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Same, yet different Erie County Fair opens for its 181st year

Many fair favorites are returning, but some changes being made to follow health and safety guidelines brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HAMBURG, N.Y. — In most ways, it will be the same Erie County Fair you've known and loved for years, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be some noticeable changes when the gates open for the "best 12 days of summer."

The 181st Erie County Fair opens on August 11 with plenty of food, rides and entertainment. However, for the first time, you must buy your tickets online, they will not be available at the gate. If you show up at the gate without a ticket, all you need is a credit card to buy one over your phone.

When you buy your ticket, you will not have to choose which day you will go to the fair. If you do not have internet access, fair organizers suggest you ask a friend for help or go to the library.

Fair Executive Director Jessica Underberg says the layout of the fair will be different this year, meaning your go-to food stand or vendor may not be in the same spot you're used to finding them. Also, aisles in buildings will be bigger and wider to allow for more personal space.

Addressing the challenges of the past 85 days since the return of the fair was announced, Underberg says they have no choice but to follow the regulations they're handed and will do their best, "but at some point," she added, "the train is leaving the station on certain things. You know? Putting together an event like this doesn't just happen overnight and you can't certainly flip the switch necessarily overnight. That being said, we have no choice but to follow what regulations we're handed, and so if that's the case, then we're going to deal with them the best that we can at the time. Our goal is to have the 181st Erie County Fair in August."

And, if you buy tickets for one of the grandstand shows, that includes your gate admission for that day, so you don't have to buy an additional ticket for that online.

What's a county fair without food? Fair fans will find some 20 new items on the menu to tempt both their pallet and waistline. Those include a chicken parm pot pie, a polish taco and dill pickle pizza. Fairgoers are encouraged to download the Erie County Fair app to vote on their favorite treat.

Asked what she's looking forward to the most this year Underberg said without hesitation, "I can't wait to see people's smiles coming through the gate. People enjoying time with their family and their friends. We've missed it. We've all missed it. It's Western New York's biggest event, and it's the fabric of our community. There's a piece and a part for everybody. You know? Not just older folks. Not just kids. Not just families. You know? It means a lot to be able to get all of our hard work put together and have Western New York's biggest event again."

The Erie County Fair 'Summertopia' runs August 11-22 in Hamburg.