From The CEO’s Desk- September Edition

Over the last few weeks I’ve received many letters, read many news articles and many social media posts and had several conversations with people in regards to the York Fair. As we are only four days away from the opening of the 254th version of the York Fair this Friday, instead of repeating all of the things that I’ve written about leading up to this point on what you’ll see at this year’s Fair, I wanted to take this opportunity to try and set the record straight about the York Fair and its current status and future status.I’m going to do this by responding directly to some of the most frequently stated comments that I have read in letters, news reports or social media comments.

Statement #1: There are always comments about how the York Fair is too expensive to attend in relation to other Fairs or other area attractions.

My Response:  If you compare our admission, parking and ride armband prices to the other large fairs in Pennsylvania and neighboring mid-Atlantic states, you will find that our $8 adult admission, $4 child admission and $7 parking fee are right in line with all of those fairs.   Sure, some may be a dollar or two cheaper on one thing or the other, but at the same time they will be a dollar or two higher on another. Fair to Fair comparison of the data shows that the York Fair is as affordable as any other major Fair within driving distance.

Secondly, by utilizing the various Promotional Days that have been announced it is entirely possible for a family of four to attend the Fair for very little cost this year.  Free Admission Days include Weis Market Day where up to four people are admitted per Weis Card (regular parking charges apply) and Apple Automotive Customer Appreciation Day where Apple customers are admitted free, including parking. Plus with People’s Bank Dollar Day and all of the other Promotional Days, including BOGO day on the last day of the Fair which includes admission and ride armbands, there are plenty of affordable options for people to attend.   We have tried really hard to present options for our Fair Guests to save some money and I believe if you will give it a chance you will see that for yourself.

Statement #2:  The Fair Board and Fair Management want to kill the York Fair so that they can sell the Fairgrounds or attract more lucrative events to the facility.

My Response:  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We all realize that the reason that we are here and the reason that this facility is here is because of the York Fair and its storied history. This Board and I have a tremendous amount of respect for what this Fair is and all it has been. While it is true that we do rely on non-fair event rentals to permit us to operate the facility year-round, one thing you may not realize is that our Fair and our non-fair events go hand in hand together. If we have a successful Fair, it helps us produce the rental events for the rest of the year. The rental events held all year help us to produce the Fair each year.   Ideally, it all works together financially for us to continue to operate this facility to the level that we do. One major rumor I’d like to put to rest is there are NO plans for the Good Guys car show to move to September. They are contracted in July for the next few years and they are committed to building their show on the July dates.   ​

Statement #3:  York isn’t a state. So why change the name to York State Fair?

My Response:  You’re right, York isn’t a state. We aren’t saying that it is. We are saying that we have a Fair that has the facilities, attendance, entries, entertainment and midway bigger than many state fairs.  Currently there are 63 fairs across the country who use “State Fair” in their name. 42 of those are just like us, operated by a non-profit corporation with minimal government assistance. With the change of dates, it was time to add “State” to our name and developing a new logo. We are keeping the trademarked slogans “America’s First Fair” and “America’s Oldest Fair” because we do want to stay true to our heritage.  We also felt it was very important to keep York in the name of the York State Fair.

Statement #4:  Moving the York Fair from September to July will be the end of the Fair.  It will no longer recognize the Agricultural roots that the Fair was built on and it will just become a large carnival. It will be too hot, families will be on vacation and there will be no horticulture exhibits.

My Respon​se:  The change in dates of the York Fair from September to July was studied for a couple of years before the decision was made. You’ve all heard that the change was made to get away from hurricane season. Last week we began to watch what is now Hurricane Dorian very closely. Even as we begin our final preparations to open on Friday we are still monitoring the storm. Fortunately, as of today, September 1st, it appears the storm will track far enough off the east coast to not cause a problem with Opening Day on Friday.   However, if you have been watching the reports, one small unexpected shift in the course of the storm could certainly cause us issues. Last year we had five days of rain during the York Fair, including a complete rain out on the first Sunday. Attendance, and as a result spending, was down.  This resulted in many vendors having losses that were extremely difficult from which to rebound. While we may be trading rain/hurricane weather for heat, we will accommodate our Fair Guests with air conditioned buildings. Memorial Hall, Old Main, Horticulture Hall, the John Page Smith Center where rabbits and poultry are exhibited and the York Expo Center Arena where all the livestock and birthing center is housed are air conditioned.    We will also have cooling stations/misting stations, shade umbrellas and various other means used by other fairs that are held in July and August to provide guest comfort.

The York Fair will absolutely still have its Agricultural Roots. We are expanding our Ag Education Center this year in anticipation of even more changes for next year and this area will continue to expand and grow during the Fair and non-fair times. We are working on an Ag Education Curriculum supplement and program for local school districts and we hope to launch that program sometime in 2020 as we want to continue to promote Agriculture.   As for Horticulture Hall, we still plan to have summer time vegetables and produce and we are looking at some new categories of exhibits that could grow into major features in just a couple of years.

Another reason this date change was made was the goal of attracting more families to the Fair. When you come to the Fair this year look around and take note of the ages of our Fair Guests. There are a lot of people who attend that are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.   This is a very important group to us as this demographic understands and appreciates the heritage of our Fair.  Again this year, just as recent years we will have Senior Citizens Day. The importance of this age group to us is also illustrated by moving the Veterans from a tent to Heritage Hall, which we are calling Heroes Hall for the York Fair. A large percentage of our nation’s Veterans are in this age group and we believe they should be recognized for their sacrifices to our country which permit us to enjoy an event like the York Fair today.

However, we also need to be attracting the 20, 30 and 40 year old’s now, because in just a few short years they’ll be our 50, 60 and 70 year old’s. This demographic has not been as loyal in attending Fairs overall and we need to try to reach them so that they will introduce their children to the Fair in the hopes that future generations of York Fair Fans can be made.  While some people look at this change as the downfall of the York Fair, we look at it as the means to sustain the York Fair over the next several decades. It gives us an opportunity to attract this age group which we must do to survive. By the same token, if you’re a life long York Fair attendee I’d ask that you give the new dates a try.  Let us show you what we are going to do to add more exhibits, concessions, attractions and shows. You are going to begin to see and hear a lot of buzz about some major changes for 2020 over the next few weeks.  I hope it will arouse your curiosity and you will come see what we are going to do.

I am not a native York Countian, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t or don’t love this Fair.  However over the past year I’ve developed an affinity for this area. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for the York Fair and the rich history that comes with it.   It honestly is one of the crown jewels of all fairs across the nation and I have no intent of letting it fail. I have also come to understand that change is not something that is embraced easily here. I will simply say these two words to you in regards to all of these changes: try it.
I think if you will do that and give it an honest look next year that you will see what the vision for the York State Fair is in the future.

For now, it is go time for the 2019 York Fair!  We are geared up. Finishing touches are being put on.  Concert ticket sales are the best they’ve been in recent years.  New sponsors are on board and excited about the potential for the next two weeks. Over the next few days our “temporary city” will be built and more than 1,000 people will work to provide you the absolute best York Fair that we possibly can. I hope to see you there.

Until October, may all your days be Fair days!

Bryan Blair
York Fair/York Expo Center