Classic rock and roll echoed through the closed white tents and trailers set up at the New York State Fairgrounds on Friday evening. The sun, setting just to the right of the State Fair Grandstand cast shadows on the empty blacktop, where in less than a week, fairgoers would be screaming in glee as they rode up and down the carnival rides.
It was a quiet scene, only interrupted by the occasional clang of a metal stake being hammered into the ground, reinforcing the multiple white tents on the blacktop. Here and there, vendors, trying to beat the rush, set up their own booths, a veteran move by the seasoned few.
One booth has seen these fairgrounds for decades, Normant's Salt Water Taffy's nearly 100 year old machines glinted a shiny red in the setting sun, as it began to take its familiar shape. It's current owner, Rick Normant, has seen these grounds evolve over his more than 30 years at the New York State Fair. He knows what it takes to be successful at fairs like this, and he has the lineage to prove it.
"We've been coming here since 1972," Normant said. "My uncle was coming here for I'm not sure how long, at least 35-40 years before us, so it's been at least 75-80 years that our candy's been here."
Generations of fairgoers have passed by Normant's booth, all mystified by the stretching and pulling, and then the individual wrapping of salt water taffy. For many, it is a trip down memory lane, and it is something Normant can see in everyone's eyes as they admire his candy.
"They come just to look and see the machines run and watch the candy drop in the basket," Normant said. "I like watching fathers and grandfathers, they're out there making all kinds of motions like the twisted motion of ends the candy."
Normant believes that its those kind of feelings that not only bring taffy fans back to his stand every year, but brings his family and his booth back every year as well.
"That's what's kept us in it," he says. "We like seeing people happy and taking the candy home."