Before I discuss my feelings on the fair I should probably give a little background on the Erie County Fair, because it is not your average county fair. It is located in Hamburg, NY; about 4.5 miles southwest of New Era Field where the Buffalo Bills play. It started out as a one day event way back in 1820 and is now a 12-day monstrosity. The Erie County Fair is the third largest county fair in the country and usually draws about a million visitors. Its top attendance was in 2014, when more than 1.2 million visited. The fairgrounds now cover 275 acres, that’s more than double the size of the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Alright, that’s enough numbers for you. By now you should realize tons of people visit the very large Erie County Fair.
On to my Love/Hate relationship with the popular fair:
- I LOVE the selection of food. There are hundreds of different food vendors spread across the fairgrounds. Yet, there seem to be long lines at nearly all of them, nearly all the time. Oh and most of the food is not too good for you. There is fried food galore. There are fried Oreos and Twinkies, fried mashed potatoes, and all sorts of other weird fried things. It is very hard to decide what delicious, but terribly unhealthy food to eat. My favorite food stand is Antone’s. It is located across from the Grange building, near Slade Park. Ashley and I love their greasy chicken hoagies. I highly recommend it. There are endless options though when it comes to the food. Walking through the areas that are lined with food vendors is literally an attack on your nostrils. It is like a battle of different fine smelling foods trying fight for your attention.
- I HATE the crowds. The fair is ridiculously crowded. It is always busy there. I would be willing to bet there were over 100,000 people there the day the fair opened (when I was there). The crowds unsurprisingly cause a lot of long lines and headaches through the grounds. Like I said above, you should expect long lines at pretty much every food vendor. But first, you will follow a long line of cars into any one of six different parking lots (maybe more). Then you will have a long walk just to reach an entry gate. Then expect to wait in line to enter the aforementioned gate. Most of the rides, games, bathrooms, and everything else that you may be interested in will likely have a line of people ahead of you, too.
- I LOVE to play I-Got-It. Have you played I-Got-It? It is terribly addicting. I just love it. It’s that game that you play with a few dozen other people under a large tent. A person announces over a microphone “Ball one.” Then you throw a little red rubber ball into a box in front of you and watch the ball bounce around and land in a spot in a grid. Then, “ball two.” And you repeat. By the way, the announcer always has a very boring monotone voice. I think it’s a prerequisite for the job. You keep throwing until someone gets five balls in a row and yells “I got it.” There’s no feeling quite like winning that game and yelling those three magical words. It’s probably similar to winning the Super Bowl. Once you win, you get to pick out a prize worth about four dollars. The game is sheer luck, but I swear I used to be an expert. I once won two games in a row. However, I haven’t won in a couple of years (between the Eden Corn Festival and Erie County Fair we probably play about 10 games per year.
- I HATE how expensive everything is. Parking costs $5.00 and entrance into the fair costs another $10.00 per person (over the age of 12). There are a couple of days with reduced entry and parking fees. Then once you are inside the fair everything costs a lot more. Most of the typical fair games cost $5.00 each to play and most rides cost around $5.00 as well. If you or your kids want to play a bunch of games or go on several rides your day at the fair can become extremely pricey. As expected, the food is also very expensive.
- I LOVE that there are a lot of things for kids to do. Our children are young, just two and four years old. So, they aren’t going on any of the big or fast rides. They also don’t know how to play most of the games there. Those are good things because they save me money. The kids also don’t have much interest in walking through the many buildings with vendors and seeing what fun new products are for sale. Thankfully, there are things that they do like there. We walked over to Kiddie Land and the kids played a couple of games there. Again, the games were $5.00 each, but at least the kids were guaranteed prizes (worth about $1.00). Noah got a plastic sword and a large inflated shark. Charlotte picked out a stuffed animal and an inflated Cinderella. They surprisingly didn’t feel like going on any of the rides, but that was fine with me. There was also a nice petting zoo nearby. I took the kids through there and they each pet some sheep and goats. They enjoyed that. We also went through the horse barn and the Mooternity ward, where we saw some very pregnant cows and a 2-week old cow. One of my kids’ favorite things, strangely enough, was sitting on different John Deere tractors and looking at hot tubs.
- I HATE the noise. Like I said before, the fair is a monstrosity. It is loud. The rides are loud, many of the games are loud, the people are loud, and the events are loud. Most nights there are concerts in the Grandstand, but there’s also a tractor pull and a demolition derby. So pretty much every night you can hear something loud going on.
- I LOVE the people watching. If you like people watching there aren’t many better opportunities in the world than the Erie County Fair. There are so many people there each and every day. It is a diverse crowd with people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds, etc. There are a lot of very interesting people out there. Just go and find a bench or a nice Adirondack chair somewhere, then sit back and relax while you enjoy the show.
- I HATE the filth. This fair oozes filth. Well, in actuality it initially appears cleaner than some others. It is aesthetically pleasing (at least in some areas). However, there is so much food, so many people, rides, and animals and everything else that the place has no way to avoid being dirty. There’s so much greasy food that I’m pretty sure I tasted cooking grease in the air. My wife and I wore sandals to the fair the other day and our feet looked disgusting when we got home. So, enjoy yourself when you’re there, but be sure to hose yourself down before entering your house.