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Tornado is long gone; now prepare for storm of activities at Erie County Fair

What tornado?

When the crowds arrive for the Erie County Fair, which gets underway at noon Wednesday, they'll see little evidence of the July 20 twister that tore through the fairgrounds causing some $1.2 million in damage.

The grandstand's roof and the judging and announcing booths have been replaced, along with more than 200 windows that were blown out.

The 1930 decorative main iron gate, which took the full force of the tornado, has been bent back and propped in place for now, and is slated to be restored following the fair's conclusion.

In the meantime, the third largest county fair in the nation will offer carnival rides, games of skill and chance and, of course, mouth-watering, gut-busting treats. Agricultural competitions, live entertainment, arts and crafts and motor events also are part of the 178th edition of the fair.

Here are a dozen things not to miss at the fair:

• Help get things started with a bang when a fireworks display heralds the opening of the fair at noon Wednesday.

• Buffalo gardening is spotlighted with the new Urban Farming Trail, which showcases farming in urban areas.

• Like seeing tons of metal crash into things? Then catch the World's Largest Demolition Derby at 2 and 6 p.m. on Aug. 20. This year's edition is dedicated to Walter Jay Milligan, who founded the derby in 1963.

• For an unbeatable view, ride the Big Wheel Ferris wheel on its 30th anniversary at the fair – or take in any of the nearly 70 rides, including lots of kiddie offerings offered by Strates Shows.

The Ferris wheel at the Erie County Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

• Get close-up with butterflies at the Butterfly Exhibit, while also learning of their role as pollinators and the conservation efforts to protect them.

• Good at getting out of things? Try the new Escape Room -- actually two in all -- where family members and friends work together to find hidden keys, solve puzzles and ultimately escape in 15 minutes.

• Kids can join the circus without running away from home by taking part in the Backyard Circus and Puppet Parade at Kiddieland at 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m and 4:30 p.m. daily.

• There are 275 acres to cover at the fair. Treat your feet to a "Footsie Wootsie," which are intended to rejuvenate feet and are scattered around the fairgrounds.

• Test your powers of concentration with master hypnotist Jerry Valley, who will seek audience volunteers.

• Children have a big role at the fair. Visit the 4-H Barns and talk to them about raising animals for the fair. (Also, sign up for a text alert for when a calf is being born. Text ilovecows88588.)

From left, Justin Mesch, 10, of Collins, Nick Klubek, 10, of Blasdell, Leslie Mesch, 7, and Jocelyn Mesch, 11, visit with their calves in the livestock barn on the Fairgrounds in Hamburg on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

• Want cooking tips from a master chef? Visit the fair's new Erie County Fair Cooks! Kitchen and Shoppe, with 60 demonstrations over the course of the fair.

• Enjoy dancing and colorful garb from Native Americans throughout the Northeast at the 19th Smoke Dance Competition.

Tickets for the 12-day fair are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and kids 12 and under free. Parking is $5.

For complete information about the fair, go to

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