SYRACUSE — The Great New York State Fair is expected to make a comeback this year after its cancellation in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The fair will return Aug. 20 to 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 rate dipped to 2.39% Monday — persisting a flattening from nearly 8% in January. New infections are expected to decrease as the weather grows warmer and people resume outdoor activities.
“The fair must go on,” Cuomo said Monday at the state fairgrounds. “The state fair is special. It’s special to all New Yorkers. It’s a great institution. It’s the oldest fair in the United States — it’s the third largest fair in the United States.”
The state reports 1,329,275 people visited the state fair in 2019. The fair will open at 50% capacity.
COVID-19 vaccines will not be required for a person to attend the fair.
Vendors will be charged at 50% their usual rate to participate because of the 50% attendance cap.
The fair will be set up with four areas: food and beverage, amusement rides, concerts and agricultural exhibits.
“That will give us the ability to control the number of people coming and going,” the governor said.
The fair’s generating operating procedures will change as Aug. 20 gets closer, depending on the state’s COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rate at the time.
People have come to the fair from 28 states and six countries, Cuomo said.
The first state fair was held in Syracuse in 1841. Last year marked the first time no fair was held in more than 70 years. The state fair was not held from 1942 to 1947 as the fairgrounds became a military base during World War II, according to nysfair.ny.gov.
“With today’s announcement, we have a very tangible result of the efforts that all of us in New York, the people of New York state, the governor, and that’s the return of the great New York State Fair in person,” state Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball said Monday. “It may look a little different than it did in 2019, but make no mistake, we’re back. And we all know that we’ve invested a lot in the state fair.”
The fair has long been a pet project for Cuomo, who has directed more than $120 million in state funding for upgrades at the fairgrounds, including rebuilding a new grandstand, main gate, a full-service RV park, an open midway and other improvements.
Cuomo also announced increased reopening guidelines Monday as the state’s coronavirus cases decline.
Casinos and gaming facilities can increase capacity to 50% up from 25% starting May 15. Also on that date, gyms and fitness centers outside New York City can increase capacity from 33% to 50%, Cuomo said.
Offices can increase capacity from 50% to 75% starting May 15.
The state Health Department also released detailed guidance for large-scale outdoor event spaces to accept up to 33% capacity, up from the currently permitted 20%, starting May 19.
Face mask and social distancing protocols, health screenings and other COVID-19 rules and regulations remain in effect.
“We are making tremendous progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Cuomo said of the new reopening guidelines. “This is all great news, but we are not out of the woods yet. Washing hands, wearing masks and staying socially distanced are critical tools each of us can use to slow the spread as we continue our efforts to defeat COVID once and for all.”
New coronavirus cases remain flat in the Finger Lakes at 2.75%, 1.66% in the Capital Region and 1.38% in the north country.
Statewide virus hospitalizations declined 24 people to 3,174 patients — the lowest since Nov. 26.
The state reports 210 virus patients in Finger Lakes region hospitals, 94 in the Capital Region and 25 in the north country, according to the governor’s office.
Forty-one New Yorkers died from COVID-19 complications Sunday.
More than 44.3% of New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose, and over 31.4% have completed the COVID inoculation series.