair will make a comeback this summer accepting patrons at full capacity, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, after the state’s coronavirus infection rate has plummeted below 1% as vaccinations increase.
The fair will return at 100% attendee capacity Aug. 20 through Sept. 6 at the state fairgrounds in the town of Geddes, Onondaga County, as the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate drops and the coronavirus vaccination rate among New Yorkers continues to rise.
The state’s COVID-19 positivity dipped to 0.52% Monday, and 0.41% over a seven-day average – a tenth of a percent lower than a 0.51% average one week ago.
“Everything will be open at the New York State Fair — all the buildings, all the events,” Gov. Cuomo said at a COVID-19 briefing at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse on Monday. “It will be the Great New York State Fair that we are all so, so proud of.”
The fair will require attendees to remain a socially distanced 6 feet apart when possible.
COVID-19 vaccines will not be required for a person to attend the fair.
Unvaccinated New Yorkers will be required to wear a mask while facial coverings will be optional for fully vaccinated people.
“But that is on the honor system,” Cuomo said. “Unvaccinated people wear masks, but otherwise, it will be the fair as you know the fair.”
Signs will be posted to remind unvaccinated New Yorkers to wear a mask or facial covering.
“It will not be checked, but I think during this period of COVID, people have acted honorably, graciously and with integrity,” Cuomo said. “If you are not vaccinated, I believe people will respect that and I believe the overwhelming number of people will have been vaccinated.”
The vaccination site at the fairgrounds is expected to remain open, but may move to a different location. Vaccines at the fairgrounds are currently administered at the Expo Center.
Richard Ball, commissioner of agriculture for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, remarked that it will be in the state’s best interest to keep the vaccine site at the fairgrounds open.
“If we have 1.3 million people in one place, we have to take advantage of these opportunities to connect the dots,” Ball said of the opportunity to vaccinate large numbers of people. “The Great State Fair is such a great opportunity to connect the dots.”
Gov. Cuomo initially announced at the end of April that the fair would make a comeback at 50% capacity.
The state’s positivity rate was 2.06% and 1.26% in Central New York — the region where the fair takes place — at the time. Central New York’s positivity rate was 0.64% Monday.
Cuomo cited pandemic’s evolving infection, hospitalization and death rate, which is expected to remain historically low as vaccination rates continue to climb, as the reason for reopening the fair at full capacity.
If one of several variants of COVID-19 that has originated in other countries is immune to the vaccine and another wave or outbreak hits the state, officials will readjust or reimpose stricter capacity and other pandemic-related rules.
“But we don’t see that at all as a possibility that we have to worry about now,” the governor said. “As the facts change, we change. Right now, the facts are all better and better than we thought. We’re ahead of what anyone projected in terms of progress.”
The state reports 1,329,275 people visited the State Fair in 2019. The fair was canceled in 2020.
The first state fair was held in Syracuse in 1841. 2020 marked the first time no fair was held in more than 70 years. The state fair was not held from 1942-1947 when the fairgrounds became a military base during World War II, according to nysfair.ny.gov.
The 18-day state fair will feature its traditional food and beverage, amusement rides, concerts, agricultural exhibits, rides, games, national performers and liver entertainment. The most popular fairground buildings will reopen under state Health Department guidelines.
The fairgrounds have served as a state-run mass vaccination site this year to efficiently inoculate thousands of New Yorkers against COVID-19.
Assemblymen William Magnarelli and Albert Stirpe, both Central New York Democrats, hailed the fair as an event that will be vital to the state’s broader economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
“The New York State Fair is so important to this region’s identity and economic wellbeing,” Stirpe said. “We’re all anxious to get back to some semblance of normalcy as safely and as soon as possible. ...The New York State Fair is a summer tradition generations have cherished, celebrating the joys of community and time spent together. This is one step in a long recovery.”
The fair generates about $100 million for the state each year.
Millions of visitors have come to the fair from 28 states and six countries.
Cuomo invited attendees from across the nation, agreeing the fair will be bigger and better than in years’ past.
“...The fair is such a beautiful representative of the state. Anyone who says ‘I went to the New York State Fair four years ago’ or five years ago, you didn’t go to the New York State Fair,” Cuomo said. “It’s improved, it’s bigger, it’s better, it’s more convenient, there are more attractions. ...It’s a great economic engine to bring the economy back.”