By Elizabeth Riggs

The Erie County Fair is closing in on nearly 200 years in operation, and nothing, not even a few tornadoes, can stop the people of Western New York from their annual dose of agriculture, fair food and events.

Despite nearly $2.5 to $3 million dollars worth of damage to the fairgrounds, debris has been cleared, glass has been swept and fallen trees have been removed. According to a news release from the Fairgrounds, “more than 138 people, comprised of the grounds’ staff and private contractors, have been working to prepare for opening day.”

And as it rises from the disaster, this year’s fair schedule is jam packed full of the fair traditions, with a steady schedule of special events to keep things interesting.

Fairgoers can expect nothing less than livestock barns packed with cows, horses, pigs and goats, on which the premise of the entire fair is based. Visit the 4-H Youth Development barns to see additional 4-H projects ranging from sewing to photography, and time your visit to watch the respective judging events and fashion shows.

For grandstand entertainment, fairgoers will enjoy the National Grid Concert Series, featuring two weeks full of headlining acts. Kicking off the main acts on Friday, Aug. 9 is the Happy Together Tour, featuring six headline artists from some of the best bands from the sixties and seventies.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, singer, songwriter and dancer Jason Derulo will take the stage in one in one of the highlights of the fair entertainment series.

Big name comedians Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy will perform on Monday, Aug. 14, when these superstars will each deliver a laughter-packed evening of new material before uniting on stage in an encore you won’t want to miss.

For those looking to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on the grounds, visit the 42nd Street Café or Grapes and Hops on 42nd Street to sample a variety of wines and microbrews.

Gearheads and machinists alike will revel at five whole days of motocross, truck and tractor pulls, the Ultimate Night of Destruction and the World’s Largest Demolition Derby – part of the NAPA Auto Parts Motor Event Series.

The Motocross Championship Series, a free event, takes place on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m., followed by the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Truck & Tractor Pull Champions Tour on Thursday, Aug. 17 and Friday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.  The Ultimate Night of Destruction, featuring a school bus demo spectacular, double figure 8 racing championship and automobile rollover contest will be held Friday, Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m., followed by the World’s Largest Demolition Derby on Saturday, Aug. 20 at both 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

New to the fair this year, organizers are debuting the “Erie County Fair Cooks! Kitchen & Shoppe,” an arts center that will highlight regionally-grown products, and promote meals that are easy to make at home.

According to a recent press release from the Fairgrounds, “each day of the fair, [the shoppe] will showcase live cooking demonstrations conducted by area chefs, cooking schools, Fair concessionaires and local businesses.”

Foodies can also rejoice as Taste of the Fair returns, with vendors offering items for just $2. For those looking to skip the highly-caloric fried Twinkies and Oreos, search for the Healthy Options symbol on select menus throughout the fair.  As guests graze their way down the midway, they should also make sure to cast a vote for the Best New Food on the Fairgrounds mobile app.

Additionally, fairgoers can take a bite out of the past as they taste the 1885 burger, originally created by the Menches Brothers. Stop at Weidner’s BBQ to try this historic offering.

Other attractions that are sure to garner attention at this year’s festivities include a butterfly exhibit, a petting zoo, and mobile escape rooms – a hot new trend requiring groups to work together to find hidden keys, solve puzzles, and escape from the room under the watch of a ticking clock.

For more information on the numerous events, vendors, and culinary adventures to be had at this year’s Erie County Fair, visit their website: www.ecfair.org.