LONSBERRY: Dear Andy, save the milk bar

Dear Andy,

You’re screwing the pooch on this State Fair thing.

You’re forcing an asinine $15 million gondola to nowhere on the fair, while simultaneously cutting aid to – and bankrupting – the people who sell us 25-cent milk.

I know you’ve been to the fair, you and I have spoken there. But with your prominence and security detail, you’ve never really been to the fair. Not the fair the rest of us go to. And so you can’t be blamed for not knowing the significance of the 25-cent milk.

It used to be called the Rainbow Milk Bar, when flavored milk came in colors like green and pink. But for the last forever it’s been just white and chocolate. And for the last forever – since you and I were little boys – people have lined up by the hundreds of thousands to get little cups of fine New York milk for a quarter a pop.

Unless you’ve trooped around the hot fairgrounds for hours on end, dragging sweaty kids and smelling cow manure and Gianelli sausage, you can’t know the wonder and refreshment of little plastic glasses of milk thrown back one after the other on a sweltering day. The lines snake in two directions from the milk bar, outside into the sun and inside through the Dairy Building.

Early in the morning, a big tanker from Bryne Dairy pulls up and refills the massive bulk tanks.

And until the fair closes each night, people are buying little milk tickets and exchanging them for New York’s premier agricultural product.

It’s the spirit and soul of the fair, sir. It’s one of those places and one of those products that people remember and look forward to.

And last year we almost lost it.

The dairy board – which funds the Dairy Building, primarily through milk sales – announced that it was going to double the price, from a quarter to 50 cents. People about died. I raised a stink about it on the radio and folks called your office and you quickly and firmly said it wasn’t going to happen.

Your office said you were going to have the fair give the dairy board the $90,000 it was short – the amount it would have made by doubling its price – so that it could cover its expenses. People were thrilled. The Dairy Bar and 25-cent milk were saved.

By you.

And that was a big deal, for which many of us were very grateful.

And when last year’s State Fair rolled around, a lot of little kids were still able to satisfy their thirsts with delicious chocolate milk that even the humblest of parents could afford.

You did a good thing, and you made a lot of people – especially children – happy.

For many families like mine, you saved the thing we love best about the fair.

But the fair didn’t keep your promise. It only made good about half of the $90,000 you promised, and the dairy board took the hit.

Now it is giving up the fight. It is essentially going out of business.

The board says it is liquidating its equipment and trying to pay its final bills.

The Dairy Bar won’t open this year. And there will be no butter sculpture.

And while folks may passingly miss the butter sculpture, they will viscerally mourn the Milk Bar. They won’t be disappointed, they will be heartbroken and enraged. At my house alone there will be five little kids who will have their favorite part of the fair be MIA.

Because you didn’t keep your promise.

That’s how it’s going to look. Because that’s how it is. And that’s what I’m going to tell people. 

And you’re going to look like crap.

At the same time you are ramrodding through $15 million for a gondola over the Interstate that no one can figure out or keep from laughing at, you are taking away the one thing we actually like. 

Joanie Mahoney gets her gondola, but my kids don’t get their chocolate milk. And it’s your fault. There’s no way to put a pretty face on that.

Instead of putting up a knock off of the Springfield monorail, you could keep your promise to the dairy board for 166 years. 

I know you aren’t trying to make this mess. I know you want people at the fair to be happy.

I’m sure there’s been a misunderstanding. I’m sure you can fix this. I’m sure you can find a way to make peace with the dairy board and keep them above water. I’m sure you can save the Milk Bar – again, and for good.

And I hope you will. And I know you will have the undying gratitude of a lot of people if you do.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter, and next time you’re in Syracuse or Rochester, it’d be good to get you on the radio.


Bob Lonsberry

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