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A Different State Fair – New York


by Doreen Weston

SYRACUSE, N.Y.- Mention “state fair” in August and visions of green shavings and Stopher Walk fill one’s head. But for those of us in the Northeast, there is another state fair that deserves a closer look. That would be the New York State Fair at Syracuse, a splendid horse show offering just about anything the exhibitor could want, and then some.

The stabling is in permanent barns, a mere 15 or 20 feet from the covered warm-up arena, which leads directly to the show ring. The show is capably managed by Naomi Blumenthal, who also manages Syracuse International at the same site. This is very “exhibitor friendly” show, where each entry is appreciated. Classes are offered over five days, beginning on Thursday and running through Labor Day morning.

Judges are consistently well-known and respected individuals. Sessions are thoughtfully scheduled to begin at a reasonable hour in the morning and evenings end early enough at night to allow for a good night’s sleep or a foray out to the midway. Full USEF “A” and “B” rated divisions are offered for Morgans, Saddlebreds, Hackneys and roadsters. In equitation, there are academy classes with championships, Good Hands, USEF, UPHA and AMHA hunt and Saddle Seat qualifiers. Young horse classes are offered in three-gaited pleasure, fine harness and Morgan divisions. Friesian riding and driving, open English pleasure and pleasure driving classes are also offered. The winner of the Saddlebred Three-Gaited Pleasure Championship is designated as the ASB Pleasure Champion for New York State, an honor in and of itself. Championships are rewarded with embroidered coolers and impressive rosettes. Stall and entry fees are reasonable and hotel accommodations are available within easy walking distance.

The big draw for the public at NYSF is, unquestionably, the draft horses - Percherons, Clydesdales, Shires, Belgians. The show hosts the final qualifier for the North American Six Horse Hitch Invitational, and competition is fierce. The coliseum is usually packed full at every afternoon and evening performance, which allows all exhibitors to show in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. The fact is that these fairgoers like a good horse, regardless of breed. They come to see the horse show, find a favorite and get behind him!

And then there is the fair. To those not familiar with New York State, it could be a revelation. There are, of course, the usual commercial exhibits and the games and rides on the midway. What state fair could be complete without? But New York, once away from the metropolitan area, is very agricultural. This aspect of the state is well represented with poultry, rabbit, goat, swine and sheep exhibits, not to mention cattle in two large barns: one dairy, one beef. There’s the horticulture building, which offers, among other things, maple sugar cotton candy and other maple sugar products. There are 4-H exhibits, concerts and some of the best food you’ll find anywhere, including the famous Dinosaur Barbeque. Many local Syracuse area restaurants set up regular kitchens in permanent booths every year, serving everything from fresh pasta to cooked-to-order steaks, hearty clam chowder, fresh fish and very tasty chicken wings. No need to survive on “fair food” here!

So, if your barn is looking for a fun show to go to, this is one that merits your attention. To those who attend each year, it’s a “not to be missed” week. While not quite as well known as that other state fair (Kentucky), it’s a great opportunity to showcase our horses in front of an appreciative audience at a great venue. 

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