Down Home and Deep Fried
Oct 12, 2011 01:23PM ● Published by Mike
by Rhonda Ross
The theme for this year’s State Fair of Texas®, “125 years – A Timeless Tradition” fits like your favorite pair of cowboy boots. It was 1886 when a group of Dallas businessmen first chartered the Dallas State Fair and Exposition, the grandfather to our present-day event. There have only been a handful of years since the beginning where the Fair has been cancelled and it took an act of war to stop it from coming. In 1918 the Fair wasn’t held due to World War I and World War II kept the fairgrounds closed from 1942 to 1945. Today, the celebration is larger than ever. In fact, Texas is host to one of the largest state fairs in North America. So it’s time to make the annual fall pilgrimage with your family and friends as we celebrate this timeless tradition. Put on your jeans and boots and come along with us.
All Hat and No Cattle
Our larger than life friend, Big Tex, stands proudly at his post wearing his super-sized 75-gallon cowboy hat and size 70 custom-made boots by Twisted X Boots. This 59 years young cowboy has been welcoming fairgoers young and old as they enter the grounds since he first made his debut. Finding clothes to fit our 52-foot tall southern ranch hand is no easy task but Dickie’s has been up to the challenge for the last 14 years creating a new shirt and blue jeans every three years for our favorite cowboy. When you see Big Tex this year he’ll be sporting the first fan chosen shirt design. Now that’s a good-looking cowboy.
It’s All About the Food
For 24 days starting September 30th Fair Park transforms into the Fried Food Capital of Texas® with more than 200 locations to indulge your inner food fantasies. From the universally loved Fletcher’s Corny Dog to the sweet goodness of powdered sugar dusted funnel cakes for many fairgoers it truly is all about the food. But before the Fair even starts the concessionaires at the Fair are hard at work creating the next big thing. It was 2005 when Fair organizers first held the Big Tex Choice Awards contest offering concessionaires the opportunity to wax poetic in a deep-fried kind of way.
After the inventive chefs whip up their new culinary concoctions judges are called in for the final round of this friendly food fight and a new winner is crowned for Most Creative and Best Taste. That first year the winner for Most Creative was Viva Las Vegas Fried Ice Cream and kudos for Best Taste went to Fried PB, Jelly, and Banana Sandwich. Yum, yum! For 2011 the finalists who floated to the top of the deep fryer for the judging held on Labor Day included the likes of Deep Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Deep Fried Texas SalsaTM, Fried Autumn Pie, and El Bananarito (think banana split, battered, fried, dusted with sugar and cinnamon, topped with whipped cream and a cherry). You can sample all of the fried fare while you’re trolling the food booths, but at the end of the competition day there could only be two winners taking home the trophies.
The 2011 winner for Most Creative was Justin Martinez for his “Fried Bubblegum.” Turns out there isn’t any bubblegum in it at all. Apparently, frying bubblegum just didn’t work so Justin and his team used sweet, pink marshmallow domes infused with bubblegum extract and fried in bubblegum batter. Add a little blue icing and a sprinkle of multi-colored tiny Chiclets and you’ve got yourself a treat that sticks to more than your ribs. Taking home the Best Taste trophy is Allan Weiss and his Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack. He takes the chicken and coats it in flapjack batter, rolls it in jalapeno breads crumbs, deep fries it and serves it with a side of syrup. We suggest you start your diet on the way home.
After you pull yourself away from the food you’ll find more than 70 attractions in the Midway including a special Kidway with scaled-down rides for the smaller visitors. Take a ride on the Texas Skyway® suspended high above the crowds stretching 1,800 ft. for a true birds-eye view of the entire fairgrounds. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush check out the extreme ride Thrillway section but if you’re happy at a little slower pace you can’t miss riding the 212-foot Texas Star® Ferris wheel. For the feeling of a step back in time climb aboard one of the beautifully crafted horses on the 1914 carousel created by the Dentzel Carousel Company, a tradition in carousel making since 1837. No matter what your amusement park pleasure you’re sure to find it on the Midway.
Down on the Farm
It wouldn’t be a state fair without the livestock displays and there is nothing more Texas than roaming the barns admiring the animals. Take a walk through the breed displays showcasing cows, pigs, sheep, goats and more. At the Youth Livestock Auction of Champions you can enjoy experiencing the pride of the 4H and FFA exhibitors who have given countless hours of love and care to the animals auctioned. Since the inception of the auction the Fair has contributed more than $14 million to our Texas youth furthering education and touching the lives of deserving students throughout out state.
After you leave the livestock barns, head over to the Pan American Arena for more animal antics. Gone to the Dogs is a free show that features man’s best friend demonstrating skills like Frisbee catching and other feats of agility and canine action. The Amazing Dobermans comes to you straight from Las Vegas featuring a collection of pure albino dogs performing feats like jumping through hoops of fire. This thrilling show is a fan favorite so you want to arrive early to make sure you get a seat. The Pan American Arena is also the location for daily snout-to-snout races to the finish as the pigs take to the track to send the sawdust flying. If you’ve never seen a pig race this is one event you can’t miss.
We love our trucks in Texas and the Truck Zone is a great place to find the latest and greatest in trucks from Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and GMC. The State Fair Auto Show is the biggest new car and truck show in the Southwest and you can check out the new models, concept vehicles and even rallies on the weekends from collectors. On a smaller, two-wheeled scale the BMX Bike Show brings the all-star Big Time Actionsports team in a free show in the Thrillway where you can experience the team performing their gravity-defying tricks.
Sounds and Sights
While you’re enjoying the eye-popping sights don’t forget about all the music available at the State Fair in various venues. The Chevrolet Main Stage has concerts daily all week long with special headliners on the weekends featuring music by names like Hanson, Randy Travis, and disco king KC and the Sunshine Band. Check out the ticket pricing for special headline acts but the daily concerts are free with your State Fair admission just like the nightly show at the 700-foot Esplanade reflecting pool where you’ll enjoy lights, music, dancing waters and pyrotechnics. Get a good spot to watch the sparkling illuminated floats and giant puppets in the Reliant Starlight Parade kicking off every evening at 7:15 pm.
Every year during the State Fair, Dallas Summer Musicals offers the best in musical theater and this year is no different. Lighting up the stage this year is the timeless classic love story West Side Story with music from the score by Bernstein and Sondheim. To get in on this action-packed show you’ll need to buy your ticket in advance so visit the Dallas Summer Musicals website for more information.
Set your sights on the many Fair Park museums that all have special exhibits during the 24 days of the Fair. You can visit the Woman’s Museum, the African American Museum, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, The Museum of Nature and Science, Texas Discovery Gardens, and the Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Wow, you’re going to have to plot a course in advance.
Sit and Sip/Watch and Wonder
Have we worn you out yet? When it’s time for a bit of relaxation head over to the shady courtyard setting of the State Fair of Texas Wine Garden located across from the Creative Arts Building. What could be better than sipping some marvelous Texas wine? Listening to jazz in the Wine Garden on weekends, that’s what.
While you are near the Creative Arts building, go inside for an experience synonymous with fairs everywhere. The buzz of the crowd blends with the wonderful smells coming from the contest kitchens as daily competitors vie for those time-honored blue ribbons. But food contests aren’t the only event going on inside Creative Arts. You’ll stroll through exhibits with ribbon-winners in more than 1,100 categories including quilts, crafts, photography, and more.
Almost forgot an important part of the Fair experience. They have a little college football going on in the Cotton Bowl. OK, it’s some BIG college football. We’re talking about the infamous Red River Rivalry®. The Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns square off in an iconic battle on the gridiron on Saturday, October 8th at 11 am. Going into this year’s game, Texas is leading the all-time series at 59-41-5. This more than 100 year-old conflict inspires fan loyalty like no other game and the winner takes home the coveted Golden Hat trophy. Are you ready for some football?
As full of tradition as Friday night at Dragon Stadium the State Fair of Texas has 125 years of memories in the making and now it’s your turn to make new memories for the family scrapbook. Come to think of it, one visit to the Fair just might not be enough to experience all the Fair has to offer so you may have to make two trips. With food, farm animals, football, and lots of family fun the annual trek to the State Fair just might become a new tradition for your family. We’ll see you there.