The State Fair of Texas is open for business. This is an event that my little family never misses. I have photos of Pitts and me going to the fair while we were engaged, married with no kids, pregnant, with one little baby, with a toddler and pregnant, with two small kids, and now with two rambunctious ride-riding, game-playing, cotton candy-eating elementary school kids. The fair is a gauge of the passage of time for me. It is the one thing we do as a family every single year. It is a joy. It is a celebration. If I were to dig deeply, I even have photos of the year my brave Aunt Betty loaded all available cousins into the big brown van and drove us from Wichita Falls to the fair, where I acquired a precious miniature Rubick’s cube key-chain with my very modest pocketful of spending money. If I haven’t related that my Aunt Betty is a saint, let me now. (Then there was the year that she and Aunt Diana rented an RV and drove to California and back over a two week period with about 10 of the cousins in tow…both saints!) I want my kids to have an indelible memory of the State Fair. I think they already do. They start asking in about mid-June when it opens and whether there is any chance of playing hooky for a day to go.
We hit it on opening day this year. Aside from the excitement of being there on the first day, you can be assured that the bathrooms will never be more clean, the deep fat frying grease will never be more hot, and the smiles will never be more genuine. The excitement is palpable in everyone from the parking attendants to the vendors.
One of my favorite emotional State Fair moments is when you just start to sense percussive noises, and you have to stop and lean in to the sound to figure out if you are imagining it. That is just about the time you see blazing red uniforms down the path. And, the blessed noise rises as the Marine Marching Band heads down towards the Hall of State with a police motorcycle escort. The men and women have faces of stone and perfect timing as they march onward. My heart is near bursting as they pass. And then the drumming fades as they make their way past you, like a train does as it screams towards you then fades into the horizon. I think this is know as the Doppler effect, the way a sound approaches you and then passes you by in a flash. I am always happy to find myself accidentally on the path of the Marine Band.
We entered the Fair this year by the Stihl chainsaw exhibit. Depending on where you enter the Fair, it might be easy to miss, tucked in the corner as it is. But it is a ton of fun. They have a couple of strapping young lumberjacks who engage in the traditional log sports of sawing, tree climbing, log rolling, and a raucous round of chainsaw races. The crowd is divided in two parts and you are encouraged to yell and boo and otherwise encourage your sawyer. The log rolling is something to see, truly. My husband is a Stihl man, and while I don’t think he would have had a chance in the tree climbing event, he could have held his own in the chainsaw races and axe throwing. As a lawyer, I’m pretty sure I understand why this isn’t an audience participation event.
I highly recommend that you ride the Disk-O ride. It is like a merry-go-round combined with the Pirate Ship. So fun! I yelled my head off with joy, not terror. The only thing Ford really wanted to do was ride bumper cars. I can’t recommend trying to take photos while your daughter is driving the car, but I tried my best. Ford also conned me in to playing a few of the Midway games, and for the bargain price of a crisp $20 bill we won a $100 bill pillow that is worth about a nickel, but will bring him years of joy, I’m sure. I’m just glad he didn’t win the giant Rastafarian banana, as I find it disturbing on several levels. May I recommend the game where they have you toss bean bags at balloons that are positioned in little grids with nails behind them. It is a good one for a six-year-old who is hell bent on winning something, if you are trying to accomplish it on the “cheap.”
- fried bacon
- fried Oreos
- fried Snickers
- fried butter
- fried beer
- fried bubble gum (I swear I hear that this was happening this year…but didn’t personally see it)…,
there are only two MUST EAT items at the Fair for me. I simply must have a Fletcher’s Corny Dog with a ton of yellow mustard and I must have some cotton candy. There are no other times during the year that I must have these things, but at The State Fair of Texas, I must. Thus, even though I ate some of Lily’s turkey leg (see said daughter wielding giant turkey leg above) and about half of Ford’s Hans Meuller Sausage on a Stick, and Chocolate Milk from the Borden display (we got to pet Elsie), I still had to go sit in the shadow of the Cotton Bowl and eat a Corny Dog and get sticky fingers all over the rides from the pink candy. Which brings me to my only other Fair must…I must bring a package of diaper wipes even though I have no one in diapers. They are indispensable for cotton candy eating, and a million other things.
In the Texas Foods Pavillion, I was happy to see some of my favorite local vendors and food entrepreneurs making an appearance. The Felps’ In A Pickle hot and spicy pickles, and all of my favorite local honeys were on display. I think I even spied Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild talking to people about bees right over by the stage where the cloggers were doing their thing. If you plan right and hit the Texas Food Pavillion on your way out of the Fair, you could leave with an incredible array of Texas foods.
There are a lot of funny things to see at the Fair. I want to know what epic frustration led the nacho guy to write “Hot Cheese Not Free” on the cheese warmer. I don’t care who you are, you will enjoy the people-watching. The Fair is an absolute melting pot. We are ALL there in ALL of our respective glory, smiling our heads off…tattoos, big hair, big make-up, young, old, rich, poor, handicapped, fat, skinny, cowboy hats, flip flops, high heels (re-considered within moments, I’m sure), black, white, hispanic, dare-devils, frady-cats, motor-heads, Ford lovers, Chevy lovers, Prius lovers, 4-H, cowboys, pink haired chicks, babies, grandmas, and every stripe in between. We are all there in one place, happy, and having a great time. It is the very best Dallas has to offer. It is a great event for the State. It is a huge economic engine, and it is a fantastic place. If you ever considered that your family needed a tradition, perhaps this (or any state fair) should be on your list. We didn’t even make it to the animals, and that alone is worth a day…chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, horses, goats and Frisbee dogs…they are all wonderful fun. And the agricultural heritage of the Fair shouldn’t be overlooked.
So get out there! Watch the Marine Band, say hello to the hundreds of Police Officers who are there keeping us all safe, say hello to your neighbors, eat a WHOLE LOT OF GREAT (and not so great) FOOD, listen to a band, watch your kids dance and run and play, laugh a little, play a game, ride a ride, sit in a futuristic car, and say hello to Big Tex. Oh, and Lily says you need to stay for the laser light show that starts just after dark. Find a spot in the grass, and huddle up with your people, and watch the fireworks and lasers light up the water and sky.
Here is the official website of The State Fair of Texas. It runs from September 30 until October 23 this year. Go!!