The Empire State Fair features a giant Ferris wheel and...

The Empire State Fair features a giant Ferris wheel and a live wolf exhibit at Nassau Coliseum. Credit: Empire State Fair

Get an early taste of summer this weekend as the Empire State Fair returns to Nassau Coliseum.

“We’re calling this year Long Island’s Great Escape,” says managing director Michele Tartaglione of the fair, which runs from Friday through May 19. “Our free shows are both educational and entertaining. There will be more than 30 rides, including a large Ferris wheel and merry-go-round plus 35 carnival games. The food ranges from souvlaki and shish kebabs to corndogs and curly fries. We have a bit of everything.”

Here’s a peek at the lineup of free live shows on this year’s roster:


Forget skateboards and motorbikes. Watch Robert Castillo’s BMX Freestyle Team grab some air on the quarter-pipe ramp and box jump.

“These guys do every kind of trick from back flips to 360s to 540s and more,” says team owner Castillo. “The crowd’s hyped-up energy motivates the bikers.”

One highlight comes when an audience member helps by participating in a big stunt.

Robert Castillo's BMX Freestyle Team will perform stunts in the...

Robert Castillo's BMX Freestyle Team will perform stunts in the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Credit: Empire State Fair/Robert Castillo’s BMX Freestyle Team

“There’s an Evel Knievel-style jump in the show — it’s got a takeoff, a bridge and a landing,” says Castillo. “The volunteer stands right in the middle with hands up and one of our guys will jump over.”


Audiences will be howlin’ when they see 10 wolves in action, ranging from timber wolves to arctic wolves, as well as some hybrids.

“The wolves will each display natural behaviors in their playtime,” says host Sharon Sandlofer. “You’ll see a lot of jumping and interacting with each other.”

Ranging in age from 7 months to 16 years old, the wolves, which are all rescued, not taken from the wild, all react in different ways.

“The older alpha female will mark her territory, while the 2-year-old wolves are more comical together,” says Sandlofer. “You even see a hybrid wolf walk across a two-pipe ramp 10 feet in the air.”

After the show, spectators can go inside the den and take pictures as near as 4 feet from the wolves.


See dinosaurs come back from extinction as host Miss Kayla discusses the concept of fossils and introduces puppets of triceratops Sarah, brontosaurus Jack, velociraptor Lucy and parasaurolophus Charlotte.

“It’s very interactive — almost like a 3D movie,” says Miss Kayla. “The dinosaurs go right up to the gate so kids can pet them.”

The big moment comes when baby tyrannosaurus-rex Sparky takes the stage.

“Sparky does tricks and plays with the kids because he’s like a big puppy,” says Miss Kayla. “We pick a child from the audience to give him a big biscuit bone.”

After the show, kids can have their picture taken with Sparky or choose to do a fossil dig for souvenirs, both for a small fee.


Witness Philip Peters dive into a 5,000-gallon tank with three nurse sharks — Jimmy, Rosita and Abby, who were rescued from research centers — which are ocean bottom feeders with nasal barbells.

“Phil gets in the tank with the sharks and narrates the show while wearing a full face mask, using an underwater mic,” says show rep Evelyn Peters about her husband. “He talks about the parts of the shark and how they live in the ocean.”

Before getting in the tank, Peters demonstrates a feeding frenzy.

“He’ll bring the microphone up to the top part of the tank when he’s feeding the sharks and you can hear their jaws snap together,” says Peters. “It’s really startling.”

Even when the show isn’t running, the shark exhibit will be open all day for viewing.


Get introduced to timber sports — competitive outdoor activities like underhand chopping, crosscut sawing, ax throwing and the crowd-favorite closer — log rolling.

“It’s all about thrills, chills and spills,” says Lee LeCaptain, who serves as the master of ceremonies. “It’s like doing a dance with the wood. If you make a mistake, you’re wet!”

Winner of the log rolling competition faces off against the expert — an 18-month-old purebred silver Labrador retriever named Gracie.

“You have to be extremely accurate and quick,” says LeCaptain. “There’s a lot of slapstick humor involved.” 


WHEN | WHERE 6-11 p.m., weeknights (Fridays till midnight), 2 p.m.-midnight Saturdays (Sundays till 11 p.m.), May 3-5, 9-12 and 16-19, NYCB Live at Nassau Coliseum parking lot in Uniondale, rain or shine

INFO 516-231-4848,

ADMISSION $12, $5 parking

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