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Not a Fair deal?

The Post-Standard has an excellent story today on the continuing adventures of New York State Fair director Dan O’Hara, probably Eliot Spitzer’s most unpopular appointee in Central New York. This one looks at how Live Nation came to be involved in bringing “big acts” (Boston! Styx! WOW!) to the State Fair Grandstand this year.

For those readers not playing the home game, O’Hara has been behind such popular measures as personally removing a photography entry to the Fair’s art competition that featured a sex doll (from the waist up) smoking a cigarette; banning smoking anywhere on the grounds; moving the Fair’s popular Wine Court to East Jesus; and generally being, in the eyes of many, an autocratic killjoy. This story looks at how his deal with Live Nation might cost taxpayers money (now the state comptroller is looking into it). Then again, Live Nation is also in the business of being a killjoy; here’s a post about how they’ve changed concertgoing at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

I’ve got plenty of ideas on how to make the Fair better and healthier, but alienating fairgoers isn’t among them. I’d love to know more about how he got this job in the first place, and why he apparently still believes he can do anything he wants and not face scrutiny now that Spitzer is gone. (I suppose an obsession with Bruce Springsteen can cover a multitude of sins, but maybe not all of them.)

{ 10 } Comments

  1. Brian Cubbison | August 10, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    What are some of your ideas for the Fair?

  2. TourPro | August 11, 2008 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    There’s a lot that’s not fair about the fair.

    As a NYS taxpayer, I’m not particularly interested in funding this event. Privatizing this event might be the solution.

  3. JS | August 11, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    this is exactly a Fair deal, emphasizing the capital “F”.

    it’s a classic NYS deal, right down to the laugh from the Ag & Markets attorney that negotiated the contract.

  4. Phil | August 11, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Several points:

    O’Hara didn’t get Springsteen, so screw him. (Of course the Dome failed in its negotiations for a last leg concert this summer, too. Screw them too.)

    LiveNation is Clear Channels even it it was spun off. It operates under the same rules of engagement as its corporate sibling: enrich yourself and destroy all other competition. Wonder why concert tickets are so expensive?-thank folks like Live Nation.

    LiveNation saw us coming. Hicks who don’t understand the business. Thank goodness it was only a one year contract and the P-S kicked up some controversy.

    If LiveNation was so much better getting acts that poor Joe LaGuardia couldn’t have gotten–why are the acts at Chevy Court all acts that have played the Fair in the very recent past and the Grandstand acts also mostly retreads and so thoroughly boring?

    Why does SPAC have such a better lineup for the end of August than the Fair?

  5. Ellen | August 11, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    My ideas for the Fair are not grand ones but I think they would help. They are not related to music or concessions.

    1. Raffle off portions of winning entries in the baking contests. This is a no-brainer.

    2. If non-greasy Fair food is really so tasty, prove it: create healthy versions of Fair favorites and have them go head to head in competition with the bad-for-you stuff.

    3. More museum exhibits. A lot of people go to the Fair to gawk at cool or historic stuff. Why isn’t the NY State Archives or museums from other parts of the state getting in on this? Where the heck is the Strong Museum of Play or Corning Museum of Glass, for instance?

    4. More free shows and exhibits in general. I remember one year the biggest draw in the Horticulture Building was some huge Rube Goldberg contraption. People loved it.

    5. New butter sculpture artist.

    6. PUHLEEZE revamp the nightly “parade” and encourage/pay every county in the state to create their own float for it. Even if you just gave them $200 each they’d have something better than they’ve got now.

    7. An old-fashioned, Lincoln-Douglas style public debate about a New York State public interest topic, a different one each year.

    8. Llamas. Every day. Not just on one weekend. You can’t go wrong with more llamas.

  6. Jen | August 13, 2008 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    My top idea to improve the Fair would be to get rid of all the crap in the Center of (No) Progress Building and get some ‘NY made-can’t find it better anywhere else’ gadgets, tools, crafts, food, etc. There’s nothing but junk at the Fair these days and it’s embarrassing to see that’s what we choose to celebrate.

  7. mary | August 15, 2008 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    The name “state fair” could be eliminated entirely. It is more of an “upstate fair” or “central new york fair”. It does not represent the state.

    My suggestion would be to really try to make the fair of interest to all new yorkers. What an opportunity to bring downstaters and upstaters together! This is not happening now.

    What is the mission of the state fair, anyway? Can anyone point me to a place that states the mission statement?

  8. Shawager | August 19, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone happen to see Dan O’Hara when he spoke at the Camillus Rotary luncheon? He left the group speechless (frequently with jaws hanging open), and made a crack about how he would probably end up fired after his first year in the job. His greatest fear, accurate prediction, or just wishful thinking?

  9. Ellen | August 19, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Do tell… why did he leave people speechless?

  10. Shawager | August 20, 2008 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    I thinked he shocked everyone into silence. It wasn’t just that he was announcing how he was (apparently single handedly) initiating sweeping changes at the fair. It was that he expounded on the things so wrong.