Traditional recipes

State Fair of Texas: A Tradition Since 1886

State Fair of Texas: A Tradition Since 1886


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The State Fair of Texas, family fun and fried food!

The State Fair is nothing short of an extravaganza.

One of the most storied and most popular events in the state of Texas is the State Fair of Texas.

Initially opening back in 1886, it was quickly a success and has always been an annual destination for families all across Texas and even the rest of the U.S. There are plenty of activities for everyone, including rides, music, and exhibits including livestock, museums, and autos.

Your kids will love the Children’s Medical Center Barnyard and the chance it offers to get up close and personal with the animals. We have a feeling mom and dad will look forward to Celebrity Kitchen and the football games. Three separate college games will take place, including the hotly anticipated Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma.

And then there’s the food. We can’t forget about that! The State of Texas Fair has become famous for the wide variety food served. When most people think of state fair food, their first thought is probably cotton candy and all things fried. While that sounds good to me, this is Texas and things are done bigger here. A huge variety of food is offered. Everything from good ol’ American food to Greek, Mexican, and Caribbean fare is offered. There are also plenty of cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs and of course lots of fried food. Yes, yes there are the usual fried potatoes and corn dogs but there are also plenty of other more interesting things choose from. Ever had fried Coca-Cola? How about a fried bacon cinnamon roll or chicken fried cactus bites? I know your interest is piqued!

Just give in and come on out. We’ll be sure to put an extra brisket in the pit for y’all.


State Fair of Texas: A Tradition Since 1886 - Recipes

American state and county fairs can credit Elkanah Watson, a wealthy New England farmer and businessman, for their start. Watson showcased his sheep under the great Elm tree in the public square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1807. To attract attention, he clanged an old ship’s bell with a piece of iron. Watson owned woolen mills and wanted to encourage the local farmers to raise Merino sheep because the wool was of superior quality.

By the late 1800’s most of the country’s largest fairs’ were in full swing: from the New York State Fair in Syracuse to the San Diego County Fair in California (Del Mar), and from state fairs of Minnesota to Texas.

Since then, Americans have attended state and county fairs to see the latest technologies, the best livestock, the biggest pumpkins, the blue ribbon breads, cakes, pies, cookies and more…plus the most thrilling entertainment. Equal in attraction is the enticing “fair-way” foods, such as present day corn dogs, elephant ears and cheese curds!

Fun(ny) Fact: Recipe contests used to be considered a women’s competition. In 1903 one writer called the contests “monuments to housewifery.” Now the contests have grown to include everyone, inspiring generations of families to enjoy competing in this age old American tradition.

A longtime champion of touting the newest, the biggest and the best, fairs continue to inspire Americans to discover the diversity and history of their heritage. From Microgaming horticulture to arts and crafts to livestock exhibits, the talents of the area’s most gifted are featured at the fair. Some of the oldest and most creative competitions are the “Best Recipe” contests.

The tradition of recipe contests is almost as old as the fairs themselves. The contests originally showcased the best of locally-grown food as well as the best local recipes. Almost two centuries later, delicious and interesting creations are entered by both first-time entrants and longtime winners.

In recent years, sponsorship of recipe contests by national food companies has become popular at fairs across America. The companies award generous prizes for original recipes featuring their products.

We (as in the Blue Ribbon Group) organized our first special cake competition in the 1980’s, backed by a flour company. By 1990, it was our niche and our passion. If you are with a food related company and think fairs are a good match for you, drop us a note through any of the Join Our Community links and let’s get connected!

My advice to beginning bakers is to keep all your ingredients at room temperature and be sure to measure carefully.
-From the creator of an award winning Graham Bread recipe

In creating recipes, I always try to come up with the "wow" factor to make my dishes stand out amongst the competition.
-From the creator of an award winning Fresh Taste for the Family recipe

My advice to beginning cooks is to get a tried and true recipe, follow it exactly, and branch out from there.
-From the creator of an award winning Dinner Rolls recipe

Don't be afraid to mix crazy ingredients together like my Cinnamon Swirl Squash Bread.
-From the creator of an award winning Yeast Bread recipe

My advice to beginning bakers is to not be afraid to experiment with new recipes and to be fussy about the ingredients you use in them.
-From the creator of an award winning Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe

Creating a recipe for the fair is infinitely more fun with your children's help.
-From the creator of an award winning Kids Cookie recipe

My advice to beginning bakers is to have a good oven that bakes at an even temperature.
-From the creator of an award winning Powdered Sugar Cookies recipe

Don't be afraid to visit several grocery stores to find the perfect fruit for your pie.
-From the creator of an award winning Pie Baking Championship recipe

When I try out a new recipe, I read it over and over, just like I do with the directions before I cut out a dress (to sew).
-From the creator of an award winning Swedish Ginger Cookies recipe

The best recipe is an old family favorite that you put a new twist on.
-From the creator of an award winning Great Cake recipe

I find the judges' score sheets given to each exhibitor to be a valuable method for improving a product. I can make use of the negative as well as positive comments. I like to bake anytime-and have been known to bake half or all the night during fair time.
-From the creator of an award winning White Bread recipe

The most important ingredient is "the love." I love cooking with my kids, grand kids and friends.
-From the creator of an award winning Mac & Cheese recipe

Develop a knack for reading a recipe and visualizing just exactly how it is supposed to look and taste. Don't skimp on ingredients-use the best. And don't be afraid to experiment. Add your own special touch to improve a recipe.
-From the creator of an award winning Yellow Daisy Cake recipe

After I was married, I got Grandma's recipe, which included her advice: “The best way to keep this cake is to hide it.”
-From the creator of an award winning Sweepstakes Sponge Cake recipe

I have been competing at the fair for over 35 years and the best advice I can give is to use the very best products, never skimp.
-From the creator of an award winning Chocolate Championship recipe


2. Don't wait in long lines (or at least try to avoid doing so).

Bianca Hsieh

Whether it's for buying a ticket or getting on a ride, standing in lines at the fair is inevitable- but there are some ways to minimize your time spent waiting. Lines are long during the day and grow longer as the day progresses towards the afternoon and the evening, so do your best to get there early.

Also, in order to buy food or get on rides, coupons are the primary form of exchange at the fair. Rather than buying coupons at the ticket booth near the entrance, walk further into the fair where additional booths are set up. You will be more likely to be able to buy your coupons while minimizing your time in line.


Just for Fun: State Fair of Texas

As a Texas girl who doesn’t travel much, I have found there are several adventures right here in our own backyard which can tantalize the imagination beyond belief! The State Fair of Texas has been on my bucket list, and last year I had the opportunity to stand in awe viewing Big Tex, the 52 foot tall cowboy, as he welcomed young and old alike to experience the many varied activities that our state fair has had to offer since 1886.

If you are looking for a fun trek, the state fair is held “just up the road.” Beginning September 26th in Fair Park, Dallas, Big Tex will welcome you and visitors from all around to experience a Texas-sized adventure. From the popular midway with rides to enticing fried-food phenomena that only Texas can deliver, there is something for everyone at the fair. Here are a few of the many different activities and/or food options you won’t want to miss on your visit.

Daily Shows and Entertainment

Fairgoers can enjoy shows from top-notch entertainers to pig races on any given day of the fair. There are several different shows/events going on at any given time. There are approximately 100 different shows and live entertainments on the various stages and arenas located throughout the fairgrounds.

One of my favorite was Jump – The Ultimate Dog Show which takes place in the Pan-AM Arena, along with the pig races and ostrich races, to name just a few. If you want to see some daredevil stunts, be sure to check out the BMX Bike Stunt Show or the MAPAPA African Acrobats performing near the Auto Show. There are even shows and entertainment for the youngest fairgoers. Be sure to take them to the Little Hands on the Farm, where they can experience life on a miniature farm, or they can get up close to the animals while visiting the Children’s Barnyard. Whatever your likes, there are entertaining shows for you check out the daily schedule at bigtex.com/schedule and plan your day.


End your visit to the fair with two nightly traditions – the Starlight Parade and Illumination Sensation. What a great way to end a wonderful day enjoying fun characters on illuminated floats, fireworks, and music.

Let’s not forget the always popular livestock events. Every year, more than 5,200 students participate in the various contests trying to make it to the Youth Livestock Auction of Champions. Young exhibitors hope all the time and energy they have invested will get them the prestigious honor of selling their projects in a live auction, with the possibility of walking away with grand champion honors. For information about the different livestock shows, check out the schedules at bigtex.com/livestock/shows .

The State Fair of Texas is home to one of Southwest’s largest auto shows. Fairgoers can see the latest and greatest in the automobile world. It’s easy to lose yourself inside the 400,000 sq. ft. space housing the numerous displays and interactive activities. Trust me, I know firsthand we stopped to join in the fun at one of the many activities, then turned around, and our friend had disappeared. It took us several minutes to relocate her, but what a great place to get lost! Every kind of vehicle one could ever dream of can be found here. The auto show building will be open Sunday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Whether you’re young or old, the sights and sounds of the midway will beckon all ages to try their hand at throwing darts or balls in the arcade or to board a ride for pleasure or thrills. This year, there will be over 70 rides to test your daredevil side and keep you and your family and/or friends entertained for several hours. For younger fairgoers, be sure to stop by the Radio Disney Kidway area, where children as young as 2 years of age can enjoy rides and games suitable just for them.

A few rides you won’t want to miss are: The Top o’ Texas Tower, which allows riders to soar 500 feet into the air and view downtown Dallas and surrounding areas the Texas Star® Ferris Wheel, at 212 ft., the largest ferris wheel in Texas Dentzel Carousel, which is a classic favorite of the fair and the ever popular Log Flume, which gives fairgoers a chance to cool down on a hot, sunny day with a drop over a waterfall.

These are just a few of the many rides awaiting you and your family and friends.

Coupons are used to ride these rides and purchase food. Coupons are 50¢ each and can be purchased at coupon booths located throughout the fair. The average ride takes 10 to 12 coupons. To play games at the fair, you must purchase a game card, which can be purchased at booths located on the midway adjacent to the gaming areas.

Need a break from all the excitement? Stop by the Errol McKoy Greenhouse located on the Midway and enjoy music, activities and the Garden Railway.

Shopping – A Texas tradition

There are more than 15 different shopping locations throughout the fairgrounds. You can take time to browse booths with items for sale from jewelry, clothing, to unique one-of-a- kind gifts. There are even candy booths (which I will say was one of my favorite stops) and vendors selling specialty items. Just be forewarned, there is something for everyone!



Last but definitely not least, were the numerous different food booths to try. Also known as the Fried Food Capital of Texas®, food at the State Fair goes way beyond your typical corn dog and funnel cake. Fairgoers can experience just about any delicious fried food they can dream of—fried Snickers®, fried Coke®, fried Nutella®, and fried Millionaire Pie to just name a few—the list goes on and on. If you can eat it, it can be fried!

My favorite and a must try is the chicken fried bacon! Wow! Really good if you ask me. My friends also thought it wouldn’t be a memorable trip unless I tried the popular fried butter…not what I expected, but I can say I have tried it.

Of course, I couldn’t leave the fair without having funnel cake. My advice is to stick to the classics, but venture out and try the Big Tex Choice Award winners, which should be announced mid-September. Last year’s winner for Most Creative was Fried Thanksgiving Dinner (which I tried and have to say was well worth the money spent). The best-tasting food item for 2013 was the Fried Cuban Roll, which I didn’t try but heard was incredible.

There are also daily cooking competitions and demonstrations that fairgoers can enjoy. For a complete list of shows and times see the daily schedule at bigtex.com/schedule .



The State Fair of Texas was everything I imagined, plus some. It is a great adventure to enjoy with your family and friends. There is something for all ages, so you don’t have to worry about trying to schedule different events at different locations everything you need is right there, all at one location. There are shows and rides that will capture the attention of everyone, and food that will tantalize your tastebuds and leave you wanting more.


State Fair of Texas' smorgasbord illustrates fair food's evolution

If it can be fried, it's been tried at the State Fair of Texas.

Twinkies. Oreos. Candy bars. Cookie dough. Butter. Meatballs. Lettuce. Green beans. Peaches. Pralines. Pecan pie. Jelly beans. Macaroni and cheese. Bacon. Coke. Latte. Beer. Margarita.

We've come a long way from when popcorn and cotton candy were the fair food headliners.

Pity the hamburger. You poor peanuts. Hot dog, you're not so hot. We're just not into you anymore - at least not at the fair.

Food has been a featured attraction ever since the State Fair opened in 1886.

People need to eat, after all.

But, through the years, fair fare has evolved.

Since 2005, there's been a fried food explosion, thanks to a contest that honors the top new foods.

These days, food is a main reason why many people head to the fair, which opens Friday at Fair Park.

The fair's food frenzy is reflective of a food-oriented culture that has a greater appreciation of food, said Christi Erpillo, a veteran fair concessionaire. Think about the scores of food programs on TV.

"Food itself has taken on a whole new role," she said. "Fair food has become more interesting, more intriguing. It's a finer food." From simple fare to showmanship

As long as people have gathered to attend public events, food vendors have been there to serve them.

They sold their goodies at the Roman Coliseum, at Medieval fairs and at the Globe Theatre during Shakespeare's time, said Lynne Olver, editor of The Food Timeline, a website that explores the origins of a smorgasbord of foods.

"Any place where there's money to be made and people to be fed, there will be food vendors," she said.

During the 1880s and 1890s, the early years of the State Fair of Texas, foods included sausage sandwiches, fried chicken, fried pork chops, hard-boiled eggs and oysters, said Nancy Wiley, a fair consultant.

At first, church groups and civic organizations sold food for fundraisers, but then commercial enterprises took over, Wiley said.

Last year, fair visitors spent about $26 million on food and amusement rides. Officials say the fair usually gets 23.5 percent of the gross sales from food and beverage concessionaries.

Many fair food vendors generate sales in the low tens of thousands of dollars. Some, though, can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars, officials said. Then there are the Fletchers, who sell more than 500,000 corny dogs - more than $2 million worth - during the fair.

Fair food as we know it took off in 1904, thanks to the World's Fair in St. Louis. The event popularized several foods, including the hot dog. Those treats spread to state fairs, including Texas.

Fair food would change forever in 1942, when the corny dog made its debut at the Texas fair. Fast forward a couple of decades and Belgian waffles arrived on the scene. Then, by the early '80s, funnel cake.

Over the past decade, the fair entered its fried-food era, thanks to fried Oreos, Twinkies and candy bars.

But fried food started getting wild in 2005, when the fair launched the Big Tex Choice Awards for the top new foods.

Combine imaginative food vendors and a public that's at the fair to escape reality, and you have a recipe for fried food success, Olver said.

"The concessionaires are really showmen," she said. "They want to outdo each other. They want to do something a little bit different. It's a matter of experimenting. You have deep-fried Oreos. If you can deep fry an Oreo, why not a Nutter-Butter. It goes from there." Competitive cottage industry

Dishes that win the Big Tex Choice competition attract endless media interest, and the stranger the item, the better.

When Jake Levy won a Big Tex award for his Deep Fried Latte in 2007, his family received requests from media outlets worldwide. This year, he's serving the Deep Fried Frozen Margarita, one of the finalists in this year's contest.

"If you're the 'it' food at the fair, you are at the pinnacle," Levy said.

Some years, foods that win Big Tex honors generate more than $100,000 in sales - sometimes, much more.

No one has capitalized more on the fried food mania than Abel Gonzales. He's won Big Tex awards for Deep Fried Butter, Texas Fried Cookie Dough, Fried Coke and a Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich.

He's done so well that he quit his job.

"It's not something I planned," he said of his successful creations. "If you start thinking, 'Ooh, I've got to start thinking of something bigger and better,' you're not going to come up with anything at all."

In recent years, however, vendors have become much more competitive - and secretive, Levy said. Mark Zable has shrouded his Fried Beer, a Big Tex winner this year, in secrecy. He's applied for a patent and trademark.

"We used to call each other at the beginning and say, 'Hey, I'm thinking about doing this,'" Levy said. "It's become a briefcase and handcuff deal. We're always trying to outdo what we've done. It's bigger than the State Fair of Texas."

How far does this food craziness go? No one's sure.

"There will be some brilliant concessionaire who will ride the next wave and you'll look at this 10 years from now and you'll be like, 'That was the deep-fried era,'" Olver said.

"You're going to have things like corn dogs . that will survive as classics. The rest of them are going to be relegated to that big closet called food fads."

While this year's fair just started, the vendors are already brainstorming entries for next year. They're in their kitchens, experimenting, frying up a storm.

They're not saying. A FAIR FOOD EVOLUTION

When it comes to food, the State Fair of Texas sure has packed it in through the years. Since the first fair in 1886, food has been a star attraction. Here's a sampling of what's been served through the years: 1880s and 1890s

Church groups and social clubs serve hot meals, cold lunches and desserts. Items include fried chicken, pork chops, potatoes and vegetables. There are sausage sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and raw oysters, as well as popcorn, peanuts, ice cream and watermelon. Ice cream on a stick called Hokey-Pokey and Concord grapes are available, too. 1900s and 1910s

1900: Wienerwurst and hamburger steak

1901: A Mexican restaurant opens.

1912: Peanuts and hamburgers, lemonade and ice cream cones reign supreme.

1916: The Mothers' Council of Dallas proposes a ban on liquor sales at the fair. The ban stays in place until 1933. 1920s and 1930s

1922: Barbecued "chevron' - or goat - is featured.

1931: "An epidemic of smiles swept over the ranks of hamburger, candy, soda pop and souvenir vendors Tuesday as the high school students invaded the grounds in wave after wave."

1932: "There were hungry kids, young and old, feeding on hot dogs or stick candy, drinking apple cider, eating apples on a stick. Depression? Fun is always new and never old . and there is no depression in laughter."

1936: Fritos are introduced. 1940s and 1950s

1942: The corny dog debuts. Jack's French Frys arrive a few years later.

1950: "Concessionaires were moving in supplies which will amount to 200,000 candied applies, two carloads of potatoes, 50,000 cones of cotton candy, over two million hamburgers and hot dogs, a million and a half sacks of popcorn, ten million bottled drinks and 50,000 gallons of ice cream." 1960s and 1970s

1964: Belgian waffles arrive. Also, French wines, cheeses and meals are available.

1972: "Pizzas, Poor Boys and Pink Things compete with chili, chicken and cheeseburgers confront the customer as he threads his way through a maze of stands."

1974: "A hungry person can choose from country sausage, Western stew, hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos, nachos, beans, french fries, skillet potatoes and German sausage."

1977: New items include shrimp, egg rolls and the Texas Grinder, a pressed sourdough sandwich filled with beef and cheese and dipped in butter. 1980s and 1990s

Early '80s: Funnel cakes arrive.

1989: The Waf-A-Taco, a waffle cone filled with taco fixings, makes an appearance.

1992: Fairgoers can eat "at least four kinds of sausage, candy and caramel apples, boiled corn, shrimp, teriyaki steak, a bunch of frozen confections, and something called a Cajun stick, all served k-bob style. Hickory Farms even sports something called a 'beef pop,' a round slice of beef sausage presented in lollipop-fashion."

1996: Jamaican food booth opens. 2000s

Early 2000s: All sorts of deep-fried food debuts at the fair, including fried Oreos and candy bars.

2002: "Fried Twinkies are the new junk food delight - or not, depending on your taste. . They're deep- fried versions of the yellow cream-filled cake. About 30,000were sold at the California State Fair. Are fried Ho-Hos next?"

2005: The fair launches Big Tex Choice Awards, ushering in a new fried-food era.

SOURCES: State Fair of Texas The Great State Fair of Texas: An Illustrated History Dallas Morning News research


More than Big Tex and fair food

Growing up in Dallas, the State Fair of Texas was a BIG deal. Each year, we got a day off from school to explore the sights, sounds and foods of our state’s great tradition. Since we lived in the suburbs, my brother and I were in awe of everything–the cowboys, livestock, foods and, of course, Big Tex.

This Texas tradition has an incredible history and represents the best of the Lone Star State. The State Fair of Texas began as the Dallas State Fair & Exposition in 1886 on virtually the same plot of land in East Dallas. For more than 125 years, millions of Texans have passed through the gates of Fair Park to get a taste of life in rural Texas.

The State Fair has evolved over the years, moving more toward a food and entertainment venue. Today, many fairgoers head out to Fair Park on a mission to find this year’s strangest fried fair food or make a beeline for the Fletcher’s corndog stand. Food is still at the heart of the State Fair, but with a twist.

This year, I had to try the fried lemonade. Yes, fried lemonade. The experienced fair food creators at the Stiffler Brothers’ booth came up with this concoction—a lemon cake ball, fried and covered with a glaze of Country Time Lemonade, lemon juice and powdered sugar.

The Stiffler family works all year to perfect their entry for the Best Taste and Most Creative fried fair food contests. While I was there, I also tried their fried pumpkin pie. (It’s the State Fair… Why not?)

Then I headed over to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Food and Fiber Pavilion. Here, fairgoers can sample foods that are grown and made for Texans, by Texans. If you visit the State Fair, be sure to stop in for ice cream from the Southwest Dairy Farmers, steak from our friends at the Texas Beef Council and countless Texas food and fiber products at the GO TEXAN General Store.

And while you’re in the Food and Fiber Pavilion, be sure to stop by Texas Farm Bureau’s Planet Agriculture exhibit, where you can learn more about Texas farmers and ranchers and how they grow our food.

The focus of the State Fair of Texas may have shifted from 1886, but its agricultural roots still shine through. As a kid, and even now, the State Fair allowed me to experience what Texas farmers and ranchers do to provide me and my family with nutritious food that is skillfully and carefully grown.

The State Fair of Texas—it’s certainly more than fried fair food and Big Tex.


The State Fair of Texas – Only 10 More Days!

There’s only 10 days left for The State Fair of Texas! If you haven’t been it’s not too late to go this year, the fair’s last day is October 21, 2018! If you’ve never been – don’t miss out on one of the country’s best and most highly attended state fairs. You’ve been before – go make some new memories with your family like my family did every year while my sons were growing up!

My sons riding one of their favorite rides at the Fair 16 years ago! I think the smiles say it all!

It’s an old and slightly blurry photo but it’s one of my favorite photos of my sons, Jack and Jared. The fun they were having over a decade ago is timeless and are memories that I treasure. Going to the State Fair was a family tradition that we did every year with our guys and a day that we all looked forward to. From the creative and crazy food concoctions that you can only get at the State Fair (like Bacon Brittle) to riding one of the biggest Ferris Wheels in the country or trying your luck on the Midway, there is something for everyone at The State Fair of Texas!

Guide Live’s Number 1 Pick: Arroz con leche What the heck is it? Two sweet fried rice balls dusted with cinnamon and served with vanilla ice cream

  • For the Fair’s daily schedule, discounts or to buy tickets go to the fair’s website at: https://bigtex.com
  • Visit their Facebook page at: State Fair of Texas
  • To find out everything you need to visit the Fair go to: https://www.guidelive.com/hubs/state-fair

Time Line and Fun Facts about The State Fair of Texas!

The State Fair of Texas is an annual state fair held in Dallas at historic Fair Park. The fair has taken place every year since 1886 except for varying periods during World War I and World War II. It usually begins the last Friday in September and ends 24 days later.


State Fair of Texas (Tips and Tricks)

Can you feel the excitement? Can you feel it? THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS OPENS ON FRIDAY. This is no joke one of my favorite times of the entire year. The State Fair of Texas is a really big deal, y’all. It’s not like any other state fair (ok well maybe it is a little bit…) but it’s just so fantastic! And the fact that it is in Dallas every year makes it even better – it’s so convenient for me!

The fair has been going since 1886, and is one of the largest (if not THE largest) fairs in the country, with millions of people coming through during the 24 days the fair is open. There are so many fun things to do and see!

The Texas Star Ferris wheel!

The exhibits! (Last year was full of Taylor Swift clothes/guitars/awards!)

BIG TEX. (The most amazing 55-foot tall moving statue for the fair!)

I’ve only gotten to go to the fair for 2 years, but I already feel like a seasoned vet. Last year I got the season pass and it was SO worth it! You get to go as many times as you want PLUS you get a guest pass to bring a friend! The fair is only 2 train stops away from where I work downtown, so last year I even went to the fair just for lunch a few times! How great is that. I definitely am going with the season pass again this year, and I can’t wait to go ALL. THE. TIME.

Here are some tips and tricks to make sure that you get the FULL State Fair of Texas experience!

GET A SEASON PASS

Just do it! If you go 2 times, it has basically paid for itself. You get to go as many times as you want, you get a free guest pass to use with a friend (during the week), and you get discounts on merchandise!

USE THE MAP

I’m a planner, sometimes more than is necessary, but I always try to have a game plan when I go to the fair. It’s good to know where the best food is, where the petting zoo is, where the ferris wheel is located, etc. Check out the map here.

GO FOR THRIFTY THURSDAY

Some (not all) of the food is cheaper on Thursdays during the fair, so that’s a great time to go and try out different/typical fair foods without spending an arm and a leg. The new and award-winning foods are usually still full price.

GO EARLY FOR CONCERTS

If you’re planning on seeing a concert (which you should, there are a ton and they’re all FREE!), they can fill up fast, so you’ll need to get to the concert area a little early if you want a good spot. If you don’t care, then don’t worry about it! You’ll still be able to hear the main stage concerts through most of the fair.

GO DURING THE RED RIVER SHOWDOWN

If you only want to go to the fair for a few hours and can only go during a weekend, consider going DURING the big Texas vs. OU football game. While the fair is PACKED that day with all the people going to the game, the fair seems a lot emptier when the game is taking place.

SHARE FOOD IF YOU CAN

There is seriously so much delicious “traditional” fair food and so much new food to try, it definitely helps to share! And sharing means you can try more things and find your favorite!

TAKE THE DART

The DART train drops you off right at the front gate!! It’s the easiest way to get to and from the fair, and you won’t accidentally lose your car in the massive parking lots.


Fair’s Fair

The State Fair has seen it all, from a model of the Washington Monument made entirely out of human teeth to a visit by King Olaf V of Norway on Norweigian Day.

I t’s not just a Texas-size fair it’s the largest state fair in the world, and has been ever since it was launched in 1886. From the beginning, its founders, eight Dallas businessmen with not only money but also vision aplenty, were determined to make the State Fair of Texas an eye-popping, jaw-dropping marvel. They succeeded admirably, and their successors haven’t let them down. The fair still boggles the mind and dazzles the senses. It takes up every bit of the 277 acres of Fair Park, the handsome, manicured grounds that grew from eighty acres of soggy, “hog wallow prairie,” as it was once referred to by its own directors.

And indeed, the word “fair” is hardly a fair description of the event. It includes the clamorous, colorful midway, where, for three weeks a year, carnival rides beckon to kids and grown-ups alike, spinning and dipping and sailing. They have ranged from basic bumper cars to the late lamented Comet roller coaster to the Texas Star Ferris wheel, an enduring favorite (it was introduced in 1985) that lifts fairgoers 212 feet, 6 inches into the air for a panoramic view of Big D. Better wait till after those stomach-churning rides to sample the fair’s famed junk food, such as Belgian waffles nut-crusted, chocolate-covered ice cream cones and the number one pick for more than half a century, the corny dog.

But that’s only one section of the fairgrounds. There are also many more attractions: the traditional (and huge) livestock show, with almost every breed of critter imaginable, as well as concerts galore (past performers have ranged from Elvis Presley to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). Cooking competitions are a classic too (this year there’s a Spam-off on September 30). The exhibits invariably include replicas, such as this year’s re-creation of the White House in its Christmas finery past handiwork included, in 1887, a replica of the Washington Monument made out of human teeth and, in 1909, a copy of the Alamo chapel that drew reverent throngs.

Below are fifty entertaining tidbits of information about the State Fair of Texas, gleaned from its 117-year history. Most of these nuggets came from the astonishingly trivia-packed volume The Great State Fair of Texas: An Illustrated History. The author, Nancy Wiley, was the perfect person to write the book: She has worked for the fair’s public relations department since 1971. Among the hundreds of acts Wiley has helped lure to the fair, two are her favorites: The Trinidad and Tobago steel drum band, which wowed audiences in the mid-seventies, and the Tiger Island exhibit of the mid-nineties, which was an actual island set up in the esplanade and inhabited by Bengal and Siberian tigers. However, Wiley has words of comfort for fairgoers who feel they’ve barely sampled the sights at day’s end: “Even we who work here usually don’t manage to see it all in the whole three weeks—there’s hardly enough time!” And she also likes to tell a funny story about her pre-fair life: “The year before I started working here, I brought my six-year-old son to the fair, and he fussed and whined the whole time. I said, `So help me, I’m never setting foot in this place again.’ Never say never.”

Fifty fairly interesting moments from the State Fair of Texas:

1887: Carlo, a local dog who became famous when he saved a woman from drowning, loses fans when he gets loose at the fair, kills two white rats and a mockingbird, and is finally captured while consuming a prize-winning cockatoo.

1889: A Tyler man showcases his multipurpose invention, which simultaneously churns butter, rocks a baby’s cradle, and shoos flies away from the table.


TIMELINE: A FAIR FOOD EVOLUTION

When it comes to food, the State Fair of Texas sure has packed it in through the years. Since the first fair in 1886, food has been a star attraction. Here's a sampling of what's been served:

Church groups and social clubs serve hot meals, cold lunches and desserts. Items include fried chicken, pork chops, potatoes and vegetables. There are sausage sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and raw oysters, as well as popcorn and peanuts. Ice cream on a stick called Hokey-Pokey and Concord grapes are available, too.

1900: Wienerwurst and hamburger steak are available.

1901: A Mexican restaurant opens.

1912: Peanuts and hamburgers, lemonade and ice cream cones reign supreme.

1916: The Mothers' Council of Dallas proposes a ban on liquor sales at the fair. The ban stays in place until 1933.

1922: Barbecued "chevron" - or goat - is featured.

1932: "There were hungry kids, young and old, feeding on hot dogs or stick candy, drinking apple cider, eating apples on a stick."

1936: Fritos are introduced.

1942: The corny dog debuts. Jack's French Frys arrive soon after.

1950: "Concessionaires were moving in supplies which will amount to 200,000 candied apples, two carloads of potatoes, 50,000 cones of cotton candy, over 2 million hamburgers and hot dogs, a million and a half sacks of popcorn, 10 million bottled drinks and 50,000 gallons of ice cream."

1964: Belgian waffles arrive. Also, French wines, cheeses and meals are available.

1972: "Pizzas, Poor Boys and Pink Things compete with chili."

1974: "A hungry person can choose from country sausage, Western stew, hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos, nachos, beans, french fries, skillet potatoes and German sausage."

1977: New items include the Texas Grinder, a pressed sourdough sandwich filled with beef and cheese and dipped in butter.

Early '80s: Funnel cakes arrive.

1989: The Waf-A-Taco, a waffle cone filled with taco fixings, makes an appearance.

1992: Fairgoers can eat "at least four kinds of sausage, candy and caramel apples, boiled corn, shrimp, teriyaki steak, a bunch of frozen confections, and something called a Cajun stick, all served k-bob style. Hickory Farms even sports something called a 'beef pop,' a round slice of beef sausage presented in lollipop-fashion."

1996: Jamaican food booth opens.

Early 2000s: All sorts of deep-fried foods debut at the fair, including fried Oreos and candy bars.

2002: "Fried Twinkies are the new junk food delight - or not, depending on your taste. . They're deep-fried versions of the yellow cream-filled cake. About 30,000 were sold at the California State Fair. Are fried Ho-Hos next?"

2005: The fair launches the Big Tex Choice Awards, ushering in a new fried-food era.

SOURCES: State Fair of Texas The Great State Fair of Texas: An Illustrated History Dallas Morning News research


Watch the video: Starlight Parade - State Fair of Texas (June 2022).