Blue Ribbon Reports from the 2014 New York State Fair

Each weekday at the NY State Fair we have our 'best bets' on what to see. See our video and suggestions, updated daily.

Each weekday at the New York State Fair, we present a Blue Ribbon report in our evening news, on our suggestions for what to see while you're on the grounds. Here are the summaries and a look at our reports:

Thursday, August 21: Racing Pigs

The only place to see baby pigs at this year's Fair is at the Family Sports Center (on the east side of the horse coliseum)

The Swine Barn display is not happening because of a virus that's potentially fatal to newborns.

The Pig Racing is done at 11, 1pm, 3:15 and 5pm daily. It's free, though you can also buy pictures with 'Honey Boo Boo', a 4 week old, or pig snouts. 'Stars' include Lindsay Loham, Brad Pig and Kevin Bacon, as well as Hillary RodHAM Clinton, and a swimming pig, too. Click here for the video

Friday, August 22: Tractors Big and Small

The antique tractors are always a draw, whether in the nightly State Fair parade, or on exhibit behind the Midway.

And there are also tractors for very young fairgoers to ride, in front of the Youth Activity Building. These are designed for 2 to 6 year olds, weighing under 70 pounds. The tractors run on pedal power (with a push or two from parents), and besides fun for the children, it's a great photo-op for Fair memories. The bleachers nearby are also a great resting place. As one grandfather told us, "It's been a lot of fun. And I wasn't expecting that we were gonna get to take a little time out and have the kids play with little tractors, so its kinda cute." And, did we mention it's free? Click here for the video

Monday, August 25 Dinosaurs!

A Minnesota company is using the NY State Fair as a 'test market' for a new, interactive dinosaur exhibit. It's the first ever, at a State Fair, and judging from the crowds, inc The oversize tent, between the back of the Horticulture Building and the train tracks, houses almost life-size dinosaurs (some, if they were life-sized, could not fit on the transport trucks!), which move, make noise and some even hatch from eggs. "And when the kids come through they hear roar and sound and they can make them move and light, and they're very excited," says Show Manager Tracy Beasley. Viewers also read information about where and when they lived and what makes them unique. There are other

interactives, too, including sand boxes where you can 'dig' for bones--perhaps the start of a paleontologist career?

It's $5 admission, and pictures and dinosaur rides and more also cost extra, but the kids we saw were loving it.
Watch the video

Tuesday, August 26: The Buzz on Bee Keeping

New York State is putting out an appeal for backyard beekeepers. Ag & Markets Commissioner Richard Ball tells us it's because the bees are critically important to agriculture, and without them the big NY industry could lose $500 million.

At the Fair, the honey exhibit includes a look at how beekeepers work: Hans Junga suits up and goes into a 'secure' gazebo containing a hive, in the Horticulture Building, every day about Noon. The booth, which offers samples of different kinds of honey, is staffed by members of New York's 20 different beekeeping clubs. On this Tuesday, Ole Petterson and his family, from New Hartford, were answering questions. They got into the hobby last winter, when they took a training course. His 7th grade daughter Shakira won the door prize there--a hive--and they've gone from there.

Ole says he can see already, that having more bees around makes a difference in his garden's production. Shakira says she's enjoyed being at the fair, and says what she's learning here may help the family go into the honey business, not just using what's produced for themselves. Click to see the video

Wednesday, August 27: State Police K9s at The Fair
Troopers call K9s 'a great weapon to have,' but at the State Fair, their job is to make friends for the State Police.

Trooper Jeff Dovigh partners with a black long-haired German Shepherd named Matti. Based in Catskill (Troop F), they do explosives detection, and so search for bomb threats, or to make sure that there are no traps where high-ranking politicians or dignitaries are visiting. At the Fair, Matti shows off his agility, and we got a look at how he trained (there's a K9 Academy in Cooperstown where canine candidates 'study' for 5 months), and learn their skills by learning that their jobs are games. Trooper Dovigh says that a dog has to like to play, to succeed.

We also met Trooper Kevin Conners (Oneida Troop D) and his bloodhound Lynde, along with an 8-month old still unnamed, still in training. Their specialty: tracking lost, missing or fugitive people, even if they have a several days' start.

And, Trooper Casey Kruh has 'Ward'. At 20 weeks old, she draws oohs--but is still in training.

All K9s are named after Trooprs who've fallen in the line of duty, and in addition to their specialized duties they also learn to protect their handers. "You've always got backup, says Trooper Krul, "in case something goes the way it shouldn't.' Click here for the video

Thursday, August 28: Draft Horses at The Fair
The Draft Horses are in the Coliseum right through Sunday. Most of their competitions involve pulling some sort of cart of wagon, and classes include single horse, pairs, unicorns (where one horse is in front of rather than next to the other), and 4, 6 or 8 horse hitches. We followed the 6-horse hitch class for Percherons on Thursday afternoon. (other draft horse breeds include Clydesdales, Shires, and Belgians. The 'open' classes welcome the different breeds to compete against each other.

George Rowe, who's based near Sandusky, Ohio, was one of today's competitors, with a team of dappled grey Percherons and a red wagon. He has been showing drafts for 20 years, starting as a teen at county fairs, and says he learned to drive with smaller rigs first. Negotiating turns and changes of direction with a 'big rig' is always a challenge.

There were 10 teams in his class, and they came into the coliseum in smaller groups at first, but all were in for the ribbon awards--quite a sight. Rowe's team took the blue ribbon. He is currently fourth in the national standings for Belgians, in the National Draft Horse 6-horse hitches.

The logistics if showing draft horses include basic equipment like an 18-wheeler, to transport the horses (which weigh well over a ton each) plus their harness, the wagon(s) and basic stable supplies. It's also not a one-person job: the driver is accompanied by a 'whip' in the show ring, and there are others who help braid, harness, and otherwise get ready. And, these teams travel! From the NY State Fair, many go to Oklahoma, and the Percherons have their big breed show at Big E in Springfield, Massachusetts this fall. Click to see the video

Friday, August 29: So you think you can judge?

As we watched the Dairy Goat judging on Friday afternoon, we asked some spectators to take the State Fair's challenge and compare their placings, with the 'official' judge's.

Joe Pilotte, a retired law enforcer from Indiana, is the North American Dairy Goat Association judge for the fair. He says his placings are based on the four point standard set out by the organization, but that part of his job is also to explain to the exhibitors why he ranked their animals the way he did.

Among those watching, Vina Cuddleback and her 10-year old daughter Taylor, who look forward to getting their own goat in Weedsport, soon. They both told us the judging was not easy---neither of their scorecards matched Judge Pilotte's, but they both said it was educational, and that listening to the judge's comments helped them understand why he placed the goats the way he did.

You can 'judge' right thru Sunday--there are pamphlets at the judging rings for various animals that explain how it works. The competitors leave Sunday night, but there's an Animal Extravaganza--all under one roof--at Monday's edition of the State Fair. Here's the story on video

Monday, September 1 (Labor Day): What Happens Next?
With The Fair ready to shut down, we checked out what happens next, to some of the exhibits. Here's what we found:

In the Youth Activity Center, the hundreds of chicks that are hatched at The Fair, go home with 4-H members who are raising and showing poultry.

The Sand Sculpture, in the Center of Progress, gets torn down, and the sand is used to replentish the horseshow rings on the fairgrounds through the year.

The Butter Sculpture, in the Dairy Products Building, is recycled into biofuel.

Like many vendors, the Normant's Salt Water Taffy booths are packed up to move to the next fair. They're going to Bloomsburg, PA next.

The big flower pots that decorated the fronts of many buildings are going to Saratoga State Park for their Fall Festival.

The Wade Shows Midway rides are going to both the Oklahoma State Fair and a fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Their most popular rides here, their two roller coasters, and the Delusion. Their most popular Midway game prizes, the Minions and the Ninja Turtles (many booths sold out of these). We also saw lots of people with super-large wolves, pigs and pink elephants---to be dorm decorations or presents for young people. (The video's coming)

We hope you've enjoyed our Blue Ribbon reports as much as we've enjoyed bringing them to you.