Fair Fare

The State Fair of Texas offers delights from corn dogs to corn-fed cattle

Though we are generally the urban type--hip boutiques, black clothing, art films--nothing makes us itch to wear boots and sculpt butter like the State Fair of Texas. The giant festival runs for 24 days and expects to host more than 3 million visitors from across Texas and the United States.

Fair Park has been the home of the State Fair of Texas since 1886, though many of the buildings on the premises were constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, including the structures that now house the Texas Hall of State, Dallas Museum of Natural History, Dallas Aquarium, Dallas Horticulture Center (now called the Texas Discovery Gardens), the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum and The Science Place and Planetarium. The lagoon, the band shell and the murals were also parts of the 1936 Exposition. Extensive efforts have been made to maintain the Art Deco architecture and to restore the original murals, which have been covered with paint since 1942.

The State Fair is a mix of the cool and the quirky, the classic and the bizarre. Old standbys such as the corn dog (and other foods-on-sticks), the Texas Star (North America's tallest Ferris wheel) and the livestock pavilion are Fair favorites. New offerings this year include a "Spirit of the Dance" show, the Luxury Car Showroom and the Big Tex Music Festival, featuring the Dixie Chicks, Pat Green and Los Tigres del Norte. Big Tex, the 52-foot talking cowboy, is also celebrating his 50th birthday with new duds, a new voice and other birthday celebrations.

Ticket to ride: The State Fair of Texas opens Friday.
Ticket to ride: The State Fair of Texas opens Friday.

There is the proverbial "something for everyone" at the State Fair. For thrill-seekers, the midway features more than 60 different rides and is supplemented this year by the Pibb Xtra Thrillway: four "X-treme excitement" rides that might make you wish you hadn't had that fourth roasted turkey leg. For those who would rather keep their feet on the ground (and their lunch in their stomachs, thank you very much), Chinese acrobats, performing canines and antique autos are all worth a look. If you can't look without touching, plenty of interactive exhibits and games such as the Health Expo, TEXperience and the Texas Lottery Show will keep your hands busy. Kids will enjoy Sandscapes at The Science Place, Little Hands on the Farm (where they can plant, harvest and milk just like the big folk) and Backyard Circus (circus costumes provided for imaginative play by your little daredevils). For the genuine State Fair experience, drop in on the Creative Arts building to see 11,000 entries vying for those coveted blue ribbons. As the sun goes down, fairgoers will be entertained by the Starlight Parade and the TXU Energy Extravaganza--a multimedia show including lasers, fire, water, video and music featuring a "Power Pyramid" that will, according to TXU, "'energy warp' people through several decades of music, images and special events." (Rest assured, it will feature the song "Walk Like an Egyptian.")

The whole shebang kicks off downtown at 11 a.m. Friday with the Downtown Improvement District's "Dress Tex Day," featuring live music, refreshments and a corporate chili cook-off. The opening parade, which brings to life the Fair's "World in Motion" theme, will begin around noon at Main and Houston streets. After that, head over to Fair Park to experience the dozens of shows, exhibits and rides.

 
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