SYRACUSE — The Great New York State Fair runs for just 13 days a year, so many people may wonder what goes on at the fairgrounds during the remaining 352 days.

CSEA members who work at the fairgrounds certainly know, because for the crew of about 80 people, the work never stops.

Equine competitions, graduation ceremonies, music festivals, car shows and many more events fill the calendar and create a steady supply of work. Buildings need to be cleaned, grounds and infrastructure always need tending and new structures are always being built.

“Our days vary so much because the fairgrounds are always in flux,” said Dean Sauro, a maintenance supervisor. “We’re catering to each show and it changes weekly. Many times, we have multiple shows per week.”

When the preparation for the New York State Fair begins, 10-hour workdays aren’t uncommon for crew members. During that time, it might seem like less of a job and more like a lifestyle.

Sauro said it’s all worth it.

“We like to see the kids walk around the fair with smiles on their faces,” said Sauro. “It’s like the culmination of all of our hard work.”

Unsung fairground heroes

Holly Racha organizes fairground shipments at the maintenance warehouse.

Every delivery to the fairgrounds goes through Syracuse State Employees Local Treasurer Holly Racha, who works at the maintenance warehouse.

Racha is responsible for opening every box and package and making sure it matches the purchase requisition. She also ensures deliveries get to the right department.

“I also order all the supplies for the fair; toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels, brooms, shovels, you name it,” said Racha. “During the fair, I supervise all the bathroom crews and the Center of Progress loading dock crew.”

This work hardly covers half of Racha’s responsibilities. There isn’t much that goes on without Racha knowing. It’s truly the workers like Racha and Sauro, the events crew, and seasonal workers that are the unsung heroes of the fairgrounds.

“We’re all union and I’m grateful for it, but I’m an hourly employee and I’ve been here for 13 years. There are too many of us like that,” Racha said. “I try to explain to people that ‘yeah, we’re not permanent, but we have our retirement, and we still earn time off.’ It can be frustrating, but I try to emphasize that just the insurance alone is huge, the dental, the vision, and the perks we get like member benefits discounts. You got to take that all into consideration.”

— Nicholas Newcomb


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