Thomas Ryan appointed as new State Fair Director

Thomas Ryan

State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine announced Tuesday that Thomas Ryan, of Little Falls, has been appointed as the new Director of the great New York State Fair, replacing Dan Oâ??Hara who held the position since 2007.

O'Hara oversaw six state fairs starting in 2007, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

The Post-Standard reports that O'Hara will take another state job, located in New York City, after he leaves his position with the Fair on January 31.

Ryan is currently Chief of Staff of the New York State Thruway and Canal Corporation. Prior to working at the Thruway Authority, Ryan was Regional Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, and Regional Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration.

The 2012 New York State Fair had its lowest total attendance in more than 20 years, but officials explain that it was because they cut back on the number of free tickets they gave out.

O'Hara said in September that attendance figures in past years had included tens of thousands of people who took free tickets but didn't actually attend the fair. O'Hara says the number of people who paid the fair's $10 admission fee increased in 2012.

The 2012 State Fair also had fewer acts at the Grandstand than in years past with only one concert selling out by early August. O'Hara said in August that the Fair recognizes the economy is a challenge and that it's a family friendly event. He said they have worked to bring big music acts to Chevy Court which is free with fair admission.

O'Hara said larger crowds at Chevy Court bring up sales for vendors in that location, which the Fair gets a cut of. He says since beefing up acts at Chevy Court, advance sale tickets have gone up along with people buying more frequent fairgoer passes and coming to the Fair repeated times in a year.

Last year was the first time the State Fair used its new ticket system, Etix. The system caused some problems for ticket buyers who said it was slow or did not work for them.

Tom Young, former Syracuse Mayor and former State Fair Director, will serve as Special Advisor to Ryan. Young, along with the State Fair Advisory Board, will "assist Mr. Ryan in moving the Fair toward increased efficiency, integrity and transparency," according to the media release.

"Tom Ryan has devoted three decades to public service on both the federal and state levels, and will bring to the State Fair the kind of leadership this premier event deserves," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets says the pirmary purpose if the Fair is to celebrate "the economic, cultural and institutional strengths indigenous to New York with a special emphasis on agriculture."

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)