It’s winter in the US: remembering summer’s Great New York State Fair

December 23, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

No matter what festivals you’ve been to in the world, you may find that the food, drink and atmosphere at The Great New York State Fair is the very best! It’s the beginning of winter in the US, so you may be longing for summer. You can dream and plan for 2015!

Before you even get in the gates, it’s an event. Between the prosthelytizers and the tin foil hatters enjoying their First Amendment rights, you have a much more colorful welcoming scene than other fairs.

There’s a Taste of New York whole area as soon as you get in — smart, you don’t have to search for it — giving away lots of samples. Of course, there’s an unwieldy crowd for samples, though sometimes you can find some holes in the line.

The Great New York State Fair has a well-conceived liquor plan: they have little booths and bars all throughout the grounds. Unlike many fairs that have the beer tent or other segregated area, this normalizes and doesn’t fetishize the consumption of alcohol. So, dad gets a beer and is able to walk around the fair with his family. (Same with mom.) He doesn’t have to pound them back, either, because when he wants another one, it will be available.

Local beers were for sale as were local wines made into slushies! That’s fun and not overly precious. On a hot day, they go down well!

Also speaking of drinking, there’s an ode to New York’s state beverage, milk, with a milk bar for the kids! I hear non-alcoholic bars are soon going to be all the rage, so I can see this being developed for adults. Upstate Farms makes a caramel apple milk that goes into the category of, “Where’s this been all my life?” and also, “As a diabetic, I have no business falling in love with this beverage.”

Funny carved cheese sculptures make me wonder what they do with them afterwards . .  .

Not everything was a big hit with me. Salt potatoes are an upstate New York thing, but as far as I can tell, they’re rough little potatoes boiled in salt water. That’s it.

Now, what was a hit — it should go national! — is the Robert Baker Cornell Chicken. Robert Baker was an ag prof at Cornell, also Keith Olbermann’s alma mater. He invented this crispy/juicy method of cooking chicken with an herb coating. It’s great! He also invented chicken nuggets and also invented chicken and turkey hot dogs. It’s his Cornell chicken that should have brought him fame and fortune!

On your way out, there’s a convenient store selling all the goodies you ate all day, as well as New York cookbooks.