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A must-do list for Erie County Fair first-timers

The Erie County Fair, a Buffalo tradition for 180 years, is a must for your summer bucket list. I’ve been going to the Fair with my family and friends since I can remember, and every year there are certain things I always need to taste, see and experience to make the annual trip worthwhile.

To me, the Fair is the epitome of summer. The weather is always hot as you’re walking along the blacktop. Couples are kissing as they win corny carny games and are handed a giant goofy stuffed animal that will probably end up buried deep in their closet. Everyone is chowing down on everything fried you could possibly imagine even bubble gum -  and butter.

I've gone to the Fair for nearly 30 years, so I’ve collected a list of “musts” that any first timer should keep in mind when planning their visit. The Erie County Fair runs from Aug. 7 to 18 at the Hamburg Fairgrounds.

Play ‘I Got It’

I don’t know what it is about playing this game to win a prize that looks like it was compiled from a hoarders yard sale, but it’s extremely satisfying. Throw your change on the table and start grabbing bouncy balls out of the trough and tossing them into squares a short distance in front of you. Approach the game like you're playing Bingo: the goal is to get a line down, across or diagonal. If you do, scream “I got it" and claim a prize from the shelf. Over the years I’ve probably given them hundreds of dollars and all I’ve ever won is a Buffalo Bills banner that I proudly display in my office and a hat that says “I love to play I Got It.” Worth it? Absolutely.

Swifty Swine races 

One of my all-time favorite fair traditions is the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs. Grab your spot on the bleachers to watch these cute little pigs race to the finish line for a treat. They’re all given funny (and punny) names names in the show like Kevin Bacon, Albert Einswine and Piggie Smalls. They’re also given a number before their short race, where they’ll compete, not for a trophy, but for snacks (usually Oreos). I guess we’re not the only ones who like to eat at the Fair. The races are in Kiddieland at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Aug. 7 and 11 a.m., 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Aug. 8 to 18.

The food

Each year there’s no shortage of new fair foods that surprise me. Just when you think they’ve thought of everything that can possibly be fried, think again. Whether they’re deep frying butter or bubble gum or serving shark and alligator, there’s sure to be something new that surprises. Once you get that adventurous bite out of your system, you can go for the traditional food you crave at the fair like deep-fried pickles with a side of ranch, ribbon fries, fried dough, a big turkey leg, or some of that delicious salt water taffy that I always take home.

New Erie County Fair foods: Potato Butts, avocado chocolate cookies, more

Wine Slushie from the Wine Garden

Grab a refreshing glass of wine, a wine slushie or an ice cold microbrew at the Grapes and Hops stand and take a seat on the patio. It’s a great way to people watch while enjoying a beverage on a hot day, and trust me the Fair is usually a scorcher. Just kick back, relax and rest your feet for a moment while scouring the map to pick out your next move.

Go on a ride

Enjoying at least one ride is a must, and if you’re going to select just one, the Ferris wheel is the way to go. It’s relaxing and you’ll get a wonderful view of the entire Fair. This year, the Fair is bringing back the legendary Sky Wheel. Dubbed "King of the Midway," this 80-foot high Ferris wheel is so unusual it’s worth the money to experience it yourself. You’re not gonna want to miss this once in a lifetime experience.

Visit the animals

Every year at the Erie County Fair there are multiple barns filled with various animals like roosters, chickens, bunnies, pigs, cows and so many other adorable fluffy animals for you to visit. You might even get the chance to witness a cow birth a baby in the Moo-ternity area (for birth alerts, text ILOVECOWS to 88588 to learn when a cow is in labor) or watch as horses trot along during their show competition throughout the length of the Fair.

Related content:

Erie County Fair ages gracefully as it marks 180th year

Erie County Fair: Hours, admission and how to get discounts

What's new at the Erie County Fair for 2019

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