Western New Yorkers are a loyal bunch, and we love tradition. For many, there are 12 days each August that smack of tradition: Erie County Fair days. This summer marks the 178th year for the nation’s third largest county fair, which takes place August 9-20.
“The Fair spans multiple generations,” says Fair Marketing Manager Marty Biniasz. “People come for many reasons – the food, to see one of the world’s largest traveling midways, the rides, shows – we have something for everyone.”
Jimmy Barrett, 66, grew up in Hamburg, not far from the Fairgrounds. He has attended 64 Erie County Fairs, missing just two – 1972 and 1973 – when he was serving overseas in the Air Force.
“Every summer, I’d look forward to my parents taking me to the Fair,” says Barrett, who now lives in Maryland but returns each summer for the Fair with his wife, children and grandchildren. “I still love it.”
He has two rooms filled with Fair memorabilia, including posters, a Civil War era ribbon and a mug from 1876 (the Fair has been held every year since 1841 except for 1943, when it was cancelled because of World War II).
New attractions at this year’s Fair include the interactive Urban Farm Experience exhibit, with do-it-yourself projects such as raised gardens, mulch bins and rain barrels. “Erie County Fair Cooks” will feature cooking demonstrations by area chefs, as well as vendors with culinary-related products and services. Shows include the popular Happy Together Tour, Throwback Country Night,
Rock of the ‘70s, Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. Freestyle Motocross Championship, Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Truck & Tractor Pull, Ultimate Night of Destruction and the World’s Largest Demolition Derby are also scheduled.
The 54th season at Darien Lake, Western New York’s largest theme park, is underway and its signature coaster, the Viper, is celebrating 35 years of providing thrills.
“Many guests pinpoint the first time they were tall enough to ride the Viper as one of their fondest memories,” says Darien Lake General Manager Chris Thorpe. “Years later, it’s wonderful to see them bring their children and grandchildren here to re-create that special moment.”
Many families, such as the Berowski family from Clarence, were park regulars when the kids were little. “The season pass pays for itself over and over,” says Elaine Berowski, whose three kids “enjoyed the sunshine, got exercise, laughed and enjoyed good clean fun for many summers.”
While there are no new rides this year, Darien Lake has introduced new games, concerts and season pass holder perks, and teamed up with Live Nation with a special offer: every ticket purchased for a 2017 concert includes free admission to the park on show day. Season pass holders will have exclusive eligibility for free lawn tickets to select Live Nation concerts, as well.
This summer marks the first full season that Fantasy Island will be under full management of Apex Parks Group, which bought the park from the DiPietro Family in 2015. “We’re keeping our focus on a family-friendly atmosphere,” says Len Synor, long-time marketing director for Fantasy Island, which opened mid-May. “We’re keeping the park just the way our more than 100,000 annual visitors want it, with their favorite rides, attractions and shows. We did add a new arcade and family-oriented shows. Fantasy Island has always been a favorite destination for family picnics and reunions, and we want to keep it that way.”
If you’re looking for some low-key nostalgia, Olcott Beach Carousel Park in Niagara County is just the ticket. At this vintage amusement park, even the prices – 25 cents per ride – are nostalgic. In addition to the 1928 Herschell-Spillman carousel, vintage kiddy rides, Skee Ball, arcade and 1931 Wurlitzer band organ, there’s the newly-refurbished kiddy Ferris wheel (from the Whistle Pig amusement park), a kiddy car and fire truck ride (from New Rialto Park) and the custom-built mahogany boats ride. There are also daily magic shows, stage shows and other special events throughout the summer.
“We have families who come here every year, we have adults who volunteered here as teenagers and now bring their children, so maintaining the authenticity of the park is important to us,” says Rosemary Sansone, Olcott Beach executive director and park manager. “It’s a family summer tradition.”
The park kicks off its fifteenth season on May 27.
Located on 27 acres on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, Midway State Park (open May 27) has attracted generations of families for over 100 years. It started as a trolley park in 1898 and grew to become one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the nation. Purchased by the State of New York in 2006, this historic amusement park features 20 rides and attractions, including the Little Dipper roller coaster, classic Herschell rides, miniature golf and an arcade. There’s a picnic area with pavilions, fishing, boat docks and food concessions. Special events include the Cruise-in Car Show, Pirate Day, Princess Day and more.
“We’ve tried to keep the Park pretty much the way our guests will remember it from their childhoods,” says Marla Connelly, who manages the park. “We maintained the nostalgia, but continue to update to ensure safety and fun for the generations who come here each year.”
Your chance to escape to the woods – and back to your childhood – is waiting at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in North Java. Situated on 100 plus acres of peaceful pines, it’s not exactly an amusement park – but it does offer countless activities for family fun. Plus you can stay overnight. Enjoy tent camping or rent one- or two-bedroom cabins with private bathroom and cooking facilities, plus other amenities. The kids will love the 16,000 square foot multi-level interactive water playground with waterslides, a fort, water cannon, spray features and more. Plus there’s laser tag, mini golf, volleyball, gem mining and a newly renovated Ranger Station.