State Fair drops Dixie dudes

Downtown After Dark

— After seven years of entertaining New York State Fair goers with authentic Dixieland jazz, the State Fair Four have been let go.

“We received a letter from the New York State Agriculture & Markets Department informing us our contract wouldn’t be renewed for this year’s fair,” said bandleader Bobby Morris, who plays trombone.

“We had a chance to do a one-day gig at the colonnade, but we didn’t want to do that,” Morris said. A representative from Ag & Markets told Morris that the band could apply again next year, if interested.

The local trad-jazz quartet features trombonist Bobby Morris, tuba player Burt Dunlap, trumpeter Woody Peters and banjo player Dick Sheridan.

Morris and Dunlap are, respectively, the president and vice-president of the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse.

The State Fair Four had performed daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for 12 days in a row at the New York State Fair. Each musician was paid $1,250 per man per fair. Morris initially viewed the layoff as a cost-cutting measure by fair administrators. “But,” he said, “it appears that the fair decided to change some of the street acts, of which we were one, instead of having the same thing every year.” The quartet worked under three state fair directors, Peter Cappuccilli Jr., Bebette Yunis and current director Dan O’Hara.

‘Down at Papa Joe’s’

Each and every day — rain or shine — the band jammed joyously on jazz standards such as “Wolverine Blues,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “China Boy,” under a small tent just inside the fair’s main gate.

“People would tell us we seemed like official greeters of the fair, “Morris said. “The ticket-takers too, they said the music could be heard by people standing in line to get in, and they’d be dancing as they stood in line.”

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