Plan for online-only ticketing, wider aisles and displays and vendors that may be in different places at the Erie County Fair, as the fair adjusts to the pandemic this year.
But the annual tradition – except for last year when it was canceled because of Covid-19 – will still feature plenty of food, animals and entertainment, including the James E. Strates Shows midway.
"I would encourage people, if you’re used to seeing a certain thing at a certain spot, look around. It's probably still here, it's just moved," fair manager Jessica Underberg said a press conference Wednesday.
The fate of the 181st Erie County Fair was uncertain until the Erie County Agricultural Society got the go-ahead in mid-May for a limited capacity fair that would have allowed about 60,000 visitors a day. In mid-June, social distancing and masking restrictions were lifted, and organizers began to plan for a more normal experience with no restrictions on the number of people on the fairgrounds.
The latest concerns raised because of the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 are more of the same for organizers.
"We have dealt with challenges in the last 85 days since we were given the go-ahead on May 17," Underberg said. "It has continually changed every day. Every minute of every day, something is different, changing, looking different than what we have dealt with in the past."
If conditions with the pandemic change, the fair will follow whatever regulations are in place, she said.
"At some point, the train is leaving the station on certain things. Putting together an event like this does not just happen overnight," Underberg said.
Because of the original capacity restrictions, tickets are only being sold online and will not be available at the gate, but they may be purchased online at www.ECFair.org in advance and throughout the 12 days of the fair, which takes place from Aug. 11 to 22. The fair is using Tickets.com as a vendor and those seeking to attend will be directed there through a link on the fair's website. During the purchasing process, users will be asked whether they wish to print out their tickets in advance or be granted digital access through a free Tickets.com user account. Tickets.com accepts payment with a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Tickets to events in the Gusto Grandstand are also only being sold online via the same method. They include admission to the fair on the day of the event.
Admission is $13.50 per person, and tickets are valid for any day of the fair. Children 12 and under are free, but they also need an online ticket. Parking is included in the cost.
"I can't wait to see people's smiles coming through the gate," Underberg said. "It's Western New York's biggest event, and it’s the fabric of our community. There’s a piece of the fair for everyone."