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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsMind Matters

New York State Fair lacks ethnic diversity in cuisine

Last weekend I went to The Great New York State Fair for the first time, and it was unlike any experience I’ve had before. Granted, I’ve been to fairs, but they were small gatherings in my semirural Pennsylvania town — a couple of tents set up on an open patch of grass and, when the town had enough money, even a few rides. I anticipated the New York State Fair to be larger than my Podunk carnival, but what I came to find upon my arrival in Syracuse this past Saturday was much more extravagant.

I was immediately bombarded with the smell of butter and sugar and looked around at the amazing amount of fried food available: fried dough, fried Oreos, fried candy bars and even fried bacon. My initial thoughts wandered toward the obvious explanation for rising obesity rates, but then I began to get hungry.

I was disappointed to find there were limited vegetarian options and settled on a plate of french fries to tide myself over. Eventually, with the help of a very detailed map, I found that there was an entire section dedicated to fit my vegetable-eating needs. Further investigation, however, showed that the location of my vegetarian food was also home to a smattering of vegan and international foods in an area labeled “Ethnic Restaurants.”

It seemed that anything different from the deeply American burger and fry options was thrown into a pavilion called the International Food Pavilion. There was also a small corner of tents called the Pan African Village and a permanent installment called the Iroquois Indian Village, but they were just as secluded. I was amazed at the lack of diversity and the lack of representation. This was a fair that was supposed to celebrate the whole of New York state, which includes more than just the cultures and interests of the majority. These are not merely international things, but rather they are present and growing.

The State Fair is a tradition. There is something sacred about tradition and the practices that come with it, but the fair should also be adaptable. It is time to make developments to better demonstrate the diversity of cultures and ideas that exist. This fix can be made as easily as integrating so-called “Ethnic Restaurants” and “International” options into the fried Oreo stands.