A Trip Thru Central & Western New York

My partner Jim and I decided we needed a little end-o-summer get away, and true to style, we decided to visit Syracuse, New York. Why?

As some of you might know, we are vendors and exhibitors at the Ohio State Fair and are fans of fairs everywhere. Each summer we try to visit a new state fair, and have on our list places like North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, and Minnesota. Top-rated fairs like Wisconsin and Kentucky have so far eluded us- their schedules often overlap ours by enough to make it difficult. But it's an interesting hobby, we get to visit cities we otherwise probably wouldn't, and we love comparing other fairs to ours. We also really like seeking out whatever local specialties and cultural activities the state has to offer, and since I'm a fan of carnival midways I always check out the rides. There are other reasons too- as Jim is a gardener, we always find the local or regional arboretum for him and the local or regional amusement park for me. (hopefully...)

So this year, a month or so back, Jim found an article listing what the author believes to be the top ten state fairs, and the New York State Fair was rated number one. We hadn't (ever) heard this, so we thought we'd give it a look-see and judge for ourselves. The drive to Syracuse from Columbus is about seven hours, so last Wednesday we packed up the car and headed out to see what we could do. And on the way we pass nearby three? four? amusement parks, so I had my fingers crossed.


We hit the fair early morning on Thursday. We had driven by the fairgrounds the night before on the way in and it was nuts busy, the parking lots looked jammed, and it turns out Carrie Underwood was the entertainment that night so that might've been it. Anyway, from the freeway the fairgrounds looked big and it seemed like a nice fair.
It was. We always remark, in comparing our fair to others, that there are some things they do better and some where we excel. The New York State Fair seems to be all about the food. And not just the carnie trailer offerings, but there was a loooong street called Food Row that had permanent buildings where local restaurants serve up their best traditional favorites. And beer. And wine. It was a gastronomical delight and I ate way too much. Barbecue, prime rib sandwich, apple pie, ice cream, fried haddock, and a local dish called Chicken Riggies. Yum. I was stuffed.
The midway was Wade Shows, a show I've seen a lot of recently, notably at Florida and North Carolina fairs. Coasters included the RC-48 and a Crazy Mouse. There was also a brand new out of the box portable Larson Flying Scooter which was interesting to see, I think it's the first model ever to tour. For years the NYSF contracted with James E. Strates for the midway and last year was their last at the fair. That was a little disappointing to me as I haven't seen Strates in years and they are the only carnival that still travels by rail. Locals told me that this new midway was much nicer, though, so it either was or they were just eager for change.
The fairgrounds was clean, well kept, the buildings were nice and the crowd was well behaved. They also have a great entertainment lineup every year in the grandstand. While it wasn't the best fair we'd ever been to, we agreed it was nice and worth the trip.

The next day we got up and decided to drive to Rochester, about an hour away. We first visited Sonnenberg Mansion and Gardens in Canandaigua, New York. (Which is a beautiful, picturesque little town) They were formerly home to Roseland Amusement Park, but now all that exists there is a water park. But- Rochester is also home to Seabreeze park, a place I've had on my must-do list for a while. We went there next.


I was hoping for an enchanting little park, and I was not disappointed. Driving up I could see the wooden coaster peeking through the trees and the lakeside setting was terrific. When we got there we saw the price went to 19.95 after five so we decided to wait the forty five minutes. The park didn't look very busy.
This little park was absolutely beautiful and a real gem. Jackrabbit is their wooden ride and is a simple out and back with mild thrills. It was fast, though, and had a tunneled ending. It's one-train op and the new train is the PTC California style. Comfortable, though. We wound up taking two rides, one when we first got there and the last one at night before we left. Lots of fun on a ride that dates back to the 1920's. We also had a couple of spins on their totally unique Bobsled ride, one of the first tubular steel rides ever, built on top of the structure for their original junior woodie. We laughed and laughed on that one, it was quirky, silly, and tons of fun.
We also rode their Whirlwind coaster, a duplicate of the new ride Hershey will install for next year. On our first trip the car was totally unbalanced, with our fat asses on one side and a small child on the other. When we hit the first turn the car spun so fast everything was a blur and the spinning continued without much let up for the entire ride. It was everything a spinning coaster should be.
Other rides of note include a large Disk-O, a Musik Express, an old Flying Scooters (retro-fitted, I believe, with Larson Tubs) and a log ride that was a remodel of their original Over the Falls ride from back in the day. Thankfully, the only real modifications were in the form of a new station and the logs themselves. Otherwise the ride was the same. Same concrete path (no tunnel), same cupola top on the lift, and the same steep drop. I loved it and didn't get too wet.
But here's what I'd really like to say about Seabreeze. They have a real jewel there on Lake Ontario, and have done a great job maintaining a park that's over 125 years old. The place is clean, modern, and safe. Each flat ride was installed with a proper cement pad and nice landscaping around it. Fences and handrails were in good shape and attractive. Everything was painted and clean. They also have an eye on their history with signs and photographs on the midway showing what was in that location back in the day. Inside their PTC Carousel #36 (beautiful, btw) building was a small museum display with artifacts and more photos. The park was home to several wooden coasters including a Virginia Reel, a funhouse, and some great flats including a Hey Dey and the aforementioned Flying Scooters. I loved this place, it's exactly what I want to see whenever I visit an old, out of the way amusement park.

That's all for now. Tomorrow I'll write about the rest of our trip including two more amusement parks, a casino, a chicken wing festival, and a meal at a restaurant owned by an Iron Chef.

Last edited by RCMAC,

Great read. I'm always glad to hear of someone having great things to say about Seabreeze. It is truly a jewel, as you say.

One correction, though. Their carousel is not PTC #36. That carousel was destroyed by a fire in 1994. The carousel at Seabreeze now is the frame of PTC #31 featuring mostly horses carved specifically for the park in 1994/95 plus a couple of the originals that were not on the carousel at the time of the fire.

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.

If I were more clever, something funny would be here.

Oh! Well, thanks for that correction and that's good to know. I thought it was an exceptionally beautiful machine, and the building seemed so new, guess now I know why. The info at the park still says #36, unless maybe I didn't read correctly. Maybe they were just stating that #36 came along to replace their original ride. From where, I don't remember, but I believe it was a trade. There was no mention of the fire that I recall.

Damn fires. Think of what we'd have if amusement parks weren't tinder boxes...

Very Nice TR. I've only been to the Indiana State Fair in recent years. I'll give you a mini report as advice for your trip. We went on the first Tuesday for monster trucks and on the final Sunday for rides. The monster truck show was small but entertaining. On that day there were mostly farmers and older people making a moderate and well behaved crowd. We didn't eat much. I had a foot long corn dog that was very good. Shanna had a steak and cheese that wasn't good at all. They called it steak. I don't think it was even beef.

On the final day, Sunday, we went for the midway rides with the pay one price wrist bands. I wish we wouldn't have. I've never seen that many people with poor manners and general lack of decency in the same place at the same time. There were several arguments and a few fights over line cutting and lack of respect. Several ride operators had to get onto the people in line for cutting, arguing and fighting, repeatedly. There were lots of preteen kids running around unsupervised, acting foolishly. It was ridiculous. The crowd was about 90% African American in the Midway area. It wasn't a normal black crowd. It was a bunch of gangstas and hood rats. I was very surprised, even knowing that the fairgrounds sat next to a ghetto. I still can't believe how bad it was. We left after just a couple of hours.

Oh, sorry, we've been there. Couple times. That list was those that we've visited, not those that we need. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
I though it was a nice fair, we were there the day before the tragic concert accident. Good, old fashioned real ice cream sodas at the antique drug store soda fountain.

The days we were there the crowds were well behaved. Many fairgrounds aren't located in the nicest areas of the town for some reason. Ours included.

Great TR...look forward to reading the rest of it when I can...computer died, possibly for good. But...and this, like mine, is a VERY big BUT...you went to Rochester and did NOT visit the National Toy Hall Of Fame and Museum??? For shame.

The amusement park rises bold and stark..kids are huddled on the beach in a mist


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