A Fair Day for a State Fair


Ben Wiche, Staff Writer

The Texas State Fair is an annual festival held in late September through mid-October on the grounds surrounding the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The park is known for its carnival rides (including the picturesque baby blue Texas Star Ferris wheel), live country music, free expositions, midway, and its deep-fried butter-slathered food.

I’m telling you all this because unless you’ve been to the State Fair, you never really know what it offers. The food, musicians, and entertainers change about every year, and there’s not a whole lot of advertising that emphasizes the various expos, the musicians playing the shows, and the extensive amount of free exhibits. And truth be told, that’s most of what the state fair is, because all the hallmarks you see talked about extensively — the Texas Star, the paddleboats, the carnival ride, and especially the food — that stuff is hella expensive and unless you wanna go for only two hours or spend a hundred dollars on a day out, you’re gonna need to find the free stuff and find it fast.

So, I’m going to take you through one day at the state fair and all of the crazy, hedonistic, jovial (and occasionally free) entertainment you can find therein.

My handlers (okay, my sister and father) and I arrived at the state fair at 11 a.m. The fair gates open at 7 a.m. Pro tip #1: get there early to avoid traffic. Pro tip #2: you can’t escape the traffic; accept this fact.

After entering the fair, we passed right by the Chevy Ride and Drive event and the various vendors that surround it, and headed straight for the carny rides. Though usually a big fan of these man-crushing metallic monsters, I only rode two, wanting to save my tickets for other things. The rides are about $5 a spin, so unless you want to spend all of your money on them in order to build up a steady adrenaline high, just give the pirate ship and the one that spins  around and around and around and around till you feel a tad queasy a try.

Afterwards, we decided to cut to the chase and get some food. If you take one thing away from this article, it’s that you need to experiment with your choice of fair food. And it’s not just because everyone goes for the Fletcher’s corn dogs, or that the lines for said corn dogs are almost as long as the lines to enter the parks. It’s because if you go beyond these fair staples, you’ll find a cornucopia of fried and frozen delights.

For lunch I had a beer-fried Cuban roll (all the fixings of a cubano sandwich placed in a wonton and fried in beer). Delicious, savory, and blew my taste buds away. Afterwards the family and I shared a potato twirler dusted in garlic Parmesan, and, oh, was it divine. If you’re worried about the fat or afraid it’ll go straight to your love handles, don’t be. Embrace the decadence. At the fair you’ll be walking around so much it’ll (maybe) negate all this artery clogging.

Next we went to see some African acrobats. Pretty good and cheap, too. Then a tour through the car expo, and honestly, why does anyone go to these things besides the air conditioning? Because after I eat a deep fried bacon queso funnel cake burger and watch some people jump into reverse pyramid formations, I want to follow it with some used car salesman barking at me about a Chevy’s MSRP.

If you want AC, go to the food court or museum exhibits. There happens to be a neat WWI exhibit for free viewing. Check that out.

Okay, food, cars, acrobats…oh, yeah, we went to listen to the band at the main stage. It was some Celtic rock band. They were playing a rendition of the Game of Thrones theme (awesome), and then we got a funnel cake (even better). And to finish off our tour we strolled through the various barns, viewing the mammoth hogs/cows/goats and taking in quite the tantalizing aroma.

At that point we were all kind of strung out and jolted from the hedonistic decadence. We skipped the pig races (I’ll see you next year Bacon Grease Lightning!) and only caught a glimpse of the dunk contest.

The day had been short, yet exciting. The most exciting events were the live music, the WWI event, and the gymnasts, all of which were free. Besides that, the food is good, if expensive, and certain rides like the Texas Star and the pirate ships are enjoyable for all ages. Even on a budget, the Texas State Fair is makes for quite a good Saturday.