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90 years of concerts and crowds at the Grandstand

Built in 1928 at a cost of $100,000, the Grandstand was lauded in an Erie Independent article that year as a “fine structure, not surpassed in beauty and completeness by any similar stand on any fairgrounds in the country.”

It has since been the center for many of the Erie County Fair’s most memorable moments, playing host to everything from chariot races and horse shows to hell driver stunts and boxing bouts. A subsequent expansion in 1962 was necessary due to the success of pari-mutuel harness racing at Buffalo Raceway, who was the Agricultural Society’s primary, non-Fair tenant.

Many massive country and rock & roll concerts have also graced the stage, with the first show in 1956 headlined by the clean-cut Pat Boone. Among the illustrious list of other entertainers over the years: Gene Autry, Glen Campbell, Reba McEntire, Lynard Skynard, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Peter Frampton, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Bob Dylan and a young up-and-comer named Taylor Swift.

Proving that the show must go on, Entertainment Manager Paul Schober relayed the story of the night the lights went out. It was 2003 and the grandstand welcomed American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson — while a power blackout was most unwelcomed. With the rest of the Fair in the dark, he was able to put on the show using generators for lights and sound, light towers for an upcoming Motocross event to light the grandstand exits following the concert and Board and staff members assisting concertgoers with flashlights. While concerts across the Northeast were canceled, the sold-out show made the national news.

With plenty of warm weather in the forecast, this year’s Grandstand heats up with Chris Young, ZZ Top, the BPO, a Beatles tribute, Oak Ridge Boys, Midland, and Dick Fox’s Golden Boys featuring Frankie Vali, Fabian and Bobby Rydell. You can also expect sparks to fly from motor events like the truck and tractor pull, demolition derby, Ultimate Night of Destruction and Motocross championship.

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