Latino Village at the NYS Fair

by Miguel Balbuena

The event that many New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors alike have been impatiently waiting for about a year is finally just around the corner. The Latino Village at the Great New York State Fair is scheduled to take place this year between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2. Due to increased popular demand, it has been expanded one extra day from its initial three-day run during last year’s inaugural Latino Village, which, in turn, was the same amount of time that it stretched for under its original name, the seminal La Feria in the Fair, in 2017.

This longer footprint is a milestone toward achieving an objective stated by the Latino Village Superintendent Elisa Morales, who is also executive director of the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County.

In her welcoming message to last year’s event guests, Morales said: “I believe that Latinos add the spice to America’s melting pot. We are thrilled to share the beauty of Latino, Hispanic, Latinx culture, music and food with everyone. The New York State Fair has provided the perfect platform for Latino Village to create a unique cultural experience for all Fair goers. Everyone is welcome to join us for the fiesta. Our goal is to develop the area and expand our presence to all 13 days of the Fair.”

Fair Director Troy Waffner added, in a press release, that the Latino festival “helps us to show the diversity of our great state to all fairgoers. Hispanic and Latino people make up nearly one in every five New Yorkers and contribute wonderful things to our culture. We’re excited to see this celebration grow and prosper.”

Waffner and Morales arranged for some changes to be made in the format of this year’s Latino event, compared to the previous two, in which it was held on the opening weekend of the fair. Now it’s slated for the closing weekend plus Labor Day. In addition, the administration has moved the event’s venue from the western end of the fairgrounds, at the Empire Experience Stage, to a zone next to the Talent Showcase Stage, located in front of the 4-H Youth Building and close to the recently constructed Exposition Center. This 136,000-square foot building is advertised as “the largest expo facility north of New York City between Boston and Cleveland.”

Ursula Rozum, a neighbor from the predominantly-Puerto-Rican Near West Side in Syracuse, said that the placement of the Latino extravaganza during the past two years felt “marginalized” to her since it was situated in a distant corner of the fair.

The new site is likely to increase the fairgoers’ exposure to Latino culture as more foot traffic from passersby run into the Talent Showcase Stage.

There’s still time to find innovative ideas to promote civic engagement and public participation in regards to the New York State Fair. My proposal would be to organize a Naruto run with its starting line in Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse and its finishing line at the fair. The Clinton Square area already serves as the departing point for the annual Mountain Goat Run, which occurs on the first Sunday of May, and for the yearly Paige’s Butterfly Run, which happens on the second Saturday of June.

A Naruto run is a very peculiar way of racing, named after Naruto Uzumaki, a young Japanese ninja possessed by the spirit of the Nine-Tailed Fox. This anime and manga character has received special attention from both the print and digital media precisely because of his aforementioned peculiarity. USA Today described it as “running with his arms stretched out backward and his head forward”; Unilad described it as “running with his arms angled behind his body.”

A Naruto run to the fair would be a first in central New York and perhaps in the whole world, and an excellent way to enhance the visibility of the Great New York State Fair.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields
(in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

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