HAMBURG, N.Y. -- Erie County Fair organizers expect around a million visitors to the fair this year, and they've been busy preparing — especially after the fairgrounds were hit by a tornado just over two weeks ago.
Crews have been working every day since the EF2 tornado hit July 20, one of four confirmed in Western New York that day, on 10 and sometimes 12 hour work days to restore the fairgrounds back to full use.
In fact, Marty Biniasz, Marketing Manager for the Erie County Agricultural Society which sponsors the fair, says Hamburg community members banded together with crews determined to make sure a tornado couldn't stop what he calls "the 12 best days of summer."
"Since then, we've done work, about $3 million dollars worth of damage has been taken care of, all the structural issues, all the trees have been removed," he said. "People are going to find it really hard to find any of the damage remaining from the storm."
Biniasz also talked about the grandstand, which took a direct hit from a tornado.
Biniasz says that grandstand took every one of the past 17 days to get up and back to normal; including the entire infrastructure and hundreds of windows.
But now he says it's ready to go.
Vendors are already taking notice of the cleanup efforts as well.
“I know the grounds people here are good, they’re going to have it ready to go," said Gary Morris, who has been bringing Big D's Food Service to the county fair from Dayton, OH for 7 years. "But yeah I was thinking I’d maybe see a tree down or something."
South Buffalo's Mark Marth said Sunday that in more than 20 years since he started bringing pizza and subs to the Erie County Fair, he's never seen it contend with this summer's weather.
“The first thing that really came through my mind was 'Thank goodness the people weren’t here and the fair wasn’t going on," said Marth. "Coming through Slade Park and coming right into the grandstand, this would have been a natural disaster with the propane tanks, the tents, and everything.”
The Erie County Fair runs from Wednesday August 9 to Sunday Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Erie County Fairgrounds, 5600 McKinley Parkway. Wednesday, Aug. 9 is Channel 2 day this year, with $2 admission and $2 parking. Those who bring a canned food donation can receive free admission.