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Last call for the 2018 Erie County Fair: Five things to see

The unmistakable voice of South Buffalo’s John Kennedy Kane will bellow from the big tent at the Erie County Fairgrounds for one more day this summer.

Sunday's the last day of the 179th Erie County Fair. That means you’ve got 13 more hours left to revisit your favorite horse, scream on a fairgrounds carnival ride or grab one last funnel cake before winter sets in.

Whether you’ve already been to the fair, or not at all yet, we’ve whittled down a list of top five “must-sees” – from attractions, animals and eats – before the big top comes down for another year.

The fair opens Sunday at 9 a.m. The day will conclude with fireworks, and the fair officially closes at 10 p.m.

Drumroll, please.

1. The World Record Bowl

It’s 15 feet in diameter, made out of red oak and spruce and weighs about three and a half tons. It’s sealed with 25 gallons of marine epoxy. And, until someone else comes along and builds a bigger one, they'll have set a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest wood bowl.

The bowl was the creation of about 15 woodworkers from the fledgling Woodworkers’ Clubhouse at Union and French roads in West Seneca.

Woodworker Joe Gelsomino turns the bowl to make it smooth. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

It’s delighted rubbernecking walkers-by on Historical Lane at the fair for nearly two weeks.

“It’s fun to watch,” said Joe Gelsomino, who led its creation and development. “There are so many people taking pictures in front of it.”

The idea was born when woodworkers like Gelsomino and others kicked around ideas for creating a segmented wooden bowl. Somewhere along the way, they learned that the largest one ever created before was in Gurtis, Austria, in 2005. It was 13 feet in diameter.

“We thought, ‘Hey, we could do that,’ ” Gelsomino said.

So they did. And bigger.

The massive bowl is now too big to move off of the fairgrounds, so it’ll stay there, Gelsomino said.

It’s dedicated to Buffalo Bills fans everywhere.

“So, they have a super bowl,” Gelsomino said.

2. Chinese acrobats

Words can’t describe what they do. But Kane tries his best.

Death-defying stunts. Human contortions. Dexterity and skill.

“It just keeps coming at you,” he said. “There are no lulls.”

A Chinese acrobat performs in the Big Top Circus Tent. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The eight-member troupe of Chinese acrobats – aged 14 to 29 – hail from Beijing, China, originally but are based in Las Vegas.

Seeing is believing, but you’ve got to get there early.

There are only 650 seats available for each of three shows Sunday – at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The event could easily be priced separately, but it’s included free with your fair admission. If you don’t get there about 30 minutes early, however, expect to listen to the “oohs and ahhs” from outside the Big Top Circus Tent.

It’s the 12th year at the fair for the acrobats, but the attraction moved beneath the tent for the first year this year.

That’s a good thing, Kane said.

“We created a desire,” he said. “Believe it or not, people are looking to wait in line.

“People want to know, ‘What’s going on in that tent?’ ”

3. Bees a-buzzing

In the corner of the Agriculture Grange building with the vegetables, big railroad exhibit and maple syrup, there’s always a crowd buzzing. With hundreds or thousands of honey bees – and one queen bee. See if you can find her in bees’ viewable honey comb. She’s wearing a red dot.

It’s a working fair for the bees, who are hosted by the Western New York Honey Producers.

“They’re always busy,” said John Krull of Cheektowaga, who was manning the hive. “They never sit around doing nothing.”

Beekeeper John Krull of Cheektowaga talks to a youngster and his dad about the importance of pollinators and what the bees are doing inside the hive. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

Visitors have been drawn to the hive, too – to take drawn-out, safe views of the bees, which are enclosed in protective glass.

“Surprisingly, a lot of people have said, ‘How do you get into this?,’ ” Krull said.

As a first-year beekeeper who just caught his first swarm and turned one hive into two, Krull said attracting more rookie beekeepers and making veterans out of them is in everyone’s interest.

“We need the bees for food,” Krull said. “One out of every three bites of food you eat was a result of pollinators.”

And it’s a hobby open to everyone, he said.

“Years ago, if you thought of beekeepers, it would be a bunch of older men with overalls and suspenders,” Krull said. “Now, a lot more are joining – especially women and college students.”

4. Norwegian fjords

The Erie County Fair boasts a pair of Norwegian fjords.

But these fjords eat hay.

The rare equine purebreds are an annual attraction at Horse Headquarters.

Leif, a 27-year-old gelding who weighs in at 1,145 pounds, was born in Norway.

“He’s one of the few remaining Norwegian fjord purebreds in the world,” said John Bentley, of the Collins Draft Horse Ox & Pony Club, who bought the fjords in Indiana and brought them to his farm in Collins.

Two Norwegian fjords get a lot of attention in the horse barn. They are a rare breed. Leif, at 27 years old, gets a pet from Danielle Bailey, 4, of Lancaster. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Leif’s stable “neigh”-bor, Kaz, an 11-year-old mare, weighs 1,140 pounds. She was born in the United States.

Visitors to Horse Headquarters crowd around their stalls. They can’t seem to get enough of the two.

“There’s a uniqueness about them,” said Brianna Whitaker, 21, of South Buffalo, who finds her way to Leif and Kaz every summer. “You don’t see them often. There are very few of them.”

When they’re not horsing around at the fairgrounds, Leif and Kaz can been seen plowing Niagara County fields for agricultural education or disguising themselves as reindeer and pulling Santa’s sled in an annual holiday event to benefit Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“They are all-purpose,” Bentley said.

5. Fried dough, kettle corn and poutine?

If Kris Barletta has his way, the French Canadian delicacy will be as routine as the Ferris wheel and the pig races at the fairgrounds in the future.

For 2018, the Poutine Gourmet made its inaugural appearance at the fair.

“I started this five years ago, no one knew what it was,” Barletta said. “Now, people come. It’s definitely catching on.”

Barletta’s French Canadian roots – his family’s name is Bonenfant – can only help.

Not only does he pronounce like his French Canadian relatives, “poots-in,” but Barletta brings "le grand authentique" to his stand.

There's a French connection at the Erie County Fairgrounds this year with the inaugural appearance of the Poutine Gourmet. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

The “freshest cheddar cheese curds you can get” come from Wisconsin and the gravy is sourced special from Saint-Georges, Quebec.

“We want to keep it traditional,” Barletta said.

You can get traditional with the “original”: french fries with fresh cheddar cheese curds covered in gravy.

Or you can score something a little more adventurous. Call it “fairgrounds traditional.” There’s pulled pork poutine, ground beef poutine and bacon jalapeno poutine.

Add more bacon to any dish for $3.

Bonus, not-to-miss:

The end-of-the-fair’s World’s Largest Demolition Derby.

The annual smashup at the Grandstand is scheduled at 1 p.m. for the afternoon show and 6 p.m. for the evening show.

Doughnut grilled cheese, Dirty Bird among new Erie County Fair foods

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