County fairs came about in America in the 18th century and were a place for farmers to show off their livestock, merchants to sell their wares, and homemakers to prove they made the best blueberry pie in town. All over New York State, county fairs have evolved into multi-day events with midway rides, live entertainment, parades, and talent shows. The tradition carried over to the state level, too, when the very first state fair in the nation was held in Syracuse in 1841. Meanwhile, those blueberry pie competitions have turned into major food festivals that have taken on a life of their own, allowing local chefs, both professional and amateur, to show off their culinary skills while feeding hungry festival goers. Read on to find a county fair near you or a food festival you simply can’t resist. 

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Originally published 7/15/22

Cattaraugus County Fair (Chautauqua-Allegheny)

The Cattaraugus County Fair takes pride in their affordability, which means an entire family can have a whole lot of low-cost fun. A slew of live grounds entertainment comes with the cost of admission. Be spellbound by Lance Gifford’s amazing magic and hypnosis shows. Then watch adorable sea lions balance balls and do handstands during “Sea Lion Splash,” and be sure not to miss the sure-footed Swifty Swine Racing Pigs. And while grandstand events are not free, admission is relatively low, allowing you to see a rodeo, a demolition derby, and a big rig truck pull without breaking the bank. Celebrating its 181st year, the fair will also feature a midway with rides and games and dozens of food vendors selling everything from candy apples and ice cream to pizza and fried dough. July 27-August 3, Little Valley. Tickets start at $15. Children under 2 get in free.

Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Fair (Thousand Islands)

An action-packed week kicks off with a Firemen’s Parade, then the fun continues with midway rides, concessions, agricultural exhibits, harness racing, tractor pulling, a demolition derby, and live performances from country stars LOCASH and David Lee Murphy. July 30-August 4, Gouverneur, Admission is free. Prices for additional attractions vary. Parking is $5. Rides open Wednesday, August 2.

Annual Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally Expo (Central New York)

Multicolored hot air balloons flying above head at Spiedie Fest in Binghamton on a partly cloudy summer day
Credit: @eggypan on Instagram

A festival that began over four decades ago to determine who made the best Spiedie (a sandwich filled with cubes of marinated meat) has evolved into one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals in the nation. Back for its 40th year, the fun begins on Friday, August 2 when the skies above Otsiningo Park will transform into a patchwork of color during the Hot Air Balloon Launch. There will be additional balloon launches throughout the weekend, tons of family-friendly events, and live performances from Chris Young, Niko Moon, Mitchell Tenpenny, and a meet & greet with WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. There'll also be balloon tether rides, a cornhole tournament, a 5K Run/Walk, volleyball tournaments, and an antique, classic, cool car & truck show! The Spiedie cooking contests take place on Sunday in two rounds, with backyard chefs competing for the Grand Champion Belt and other prizes. August 2-4, Binghamton, 1-day pass: $38.35 (includes concert)) 3-day pass: $70.20 (includes festival, concerts, and meet & greets).

Erie County Fair (Greater Niagara)

People riding the Swing Ride at a county fair.

Get ready for the “best 12 days of summer” at the 184th Erie County Fair!  Once there, check out the rides, food, and games at the midway. Then browse competitor exhibits in the categories of fine arts and photography, livestock, home wine, home brew, horse pulls, woodcarving, needle crafts, and much more. Throughout the fair, there will be a variety of free and ticketed live performances from acts like Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, Quinn XCII, Ashley McBryde, and I Love the 90’s Tour. August 7-18, Hamburg, 13 and over: $17 online, $22.60 at the gate, kids 12 and under are free. See Gate Specials for more free admission opportunities.

Long Island Seafood Festival (Long Island)

Lobster Roll
Credit: @courtneyhelbig on Instagram

Attention seafood lovers: save the date for a two-day feast of oysters, clams, lobster, crab, and more at this summer festival, held on the grounds of the Long Island Maritime Museum. Expect succulent seafood from participating restaurants like Blue Island Oyster Company and Claws Seafood Market. While at the museum, check out Oyster Sloop Priscilla. Built in 1888 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006, Priscilla was one of the last boats to dredge oysters in the region (the beds were exhausted in the early 1960s). Additional festival events include a main stage with live music and an arts & crafts fair, as well as face-painting, sand art, and pirate entertainment activities for kids. August 24-25, West Sayville, $10 cash only, children under 12, free.

The Great New York State Fair (Finger Lakes)

People riding in a skyride at the New York State Fair.

County fairs in New York State date back hundreds of years but did you know that the first state fair was also held here? It took place over two days in September 1841 in Syracuse and drew crowds of up to 15,000 people. More than 180 years later, the tradition continues. The New York State Fair has grown to be a 13-day affair and each year draws in around one million people over the course of the event. Just like that first fair back in 1841, fair goers this year will get to view tons of agricultural exhibits. But unlike in the 19th century, attendees this year can fill up on traditional fair cuisine like deep fried oreos, sausage and peppers, and wine slushies. There will also be daily concerts from world-class musicians. On the schedule this year are TLC, Dropkick Murphys, Joan Jett, Blue Oyster Cult, Joey Fatone, and many more. August 21-September 2, Syracuse, $6 daily for adults, seniors and children 12 and under, free. Advanced online ticket purchase required.

National Buffalo Wing Festival (Greater Niagara)

Buffalo wings
Credit: @_lionelm on Instagram

Bring your passion for wings and a hearty appetite to the 23d Annual National Buffalo Wing Festival, taking place this year at Highmark Stadium, otherwise known as Home of the Buffalo Bills! There’ll be plenty of wings to sample, prepared by participating restaurants who make them best. There will also be many wing-related events, including competitive wing eating contests, wing pairings, and bobbing for wings, a contest that involves a baby pool filled with wings and blue cheese dressing; contestants must grab as many wings as they can without using their hands. Got your own secret wing sauce that friends rave about? Enter the Amateur Cook-off and prove it! August 31-September 1, Buffalo, $20 cash only, kids 8 and under, free.

Queens County Fair (New York City)

Members of a band on stilts to make them taller, playing live music at Queens County Fair.
Credit: @bobbycaputo on Instagram

The land on which the Queens County Farm Museum sits has been farmed since 1697, making it a fitting site for old fashioned contests in pie eating and corn husking. Those competitions, along with hayrides, carnival rides, and midway games, will take place at the 41 Annual Queens County Fair. There’ll also be live music and theater, farmhouse tours, and competitive exhibits in produce, arts & crafts, and more, with entrants vying for a blue ribbon prize. Local food and beer vendors will be on site and the Amazing Maize Maze, which is the only corn maze in New York City, will open on the weekend of the fair. October 5-6, Queens, ticket prices vary.

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival (Hudson Valley)

White garlic and other vegetables spill out of bucketsCredit: @thenikkiweston on Instagram

Attention garlic aficionados! Celebrate the harvest of five different varieties of the “stinking rose” at this two-day festival held at the Cantine Veterans Memorial Complex in Saugerties! The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival was first organized by Pat Reppert from Shale Hill Farm and Herb Gardens in 1989 and is one of the first festivals of its kind on the East Coast. Enjoy all things garlic including tons of garlic-inspired food, vendors, drinks, kids’ activities, demonstrations from chefs, lectures about farming and cooking, and more! September 28-29, Saugerties, daily admission is $15 at the gate and $10 in advance.

Famous Food Festival “Taste the World” (Long Island)

For one delicious weekend in July, restaurants and vendors from the Tri-State area will gather in Deer Park to bring you cuisine from around the world. More than 85 vendors are expected to participate, showcasing international dishes prepared by a mix of new and experienced chefs. In addition to sampling global delicacies, attendees can enjoy live music, watch cooking demonstrations, hang out in the Beer and Wine Lounge, axe throwing, rock climbing, bumper cars, and mini golf. Bring the kids to this family-friendly event. There’ll be an entire section for them with face painting and entertaining activities. July 12-14, Tanger Outlets in Deer Park, online advance tickets: $11.28 (1 day), $15.82 (2 days), $20.36 (3 days). 1-day passes at the door: $12.

Taste of the Catskills Festival (Catskills)

Courtesy of Kip Shaw
Courtesy of Kip Shaw/Delaware County Tourism

What could be better than an autumn weekend in the Catskills, with its cool mountain air and colorful fall foliage? How about if that weekend also included a sampling of the best cuisine and craft beverages from around the region? That’s what visitors can expect at Taste of the Catskills, held on the grounds of family-run Maple Shade Farm. Dozens of local farmers, restaurants, and food-related businesses will be on-site, showcasing their food, wine, beer, produce, and more. A special dinner on Saturday will consist of entirely local ingredients and include a craft beer pairing. The weekend event will also feature workshops on farming, cooking, and more. Kids will love the sack races, egg tosses, and face painting, not to mention appearances by the Catskill Puppets. And Arm-of-the-Sea Theater will be presenting a preview of their brand new show on Sunday. October 12-13, Delhi.

New York City Wine & Food Festival (New York City)

The glitz and glamor of New York City is front and center at this celebrity-filled wine and food festival, now in its 17th year. Enjoy events like walk-around tastings, intimate dinners hosted by celebrity chefs, pier parties, master classes, grand tasting and culinary demos and much more! The can’t-miss festival is jam-packed with fashion, celebrities, and outrageously fantastic food. October 17-20, prices vary, events take place at locations around New York City.

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