Texas is known for a lot of things and nothing describes the passion of a Texan the way football, fried food and trucks do. The State Fair of Texas in Dallas’ Fair Park has been in existence since 1886 and boasts the largest annual attendance in the United States with an estimated 2.5 million to 3 million visitors annually. Running for 24 days at the end of September into October, the State Fair of Texas is an annual end of summer event that most Texans don’t miss.
Highlights of the State Fair of Texas
What makes the State Fair of Texas so special is the tradition of college football games at the famous Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. Two big games are played there from the Red River Rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas- Austin. The Red river is the river the divides Oklahoma and Texas. The other popular college football game is the State Fair Classic featuring Grambling State University and Prairie View A&M University. Traditionally college students and alum attend the games and the fair at the same time with thousands converging on Fair Park.
Other notable highlights of the State Fair of Texas is the annual auto show where traditionally, manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, and many others show their newest line up of cars, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles. Auto manufacturers will also show off concept vehicles in the automobile building next to the Esplanade fountains in Fair Park.
Besides college football and the auto show, guests will also enjoy the annual fried food rite of passage associated with the Big Tex Choice Awards. Since 2005, the State Fair of Texas makes international headlines as individuals compete on who has the best tasting fried gastronomical creation. Ranging anywhere from fried Twinkies, fried Oreos, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to this year’s fried Nutella fairgoers can try a variety of fried delights. Along with these fried delights you also have fair favorites such as Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, turkey legs, sausage on a stick and more.
The State Fair of Texas would not be a fair without the midway rides and carnival games. When you arrive via I-30 or I-45 near the South Dallas area, the first thing you will see marking Fair Park is the Texas Star. Making its debut in 1985, the Texas Star is the largest Ferris wheel in North America standing at 212 feet. While standing in line for the Texas Star or to play games or participate in rides, you will notice the Texas Skyway above head which gives fair goers a great view of the entire fair grounds.
The voice and symbol of the State Fair of Texas is Big Tex, himself. Big Tex stands at the entrance of the State Fair of Texas where families pass by and hear the day’s announcements. Standing at 52 feet tall, Big Tex was an icon at the State Fair of Texas but unfortunately burned down due to an electrical fire in 2012. A replacement will be unveiled on opening day in 2013.
New events for the State Fair of Texas
As the State Fair of Texas grows so does competition for new events and activities. Some new attractions beginning in 2013 include the Top O’ Texas Tower. This ride is opening in 2013 and is 500 feet tall with a 360 degree view of downtown Dallas. This ride debuted in Fair Park at the Summer Adventures of Fair Park inaugural opening.
Another fair favorite that debuted last year was the Chinese Lantern Festival which showcased different scenes with everything from Pagodas to dragons and more. At night it’s a fair favorite lighting up the night sky.
With everything from art displays, food demonstrations, crafts, livestock exhibitions, musical concerts, pig races and more; family and friends continue to gather for this Texas tradition. One of the great things about living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is that some North Texas schools will give school children free admission tickets to attend the fair and some schools establish a fair day holiday so families can go to the fair.
Families can enjoy an array of entertainment options with free concerts on the Silverado Main Stage every day that the fair is on. At past fairs, the Jonas Brothers played and this year Blondie, Kelly Rowland, Asleep at the Wheel and more will be headlining.
For kids and families there are an array of livestock exhibits and the Children’s Medical Center barnyard exhibit. Everything from baby animals to a milking parlor will help kids learn about animals and agriculture. There is also a Mother Goose story time at the children’s activity center. A favorite for my own children are the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit teaching your toddlers all the way up to 8 year olds about pretend play on the farm.
Fair Park Museums
The State Fair of Texas is located in Dallas’ Fair Park. Fair Park is a 277 acre fully functioning attraction of its own the rest of the year when the Fair is not operating. There are 6 museums there along with a lagoon and a fountain called the Esplanade. Much of the design is from the art deco era of the 1930’s and throughout Fair Park you will see murals, sculptures and artwork. You will also see performance venues at Fair Park such as Music Hall at Fair Park and the Gexa Energy Pavilion. Family favorites include the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park where you can feed stingrays and Texas Discovery Gardens which has its own butterfly insectariums. Both attractions are also open during the State Fair of Texas.
Admission and General Information
For more information about the State Fair of Texas, please visit bigtex.com. Located at Dallas’ Fair Park, you can find the location on a map at 3921 Martin Luther King Blvd. Dallas, TX 75210 or take the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Green Line Rail trains. Tickets are $17 for general admission, $13 for seniors and children under 48” in height. Children under 3 are FREE. Parking is $15 on official State Fair lots.
All photos by Heather Buen except Big Tex by Arena Blake