Action along the midway

A bustling scene at the Empire State Fair


Cotton candy, zeppole, the ubiquitous Ferris wheel. Of course, it must be time for the fair. That summertime staple is back again, taking over the Nassau Coliseum grounds, through July 16.

Circus-type spectacle, an old-school “oddity” sideshow, exotic animals, along with plenty of thrill rides for all ages and midway action, all combine for an extravaganza that entices all ages.

Step right up everyone: The Royal Hanneford Circus carries forth with time-honored circus traditions refreshed for the 21st century. Producers Adrian Poema and Nellie Hanneford Poema — along with their four talented children, Catherine, Mariana, Adrian Jr., and Tommy — are focused on bringing a fresh new take on circus arts under the Big Top.

The Hanneford Family, long considered the “Royal Family of the Circus,” can rightly claim an unbroken span of circus history fast approaching three centuries. Beginning with Edwin Hanneford in the late 1600s to the present, they have consistently amazed, amused, thrilled and delighted audiences everywhere with their exploits and skilled acts. From aerial high-wire feats, to illusionists, freestyle motocross, the human cannonball, the big cats, and more — this surely is an edge-of-your-seat experience.

More animal antics can be found at Eudora Farms Exotic Petting Zoo, where kids can get up-close and personal with a variety of exotic animals from the four corners of the globe. Kids can meet and greet the animals — and feed them.

Be sure to check out the World of Wonders sideshow, new to the fair this year. Visit the colorful tent and be drawn into the scene involving 10 sideshow acts, under the watchful eye of Tommy Breen — aka The Great Gozleone. Sword swallower extraordinaire, his antics are boundless, including fire-eating and stunts with a guillotine that are not for the faint of heart.

“When I was 14, I decided I wanted to run away with the sideshow,” Breen says. “I started teaching myself sword swallowing and some other stunts out of the back of a book I found. I didn’t think there still were sideshows around, I figured I could perform in bars with bands or something. But then, when I graduated college, I saw Ward Hall was hiring for his World of Wonders show. I was shocked it was still on the road and that I had the chance to work for the King of the Sideshow. So, I quit my job and got rid of my apartment and joined the carnival. It was what I had always daydreamed about, and once I got here, I just never left.”

Breen proudly carries on the sideshow tradition, with his fellow sideshow folk.

Strongwoman Luella Lynne emcees the show and astounds visitors with feats of strength, bending metal, ripping phone books, and breaking metal chains with her bare hands. Other “talents” include Sam Rezz, who performs with hula hoops, needle swallowing and contact juggling. And don’t miss out on Lucy Lovett, the electric lady, with her pain-proof woman act.

And, of course, don’t miss out on the rides. The midway features plenty of attractions that all ages will enjoy, including the Dream Wheel (one of the largest Ferris wheels on the fair circuit), the Grand Carousel, Super Cyclone roller coaster, Wacky Worm family roller coaster, Storybook Fun House, super slide, and bumper cars.

And, yes, in case you’re wondering, you can still take a spin in those tea cups. Some things never go out of style.