The New York State Fair is experiencing record growth, and Troy Waffner wants that trend to continue.
Waffner, the state fair director, was the guest speaker at the Auburn Rotary Club luncheon Tuesday. He highlighted the fair's successes and welcomed critiques of the annual 13-day event. The critiques, he explained, help him understand what the fair needs to improve.
For three years in a row, the fair has set all-time attendance records. In 2018, the fair drew nearly 1.3 million visitors — an average of roughly 98,000 attendees per day. With the boost in attendance, the fair has been ranked as the third-largest in the country.
While music acts and food vendors receive attention, Waffner reminded the Rotarians that the fair's mission is to promote New York agriculture. There is a cost to carrying out that mission, though. He estimated that highlighting the state's agricultural sector costs the fair $600,000 annually.
"We have to find a way to pay for agriculture on the fairgrounds," he said.
It helps the fair has drawn record-breaking crowds. There has been some criticism of the fair's admission promotions, such as Dollar Days — $1 admission on the opening and closing days of the fair — $3 admission on Thursdays. But Waffner told the Rotary Club that there is a benefit to the promotions: When people come to the fairgrounds, they tend to spend money — an average of $80 per fairgoer.