56 Years on the Job at NYS Fair

Kathy Tuzzolino and Jim Crosby have worked at NYS Fair since 1967 — and they’re still going strong

By Mary Beth Roach

Kathy Tuzzolino and Jim Crosby have worked at NYS Fair since 1967.

The New York State Fair opens in late August, with 375 acres of rides, concerts, games, food, animals, exhibits, concessionaires and more.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of employees work behind the scenes to make sure that, across those 375 acres, guests have “a great time, every time,” as the fair’s motto states.

Among those scores of workers are Kathy Tuzzolino and Jim Crosby, who have worked 56 fairs, both starting in 1967.

Tuzzolino, a full-time employee, is the fair’s dispatcher. Sitting on her desk in the maintenance building is a wooden plaque that was gifted to her in honor of her 50th year working at the fair. It originally read “Kathy Survived 50 NYSFs,” but each subsequent year, a new disc is made to cover up the number “50” to indicate another year.

This year, she proudly shows off the plaque that reads “Kathy Survived 56 NYSFs.”

Tuzzolino, a full-time employee, is the fair’s dispatcher. She holds a plaque she received when she celebrated her 50th year at the fair. A new disc was made to cover up the number “50” to indicate another year.

But it appears that she’s more than just survived. She seems to thrive there and, at the age of 76, she has no plans to leave anytime soon.

“They’re going to have to drag me out,” she said.

She is also responsible for handling all the work orders for various crews. Including electricians, plumbers, carpenters and forklift operators, not just during the 13-day run of the fair but year-round, as the fair hosts a number of events, like the Nationals, annually.

The fair appears to be in Tuzzolino’s DNA. Her mother, Angela Tuzzolino, worked there for decades, starting in 1955 and she, too, was the dispatcher, before retiring in 1996.

Jim Crosby, 74, also began at the fair in 1967, and has been involved in the annual exposition ever since.

He works at the fair for about 6 months each year — from May to September — and although he said he doesn’t have a specific title, he has his hand in nearly everything that happens on the fairgrounds, outside of the buildings. Among his tasks, Crosby places the vendors and works with the show promoters. He’s so hands-on, he lives in an RV on site from the beginning of August through the run of the fair.

The 74-year-old started at the fair when he was just a teen, working on a cleaning crew from midnight to noon. From there, he went on to become part of the parking detail, and then oversaw the daily parade.

What keeps the two coming back year in and year out?

Kathy Tuzzolino and Jim Crosby on a fair cart.

“Being part of the biggest show in New York state for 13 days,” Crosby said. He likened it to building a small city and running it for 13 days.

And both credit that the people they work with are big reasons for their longevity.

Over the past 56 years, Crosby and Tuzzolino figured they’ve worked for at least a dozen fair directors, and with each new administration, while there can be big changes, “you just go with the flow,” Tuzzolino said.

When asked to pinpoint a favorite or amusing memory in the past five decades, the two were hard-pressed to identify just one. There have been too many. One memory, however, that remains etched on their minds is the demolition of the iconic grandstand and the track in 2016, which paved the way for a dramatic transformation to the west end of the grounds.

These fair veterans offered some advice for those visiting the event this year. Both suggested taking a Centro bus to the grounds to avoid parking, staying hydrated, don’t come on a hot day …. and … “have fun,” said Crosby.

The fair was originally founded in Albany in 1832 but began here in Syracuse 1841. It’s the oldest in the country.