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Orange County Fair gets new look, carnival this year
Strates makes midway debut -- fair up despite rain


By Dan McGinnis

Photo courtesy of Mark Malloy

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Middletown, NY - Anticipation was high this year for the 167th Orange County Fair, held July 18th through Sunday July 29th, one of the largest county fairs in the state. After 45 years with Amusements Of America on the midway, James E. Strates Shows, America's only railroad carnival, was tapped to provide the midway for the first time. Fair General Manager Michael Gurda IV said "we definitely went all out this year for a new look on the county fair. Basically we just raised the bar on what our carnival is".

Strates brought many new rides to the fair this year. Included among the 42 ride lineup was a 126-foot giant wheel, double-decker carousel and the Top Spin. A new railroad siding had to be built to unload the mile long train of 35 flats and 10 coaches.

The James E. Strates ride lineup at Middletown was: GiaPhoto By Mark Malloynt Wheel, Top Spin, KMG Fireball, Haunted Mansion, Himalaya, Wave Swinger, Double Carousel, Larson Fireball, Enterprise, Zipper, Musik Express, Cliff Hanger, Tilt, Scrambler, Wacky Worm Coaster, Construction Zone, Rio Grande Train, Red Baron, Pop A Wheelie, Fire Engine, J& J Slide, Duck Boat, Dino, Jalopy Junction, Mangles Fire Engine, Mini Himalaya, Thunderbolt, Starship 2000, Darton Slide, Go Gator, Mini Indy, Dizzy Dragon, Monkey Maze, Mario Land, Conga Inflate, Kid Bumper Boat , 4x4, Atlantis Inflate, Rock n Roll, Sea Ray and Funhouse.

When MCW visited Saturday July 21st the midway was packed soon after the 1 pm opening. As we were leaving around 5 pm long lines were present at the front gate. Regular gate admission is $8 for adults and $5.50 for children or seniors. Advance sale gate tickets were $5.50 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. A book of 24 ride tickets was also available in advance for only $12, a 50% savings. Although the fair got off to a slow start with rain on the first two days, the event rebounded Friday with a 30% increase over last year. Even with 6 days of periodic rain, the fair finished "way up" over a rainy 2007 and "better than our five year average", said Gurda.
The Budweiser Grandstand racing program included stock car , truck and motorcycle racing at the Fair Speedway. East Coast Pro Wrestling and a Demolition Derby were also featured. Grandstand events were not included in fair admission, requiring a separate ticket. The speedway offers racing weekly through the spring and summer.

At the Pepsi Free Concert Stage music from Southern Rock to Karaoke was featured. Performers on the stage included the Marvelettes, Bosco & The Storm, an Elvis Tribute show and a Beatlemania show, all free with admission. A second area for free music was the John Lusardi Music Pavilion.

The fair was not lacking for free grounds entertainment either. The Coronas' "Circus Hollywood" was a big hit with 2-3 shows daily. Serge & Stevie Coronas, owners of the show, put together a great performance. The show had a Flying trapeze act, high wire act, globe of death, hula hoops featuring the Coronas' daughter, a dog act and a clown doing two numbers. The show was presented in the open air, attracting large crowds to each performance. Stevie also has Friesian Stallions that were on the grounds but did not perform. The stallions are beautiful animals and are beautiful even just to look at.

In addition to the circus, the Coronas also had a huge petting zoo with 2 giraffes, a kangaroo, zebras and many other exotics and a racing pigs show, run by the Coronas' son Sergie and his wife. With three shows and exhibits on the grounds, the Coronas were certainly busy during the fair.

Gurda said he saw 2007 as a "huge turnaround year" for the fair. He received numerous letters from guests complimenting the fair and the midway on improvements. Working together with Strates Shows for the fist time was "a pleasure", said Gurda. "I had very high expectations for them and they delievered everything I expected.. plus", he added. Under the aggressive young Fair Manager Mike Gurda IV, third generation of his family to run the fair, and working closely with the Strates leadership, this fair looks to have a very bright future.

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