WNY Preview Classic this Weekend at the Fairgrounds


The Erie County Agricultural Society is proud to present the 19th Annual Western New York Hog & Lamb Preview Classic. The show is scheduled to take place inside the Agriculture Discovery Center at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg, New York May 31st to June 2nd. Over $6,000 in cash awards and premiums will be presented during this New York Livestock Circuit approved show.


This is a National Junior Swine Association (NJSA) recommended show that is open to exhibitors of all ages. The show’s goal is to provide a competition experience prior to showing at local county and/or state fairs this summer. The schedule for the weekend includes:


Friday, May 31st, 1p – Youth Livestock Judging Event

Friday, May 31st. 5p – Junior Skill-A-Thon

Saturday, June 1st, 8a – Hog & Lamb Shows #1

Saturday, June 1st, 2p – Goat Show

Sunday, June 2nd, 8a – Hog & Lamb Shows #2


The hog shows will be judged by Mr. Greg Krahn of Westfield, IN and Mr. Quest Newberry of Bryan, TX. Judging the lambs will be Mr. Cooper Bounds of Thorntown, IN and Mr. Denton Lowe of Amber, OK.  Mr. Lowe will also be judging the goat competition.


For more information visit www.the-fairgrounds.com and click on “Livestock/ Equine Events.” You can also call the Fairgrounds at (716) 649-3900. The Western New York Hog & Lamb Preview Classic is sponsored by the Erie County Agricultural Society.

Happy National Hamburger Day

A New Book... by Christopher Carosa, "Hamburger Dreams" – How Classic Crime Solving Techniques Helped Crack the Case of America’s Greatest Culinary Mystery... provides detailed information about Charles and Frank Menches at the Erie County Fair.
A New Book… by Christopher Carosa, “Hamburger Dreams” – How Classic Crime Solving Techniques Helped Crack the Case of America’s Greatest Culinary Mystery… provides detailed information about Charles and Frank Menches at the Erie County Fair. Learn more at: https://bit.ly/2Wafesc


Today (May 28th) is “National Hamburger Day,” a day of great importance to Western New York and the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York. It was at the 1885 Erie County Fair that the hamburger sandwich was invented by Frank and Charles Menches of Canton, Ohio.


“Birth of the Hamburger in Hamburg”


Canton, Ohio natives Frank and Charles Menches were food vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair, also known as the Hamburg Fair. Legend has it that during the course of the Fair, the Menches ran out of their signature menu item of pork sausage sandwiches. Their local supplier, Hamburg butcher Andrew Klein, was reluctant to butcher more hogs during a period of unseasonable late summer heat and suggested to substitute the use of ground beef.  The brothers fired some up, but both found it dry and bland. They added coffee, brown sugar and other ingredients to create a unique taste. The original sandwiches were sold with just ketchup and sliced onions. With new found success with their beef sandwich, they christened it the “hamburger” sandwich after the Erie County Fair’s home town of Hamburg, New York.


Relishing in the Menches Success!


There have been other claims made about the origin of the hamburger sandwich. As concessionaire traveled from one fair to another, it was common to emulate the success of other vendors and share “best practices.” As a result, they would make claims of their own as the “burger” made regional debuts:


  • October 1885 – After learning about the Menches success, fair concessionaire Charlie Nagreen claimed to have sold a meatball between two slices of bread at the Outagamie County Fair in Seymour, Wisconsin.
  • Late 1880s – Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas claimed to have invented the hamburger. According to oral histories he opened a lunch counter and served a ‘burger’ of fried ground beef patties with mustard and Bermuda onion between two slices of bread, with a pickle on the side. Davis later went on to sell the burger at the 1904 World’s Fair.
  • 1891 – Otto Kuase said he invented the hamburger in 1891 after he cooked a beef patty in butter and topped with a fried egg.
  • 1900 – Louis Lassen of Louis’ Lunch, a small lunch wagon in New Haven, Connecticut, is said to have sold the first hamburger and steak sandwich in the U.S. in 1900, 15 years after the Menches Bros.


 Why the Erie County Fair Menches Hamburger Story “Cuts the Mustard”


  • The Menches Brothers 1885 claim is the oldest “birth of the burger” sandwich story in the United States.
  • No other invention story can stake a claim to why their sandwich is called a “hamburger,” our story can!
  • Descendants of the Menches Brothers have an original, handwritten burger recipe.
  • The Menches family is still in the burger business today. No other claim still has an operating restaurant serving the original recipe.
  • In the 1920s, carnival historian John C. Kunzog interviewed Frank Menches about his experience at the Erie County Fair. His detailed hamburger story was published in the 1970 book, “Tanbark & Tinsel.”
  • Successful entrepreneurs, the Menches not only claim hamburger history, but are also credited for pioneering the production of ice cream cones and creating “Gee-Whiz,” a caramel coated peanut and popcorn snack now known as Cracker Jacks.
  • The National Hamburger Festival is held annually in the Menches home town of Akron, Ohio. Restaurants from across the United States gather to pay homage to good ol’ Frank & Charles Menches.
  • Founded in 1985 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Menches Brothers invention, The Village of Hamburg hosts the annual BurgerFest and is one of the biggest annual events in the region.
  • The invention of the hamburger story is featured in an exhibit inside the Erie County Fair’s Heritage & History Center Museum. The display includes a child’s sized burger concession stand that allows kids to “serve up” play hamburgers.
  • News outlets around the globe including the BBC to Japanese national television have told the Erie County Fair story over the decades. The 1885 Burger Store, a restaurant in Taipei City, Taiwan, China, honors the Erie County Fair legend.


National Birth of the Burger Day (September 18th)


In addition to “National Hamburger Day” on May 28, Western New York also annually celebrates “National Birth of the Burger Day” on September 18th.  Until the early 1920s, the Erie County Fair was held mid to late September or as late as early October to celebrate the agricultural harvest. The 1885 Erie County Fair, the event that saw the invention of the hamburger sandwich, was held September 16th-18th, 1885.


Party Shelter Reservations Now Being Accepted For Erie County Fair


Plan to host a company picnic, organization outing, family reunion or children’s birthday party at the Fair. The Erie County Agricultural Society is pleased to announce that reservations are now being accepted for its picnic shelter program during the 2019 Erie County Fair, August 7 to 18, 2019. Shelter reservations are on a first come, first served basis.


Shelters are located at Hickory Tree Park just steps from the Fair’s midway, entertainment, livestock barns, games and shopping. This tranquil Fairgrounds setting can accommodate 25 to 1,000 guests. Each shelter reservation includes tables/chairs, electricity, option for discount gate admissions and ride packages.  Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages but the use of glass containers, alcohol, grills and outside caterers is prohibited.  Patrons wishing to have their party catered may use one of our three Fair vendors that include BW’s BBQ, Chiavetta’s Catering or Weidner’s BBQ.


For more information, including rental rates and ticket packages, visit https://bit.ly/2V5xhz6 or contact the Fair’s Liz Collins at (716) 649-3900 x6206. Reservation and payment must be completed by Wednesday July, 24th.

Western New York State’s Largest Youth Talent Show Returns


Do you have a child that can sing, dance or play an instrument? Do they have a special talent just waiting to be discovered? If that’s the case, the Erie County Fair is looking to see who’s got talent! Applications are now being accepted for the region’s largest talent competition scheduled to take place Friday, August 9th on the Tops Friendly Markets Avenue of Flag Stage.


Youth are encouraged to participate in one of two divisions. The “mini” division is geared towards 12 & under while the “maxi” division highlights performers 13 & over. Winners of the Erie County Fair Talent Show are eligible to compete in the New York State Fair Talent Show in Syracuse.


There is no entry fee to compete and all contestants will receive free admission into the Erie County Fair. Rules, guidelines and applications are available at:  https://bit.ly/2WXAP3B. Deadline for submissions are Friday, July 26th.

Brewing Of Best in Show Beer At Flying Bison: German Leichtbier

Winning home brewers Brian Milleville of Sanborn, John Crossett of North Tonawanda, and Mark Zambron of West Seneca at Flying Bison Brewery on May 17, 2019 during the brewing of "Best In Show" beer 2019.
Winning home brewers Brian Milleville of Sanborn, John Crossett of North Tonawanda, and Mark Zambron of West Seneca at Flying Bison Brewery on May 17, 2019 during the brewing of “Best In Show” beer 2019.


On Friday, May 17th, the brewing of the 2019 “Best In Show” beer took place at Flying Bison Brewing Company in Larkinville.


A collaborative brew by three Western New York State home brewers has been named “Best of Show” during the Erie County Fair’s 2019 Home Brew Competition.  A German Leichtbier brewed by John Crossett of North Tonawanda, Brian Milleville of Sanborn and Mark Zambron of West Seneca took top honors during the 6th annual competition. A panel of judges and master judges evaluated the submissions according to nationally recognized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) protocols. A complete listing of winners is available online at: https://bit.ly/2JPJT6y.


According to BJCP’s published style guidelines, German Leichtbier (pronounced “LYESHT-beer) is a pale, light-bodied German lager with lower alcohol and calories than normal-strength beers. Moderately bitter with noticeable malt and hop flavors. Judges remarked that the winning entry had “impressive flavor and aroma” for a light bodied beer and was “crisp and refreshing.”


Once crowned “Best Of Show,” the brewers submitted the beer’s recipe to the professional brew staff at Flying Bison Brewery. Kegged product, based on the homebrew recipe, will be offered by Try-It Distributing to select Western New York establishments for public purchase prior to the Fair. During the 180th Erie County Fair, on premise “beer gardens” will feature the award-winning beer. Production of the winning recipe will take place on Friday, May 17th beginning at 9:30am at Flying Bison’s facilities located at 840 Seneca Street in Larkinville.


In the Erie County Fair’s inaugural Home Hard Cider Making Competition, cider maker Jeffrey Clift of Buffalo won “Best in Show Cider” with his “All American Cider.” In total, 23 entries were received in the cider competition. Once named the 2019 “Erie County Fair Best In Show Cider,” the winning home hard cider maker received a gold medal for excellence and then began the process of being professionally reproduced by BlackBird Cider Works for sale during the Fair. A complete listing of cider winners is available at: https://bit.ly/2VEGsa6.


The Erie County Fair Home Brew and Cider competitions are sponsored by the Erie County Agricultural Society with support from Try-It Distributing, Flying Bison Brewing, Black Bird Cider Works and KATZ Americas.


The judging of home brewed beer is just one of the competitions held annually by the Erie County Fair. In 2019, over 13,0000 entries are expected to be received and judged by the Fair’s Competitive Exhibits Office. The wide range of ribbon winning categories include agriculture, conservation and creative arts among others. 2019 entries are currently being accepted online at www.ECFair.org.


Jeffrey Clift’s “Best in Show Cider.”


The Future of Truck &Tractor Pulls at Erie County Fair


The Erie County Agricultural Society (ECAS) has announced that it will not host a truck and tractor pull competition during the 180th Erie County Fair in 2019.


A strong schedule of local pulling events taking place throughout the summer in Western New York combined with the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, Ohio scheduled for the Fair’s final weekend made it difficult for the ECAS to increase the event’s ticket sales and sponsorship base.


“A heartfelt thank you to the fans, competitors and countless volunteers who supported the Erie County Fair’s pulls over the years,” said Jessica Underberg, Fair CEO. “The Society would also like to acknowledge the efforts of our partners, Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, the National Tractor Pullers Association and the Empire State Pullers, for providing world-class drivers, teams and machines that helped to make our pull a highly regarded and anticipated meet in the industry. We wish all continued success and a safe season of pulls.”


Western New York pull fans are encouraged to support the competitions taking place this summer sponsored by Langford-New Oregon Volunteer Fire Department on August 3rd & 4th and at the Wyoming County Fair August 16th & 17th.

2019 Gusto Grandstand Lineup Released

The Erie County Fair has released its full Gusto Grandstand schedule for the 180th Erie County Fair this August. Highlights of the lineup includes two free, “Throwback Thursday” concerts, an appearance by the “last of the hell drivers” Tonny Petersen and already announced mainstage shows including Kane Brown and Gabriel Iglesias.


“This is the most eclectic mix of acts and events that has ever been put together for the Gusto Grandstand,” said CEO & Fair Manager Jessica Underberg. “From top national touring comics to current chart toppers and five nights of free shows, our team worked extremely hard to find the best entertainers possible while all along trying to keep ticketed shows reasonably priced.”


Newly announced events include two free “throwback” concerts featuring classic rockers Foghat on Thursday, August 8th at 8p and six-time country vocal group of the year and Grammy Award winners Diamond Rio on Thursday August 15th at 8p. The PettyBreakers, the world’s foremost Tom Petty tribute experience will take to the stage on Friday, August 9th for a free performance at 8:30p following the Firefighter’s Day Parade. FreestyleMX.com action will perform a free show on Tuesday, August 13th.


The wildest and most spectacular summertime stunts, crashes and thrills return during the Fair’s motor event series. The “Last of the Hell Drivers” 81-year-old Tonny Petersen has been added to the bill of the Ultimate Night of Destruction on Saturday, August 17th at 7p. Petersen descends from a long line of classic fair stunt drivers that includes Lucky Teter, Jack Kochman and Joey Chitwood. Petersen will be part of the night’s events that includes the ever-popular school bus demo spectacular and the compact car double figure 8 racing championship. The World’s Largest Demolition Derby, Sunday August 18th, 1:00p & 6:00p will welcome more than 100 cars from across Western New York to the Fairgrounds to see who can outlast the rest.


NOTE: Tickets for all Motor Event Series shows go on sale Saturday, June 1st at 10am and will be available for purchase at Tickets.com, by phone at 1-888-223-6000, or in person at the Fairgrounds Main Office until 1pm.


The complete 2019 Gusto Grandstand Schedule for the 180th Erie County Fair, including already announced shows and artists:


Darci Lynne Farmer, who at just 12-years of age won NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” for her singing ventriloquism, will bring her all new Fresh Out of the Box Tour to the Gusto Grandstand at the Erie County Fair on Wednesday, August 7th at 7:30p. General admission tickets are $20; reserved track seats at $30/$38.


Rock and blues icons Foghat take a “Slow Ride” to the Erie County Fair with a performance on Thursday, August 8th at 8p. Owners of eight gold records, as well as one platinum and one double-platinum album, Foghat continues to tour the world, satisfying their longtime followers and making new fans along the way. “Slow Ride,” ”Fool For the City” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You” are among Foghat’s hits. The show is FREE with gate admission to the Fair. No Grandstand ticket is required for entry to the show.


Following the Firefighter’s Parade, The PettyBreakers (Tom Petty Tribute) will take stage on Friday, August 9th at 8:30p. The PettyBreakers are the premier Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute act. Based out of Southern California, this band is comprised of veteran musicians with decades of experience performing in tribute acts, recording and performing with international bands. The show is FREE with gate admission to the Fair. No Grandstand ticket is required for entry to the show.


Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, one of America’s most successful stand-up comedians, will bring his “Beyond The Fluffy World Tour” to the 180th Erie County Fair’s Gusto Grandstand on Saturday, August 10th, 2019 at 8p.  General admission tickets at $28; reserved seats will be $55/$40.


One of ONLY three “masters” level races being held in the world during 2019, the Erie County Fair will host the North American Drone Masters Race on Sunday, August 11th at 7p. Pilots from around the world will compete for spots in the AI World Championship Grand Final in China. The show is FREE with gate admission to the Fair. No Grandstand ticket is required for entry to the show.


Rising country artist Kane Brown will take to the stage on Monday, August 12th, 2019 at 8p. As one of country music’s most compelling rising stars, Brown’s latest album, Experiment, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart during the fall of 2018. With that honor, Brown joined Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean as the only country artists to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The singer is also the first male country artist to debut at the top with a sophomore release in 24 years. The last artist to equal that feat was Tim McGraw in 1994. Only general admission tickets remain; priced at $55.


FreestyleMX.com brings its freestyle motocross riders to the Erie County Fair on Tuesday, August 13th at 7p. The show will feature some of the best tricks and whips of the sport of freestyle motocross including Superman seat grabs and cliff hangers. The show is FREE with gate admission to the Fair. No Grandstand ticket is required for entry to the show.


An ensemble lineup of legendary pop music superstars from the 60s & 70s return to the Erie County Fair’s Gusto Grandstand in 2019. The Happy Together Tour will take to the stage on Wednesday, August 14th at 7:30p. This year’s lineup features The Turtles, Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, The Buckinghams, The Classics IV and The Cowsills. Preferred track seats at $35, reserved track seats at $30 and general admission tickets are $25.


Thursday August 15th at 8p will be “country” throwback night with the legendary Diamond Rio. Formed in 1989 in Nashville, TN the band has sold more than 10 million albums, won a Grammy Award, a Dove Award and six Vocal Group of the Year wins (CMA and ACM). Diamond Rio’s hits include ‘How Your Love Makes Me Feel,’ ‘One More Day,’ ‘Beautiful Mess,’ ‘Unbelievable,’ ‘In A Week or Two,’ and many more. The show is FREE with gate admission to the Fair. No Grandstand ticket is required for entry to the show.


The Australian Pink Floyd Show, the leading Pink Floyd show in the world, performs on Friday, August 16th at 8p. Striving to reproduce the Pink Floyd experience and bring the music to new audiences, the show includes a stunning light and laser show, video animations, filmed sequences on a large LED screen and other special effects. Tickets start at $28 for general admission and $40/$55 for reserved seating


Ultimate Night of Destruction, Saturday, August 17, 7p. – An evening of family fun with free admission for children 12 and under to the Gusto Grandstand! The 2019 Ultimate Night of Destruction will feature the full size and small School Bus Demo Spectacular, the Compact Car Double Figure 8 Racing Championship and a special appearance by the “Last of the Hell Drivers” 81-year-old motorsport legend Tonny Petersen. Produced by JM Motorsport Productions. Tickets are $18; Kids 12 and under are free with paid adult ticket.


World’s Largest Demolition Derby, August 18, 1:00p & 6:00p, Tickets: $22 – This annual event welcomes more than 100 cars from across Western New York to the Fairgrounds to see who can outlast the rest. Cars must navigate the track to keep damage to a minimum if they are to win the heat and make it into the finals. Prior to each heat, cars are judged by the crowd as to who has the wildest and wackiest decorations. Produced by JM Motorsport Productions.


Tickets for paid shows are available at Tickets.com, by phone at 1-888-223-6000, or in person at the Fairgrounds Main Office. Office hours are Monday-Friday from 9:00a-4:30p. Tickets purchased prior to the day of the show include admission to the Erie County Fair on the day of the performance.


About the Erie County Fair


The Erie County Agricultural Society is a private not-for-profit membership organization. Established in 1819, the Society is the oldest civic organization in Western New York. The mission of the Erie County Agricultural Society (ECAS), sponsors of the Erie County Fair, is to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of New York State. The Fair strives to fulfill appropriate aspects of the agricultural, educational, entertainment and recreational needs of Western New York.  The 180th Erie County Fair will be held August 7th – 18th, 2019. (www.ECFair.org)



North American Drone Masters to Be Held August 10th & 11th


The Erie County Agricultural Society and No Limit FPV have reached an agreement with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and MultiGP to hold the first ever North American Drone Masters on August 10 & 11, 2019. The drone masters will take place during the Erie County Fair inside the Gusto Grandstand and will be a free event with paid admission to the Erie County Fair. The event is sponsored in part by T-Mobile.


“Since the 1840s, the need for speed has been part of the Erie County Fair experience,” said  Fair Marketing Manager Marty Biniasz. “In the 1800s, it was harness racing that entertained fairgoers with days filled with trotters and pacers. Starting in the 1920s the roar of gasoline powered engines filled the Grandstand as auto racing attracted tens of thousands to the ‘Hamburg Oval.’  Today, the need for speed has returned to the Fairgrounds with the North American Drone Masters.”


This FAI sanctioned race will be the first ever “masters” level drone competition to be held in the region and is part of the 2019 Masters Series of drone races. As a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) sanctioned event, this exclusive race is expected to attract drone teams from across the world. This prestigious, world-class event will be one of only three “masters” level races being held in the world during 2019. Other races will be held in Barcelona, Spain and Seoul, South Korea. In addition to $10,000 in purse money, the top 3 pilots from the races held at the Erie County Fair will gain a spot at the 2019 FAI World Championship Grand Final in China held at the end of November.


“This is the future of high tech, motorized spectator sports,” said Erie County Fair Manager and CEO Jessica Underberg. “Staging an event of this class and complexity has yet to be accomplished in the fair industry. With the inaugural North American Drone Masters, we take great pride in being innovators in technology infused, drone-based entertainment.”


The racecourse track, to be constructed in-front of the Grandstand seating, is being designed to included tight, hairpin curves and straightaways that will facilitate speeds of up to 80 mph. The track will be contained behind safety nets designed to keep drones in and spectators at a safe distance. Pilots flying will be staged in front of the spectators with live video feeds from each of their drones so the crowd may follow along and experience the race with them. The excitement of the race will include commentary by Joe Scully, a globally known announcer of drone races and rodeos.


The North American Drone Masters will be held over two days with qualifying heats taking place between 11a – 5p inside the Fair’s infield area on Saturday, August 10th and the grand finals scheduled for Sunday, August 11th at 7pm in the Gusto Grandstand.


Fairgoers looking to learn more about drones and the thrill of flying a model airplane will be able to explore the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ simulation simulator. The display will be located at Fair’s I-Hub “STEM technology” center August 7-9th.




Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA): World’s largest model aviation association, representing a membership of more than 195,000. The AMA is the official national body for model aviation in the United States sanctioning more than 2,000 model competitions throughout the country each year, and certifies official model flying records on a national and international level. The AMA is the organizer of the annual National Aeromodeling Championships, the world’s largest model airplane competition. The Academy serves as the industry’s liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and other government agencies through their national headquarters in Muncie, Indiana.


Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI): The World Air Sports Federation, was founded in 1905. It is a non-governmental and non-profit making international organization with the basic aim of furthering aeronautical and astronautical activities worldwide, ratifying world and continental records and coordinating the organization of international competitions. It is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).


No Limits FVP: One of the leading drone event producers in the Northeast. Owned by William Aumer of Boston, New York, Bill has organized numerous races utilizing the sanctions of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, MultGP, and Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.


About MultiGP: The World’s largest drone racing league, hosting first-person view (FPV) drone races across the globe. This competitive league features cutting edge drone technology with more than 500 competitive drone racing chapters/clubs and over 20,000 registered competitive FPV drone racing pilots.





$6 Flash Sale on Fair Admission; Save 50% on Adult Gate Tickets


Get ready for a dose of the “Best 12 Days of Summer,” as the Erie County Fair will hold a limited, “flash” sale on admission tickets. The seven-hour sale begins at 12Noon TODAY, Thursday, May 9th and concludes tonight at 7pm.


Flash Sale tickets will be $6 each and may be used any day of the 2019 Fair to be held August 7-18th.  The sale price represents a 50% saving off regular adult gate admission. To purchase tickets, fairgoers can visit the Fair’s website at www.ECFair.org or stop in person to the Fairgrounds main office today from Noon-7pm. Gate admission purchased via the website is subject to Tickets.com service fees. There is a limit of 8 tickets per person. Children 12 & under are free at the Fair.


“Last December the Erie County Agricultural Society announced a restructuring of its gate admission program that will increase the cost of a full-price, adult gate admission to $12,” said Fair CEO & Manager Jessica Underberg. “This was the first change in gate prices for the Erie County Fair in a decade. We encourage all fairgoers to take advantage of today’s one-time only, flash sale. Planning in advance to attend the Fair will save you money.”

Sky Wheel to Make Retro Return as Strates Shows Celebrates 95th Year at the Erie County Fair

Sky Wheel on the Strates Shows Midway, 1976


It has been called by carnival historians the “King of the Midway.” A traveling amusement ride so unique, dazzling and spectacular that it defined the Erie County Fair midway for generations of Western New Yorkers. Today, the Erie County Agricultural Society announced that the James E. Strates Shows will feature the return of the legendary 80-foot-high double Ferris wheel called the Sky Wheel on its midway in 2019. This limited, one-time engagement is part of the celebration commemorating the 95th year of the Strates Shows at the Erie County Fair.



“The double Ferris wheel is one of the most requested bygone attractions that fairgoers continually ask us to bring back,” said Marty Biniasz, Erie County Fair Marketing Manager. “Not only is this rare ride an icon of the Strates Shows midway, it also has a deep Buffalo-Niagara connection as the Sky Wheel ride was once manufactured by the Allan Herschell Co.”



The Sky Wheel debuted on the Erie County Fair’s midway in 1963 and was a featured attraction until 1994. The ride made a brief reappearance between 1996 and 1998 before it was retired by the Strates Shows. Once a common attraction at major county and state fairs, the fully restored version of the ride scheduled to appear in 2019 is one of only five operating Sky Wheel rides remaining in North America. Rides on the Sky Wheel will be part of all Strates Shows one price ride days and Fun Card ticket programs.



“The Sky Wheel seats 32 people in 16 seats,” said Biniasz. “Riders experience the sensation of a rapid acceleration being propelled into the sky and then the feeling of a free fall as the wheels rotate downwards. Although there have been faster, taller and more modern rides over the decades, the adrenalin rush you get from the Sky Wheel is in a class of its own.”



In 1960, the Allan Herschell Co., then a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Wiesner-Rapp Company, purchased the Sky Wheel patents and manufacturing rights from brothers Curtis and Elmer Velare of Long Beach, California. From 1960 until the sale of the Herschell Company’s assets in 1970 to Chance Manufacturing of Wichita, Kansas, Sky Wheels were built at the Herschell plant located at 1165 Clinton Street in East Buffalo.  At the time of the sale to Chance, the Allan Herschell Company was the largest manufacturer of amusement rides in North America.



The addition of the Sky Wheel to the 2019 Erie County Fair midway celebrates the exclusive relationship between the Erie County Fair and the Strates Shows. Now in its 95th year, this partnership is considered a historical milestone in the modern amusement industry. According to the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, the relationship between the Strates Shows and the Erie County Fair is the longest continuous run of any carnival midway in the United States.



Unique among today’s amusement operators, The Strates Shows is the only “railroad carnival” in North America. Each spring, the Strates Shows leaves its winter quarters in Florida and begins an eight-month journey by rail that transports their equipment to fairgrounds across the eastern seaboard and northeast. The “fair train,” as commonly known in Western New York, currently is comprised of over 50 rail cars. The arrival of the Strates train at the depot in the Village of Hamburg, a living piece of Americana, will be celebrated again this summer.


About the Strates Shows


The Strates Shows is a 96-year-old family owned business with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Founded in 1923 by Greek immigrant James E. Strates as the Southern Tier Shows in Elmira, New York, the Strates Shows is considered one of America’s premiere providers of carnival midways. After the death of James E. Strates in 1959, his only son E. James Strates, took over as manager of the company and is still actively involved in its operation. Now in its 9th decade, the Strates Shows are led by the 3rd generation of Strates family members including Susan, Jimmy, Sibyl, Jay and John. Nick Strates, who officially joined the show full-time during the 2015 season, is the 4th generation of the Strates family to continue the tradition.   Over the decades, the Strates Shows has brought many innovations to the carnival industry, including cooperative promotions, a centralized ticket system, advance ticket sales, and, most recently, the FunCard electronic ticketing system that utilizes bar codes to control access to carnival rides on the midway.


Sky Wheel on the James E. Strates Shows Midway, 1987


Sky Wheel on the Strates Shows Midway, 1988


1960s era trade publication ad for the Allan Herschell Company’s Sky Wheel.