Friday, October 9, 2009

Why The State Fair of Texas Kicks Your State Fair's Butt

It's not just an amusing stereotype that Texans like to say that everything here is better than everything anywhere else. They really do say it, a lot. And it's kind of irritating, especially if you happen to be from anywhere else. Like me. I'm not a Texan by birth, nor am I exactly a Texan by choice. I'm more of a Texan for reasons I can't adequately explain. I've lived here a long time, but I still mentally substitute "Polack" for "Aggie" when folks start telling derogatory jokes. You can take the girl out of Wisconsin...

Still, when it comes to the State Fair, I'm in lockstep with my fellow Lone Star State residents. Our fair is the biggest, the best, and - dare I say it - is actually better than the hype that surrounds it. Forget Southfork, the Grassy Knoll, or Jerry Jones' new billion-dollar monument to hubris and football (in that order). There is only one destination, one event, for which I would recommend a trip to Dallas. The State Fair of Texas, my friends, kicks ass. Why? Here's why:

Fair Park. The fairgrounds themselves are a must-see attraction. Fair Park comprises the world's largest collection of Art Deco exposition buildings, which were constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. Their stunning architecture and the spectacular murals decorating them sadly fell into disrepair for decades, until preservationists and citizens banded together for a massive restoration project. Every year when Beloved Spouse, Precocious Daughter, and I head for the Fair, we marvel at the ongoing gilding, painting, and reconstruction of the original designs.

Big Tex. Big Tex is the State Fair's mascot and goodwill ambassador (in fact, the official State Fair of Texas website is He's a 52-foot-tall cowboy who started life as a giant statue of Santa Claus. Today he stands in front of the Fletcher's Corn Dog stand, greeting visitors and announcing each day's events during the Fair. He's got a big, booming voice, an animatronic hand that waves, and he's kind of creepy. But if you don't make the pilgrimage to sit and stare at him for a few minutes each year, you're missing the essence of the whole event.

Fletcher's Corn Dogs. The corn dog was invented in Dallas, y'all. Fletcher's is the original deep-fried hot dog on a stick, and the best. I'm a heathen because I eat mine with ketchup rather than mustard. Only once a year do I eat a corn dog and drink Budweiser, and it's at the State Fair at the foot of Big Tex. Allow me to repeat myself: It's a deep-fried hot dog on a stick. 'Nuff said.

Pineapple Whip. It's pineapple-flavored soft-serve ice cream. That's all it is. I don't eat funnel cakes or turkey legs or fried butter, but I will not attend the Fair without having a Pineapple Whip. It's my thing.

Swan Boats. On the south side of Fair Park, between the Midway and the Museum of Science & Nature, is a long, narrow lagoon. You can paddle around the lagoon in a boat shaped like a swan, which is kitschy, relaxing, and genuinely enjoyable all at the same time. While paddling you can take a close look at the many, many turtles who live in the water. You can also check out the sinuous, trippy sculptures-cum-walkways that run over, around, and through the water. Sadly, you can no longer actually walk the walkways. I'm sure we have some lawsuit-averse committee of attorneys to thank for that.

Children's Barnyard. I don't know how many petting zoos there are in this country. Kabillions, probably. I love a good petting zoo, and the one at the State Fair of Texas is so good. It has emus and ostriches, two animals that should never be allowed within reach of children, because they're mean son-of-a-bitch birds who will look you straight in the crazy, soulless eye (theirs, not yours) and try to devour your hand. Awesome. It has camels and llamas and buffaloes, all in grownup and baby varieties. There's a giant tortoise sharing a pen with a kangaroo, who this year was showing off the tiny joey huddled in her pouch. There are multitudes of goats, who will eat from your paper cup of feed and then feed on the paper cup. And, thank goodness, there are bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere.

The Texas Star. A 212-foot-tall Ferris wheel, the largest in North America. Because Texans don't like idle boasts. Since North Texas is very, very flat, from the top of the Texas Star you can see four states and the Mexican border. (OK, that's not true. But on a clear day you can definitely see most of the way to Oklahoma.)

The Auto Show. It, too, is the largest in the country. I guess you have to really like sitting in new cars to appreciate it. I really like sitting in new cars. Oh, and they segregate the domestic and foreign cars in separate buildings, which cracks me up.

But the best part of the State Fair of Texas? Everything I've described is my version of the Fair. I haven't even mentioned the Cotton Bowl, the Music Hall, the livestock barns, or the Aquarium. They're all at the Fair, too. Everyone who goes has his or her favorite shows, must-see destinations, gastronomic delights. It's all things to all people. And yeah, it must be a pretty big deal to encompass all that. And it's going on through October 18th this year. Y'all come.

1 comment:

  1. Man, I really miss the State Fair of Texas. I've yet to find a real corn dog anywhere here in the Berkshires. Thanks for a nice walk down Memory Lane!


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