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Spree goes to the Erie County Fair

Image courtesy of Erie County Agricultural Society


The Erie County Fair is celebrating its 175th anniversary. This year, Buffalo Spree headed to the Fair’s Creative Arts and Flower Show to view the scores of entries and pick some winners. Spree publisher Laurence Levite and editor-in-chief Elizabeth Licata were approached late last year by Fair organizers and offered the opportunity to present the Fair to readers through Spree-colored glasses. How could we say no? As part of our goal to share the fair’s story and history and break stereotypes—it’s so much more than rides and funnel cakes—Elizabeth and Spree's senior editor, Christa Glennie Seychew, put on their judge’s hats to award their favorites the “Buffalo Spree Pick 2014” ribbon.


We’ll be the judge of that

Spree has long celebrated gardening, photography, fine arts, food, and design in its pages, so lending that expertise to judge the creative categories comes naturally.

“We came up with the idea that, after the judges were done picking their favorites, wouldn’t it be cool for Spree to look at our competitive exhibits through Spree’s eyes?” says Marty Biniasz, the special events and brand marketing manager of the Erie County Agricultural Society, sponsor of The Erie County Fair. “The people who are awarded this are going to be really excited,” he says.

“Judging is a culture unto itself,” says Biniasz. The judges take it very seriously—locking the doors and spending hours studying entries. While Elizabeth and Christa were not locked away, they did have their work cut out for them putting their experienced eyes to all things art, craft, and garden. The Creative Arts and Flower Show includes nearly thirty competitions and categories for adults and kids, some (like Arts and Crafts) with more than 100 different classes.

The categories Spree judged include Afghans, Antiques, Arts and Crafts, Bucket of Junk (the Fair hands out five-gallon buckets full of odds and ends for folks to “clean, sand, weld, glue, cut, bolt, fasten, bend, shape, paint or finish” into a work of art—or something), Canned Goods, Clothing Design, Fine Arts, Flower Show Design, Horticulture and Special Exhibits, Knitting, Lego Contest, Photography, Quilts, and more. So when you’re at the fair, be on the lookout for the super-fancy Spree awards, beautiful black satin rosette ribbons with gold accents, to see what we think is tops.


Growing Strong

Regarding this year’s theme, “Growing Strong,” Biniasz notes, “People can look at that in many different ways. We’re an agriculturally-based society. As much as we have one foot in our past, in our heritage—which is extremely important—we are always looking to grow. We’re always looking at new things and how to adapt to a changing society and balance keeping traditions strong, but keep on moving forward.”

People should come out to the fair and get out of their comfort zones, says Biniasz. “If they’ve never spent time in our animal barns, it’s not just about seeing beautiful animals; it’s also about looking at the dedication and hard work of children and adults caring for these animals, and preparing them for show and market.” Likewise, if you’ve foregone the antique tractor exhibit, you may be surprised to find not just farm implements, but beautiful Art Deco designed machinery from the 1930s and ‘40s, with bright colors, gleaming chrome, and curved lines. Biniasz also recommends spending some time at the Indian Village to watch the crafters at work and see some really authentic dancing. His advice: Try to enjoy everything that the fair has to offer.

“We have planted an amazing seed here in our community and it’s been nurtured and fertilized and pruned and well taken care of for 175 years,” says Biniasz. “There is no end in sight to our growth.”


The winners of Buffalo Spree Pick 2014 ribbons at Erie County Fair are listed here. You can see a few images of winning items at the end of this article.

Quilts: Joanne Vanhise

Knitting and Crocheting: Marilyn Putman

Antiques: Maureen Daley

Needle Arts: Suzanne Weiss

Afghans: Barbara Cudeck

Legos, adult: Debora Hunt

Legos, junior: Mary Palmer

Junior Art Section: Olivia Takacs

Canning: Daniel Grasso (purple rasberries)

Flower Show Horticulture: Harriett Schmidle

Flower Show Design Division: Judy Tucholski-Zon

Bucket of Junk, adult: Melissa Buckley

Bucket of Junk, junior: Tommy Schneckenberger

Dress it Up: Karen Kuhns

Clothing Design and Construction: Mary Stack

Arts and Crafts: Lucas Colon

Fine Arts: Carol Maltby

Photography: Dawn Peters

Flower Show Educational Division: Holland Garden Club

Historical Building: Aurora Historical Society


Visit the Fair's website to learn more about its attractions.




Wendy Guild Swearingen is an avid fairgoer and frequent contributor to Buffalo Spree.