Out of the Past: Hands-on ingenuity at the Fair then & now

       By Steve Cichon

The hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Hamburg Fairgrounds over the next couple of weeks have all kinds of favorite reasons for coming to the fair. From some, it might be about food, others the rides, maybe even shopping or people watching.

At the fair, 1908

Had you asked the question 110 years ago, for nearly every visitor, it was about celebrating agriculture and learning more how to get more out your crops and livestock.

In 1908, Machinery Hall featured the latest farm implements included steam-powered tractors and the Niagara Junior thresher built by Buffalo Pitts Company.

“Fairs have acted as public stages for innovation since their inception,” said CEO & Fair Manager Jessica Underberg. “Whether it was new steam powered farm implements in the 1870s, automobiles in the 1910s or the introduction of television in the late 1940s, the Erie County Fair allowed Western New Yorkers to experience new technology up-close and in person.”

The 179th Erie County Fair refocuses on that idea with “I-Hub at the Fair” inside the Fair’s Showplace Building. The display will focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) based businesses and education through daily demonstrations, interactive displays and hands-on activities.    

And the “Jim’s French Fries” stand, a real world outgrowth of the I-Hub comes with the world’s first, practical use “ketchup dispensing robot,” built by Hamburg’s Staub Precision Machine.

 “The I-Hub represents the future of our industry. In an ever increasing virtual world, Fairs continue to be a place where the community experiences life first hand,” said Fair Marketing Manager Marty Biniasz. “From the raising of champion livestock to inventions being created in our backyards, fairs celebrate and let people interact with the best of human accomplishments.”

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.