As the State Fair opens this weekend, look for the new Elvis-inspired fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich, frozen solid, battered and served up crispy-hot with powdered sugar. The theme is "Let yourself go," after all.
Three million people are expected this year for 24 days that promise not only gastronomic joys and heartburn but also the auto show, four new rides, evening parades and light shows, headline entertainment, eating contests, creative arts, livestock and plenty of food exhibitors.
Grab those cholesterol meds and head downtown Friday at noon for an opening parade of floats before hitting the fair grounds for that fried sandwich (which can be consumed in front of the Elvis sculpture carved from an 800-pound block of butter in the Creative Arts Building). The opening ceremony begins at 7 p.m. with a World War II airplane flyover and the new Illumination Sensation, a light show and pyrotechnic performance on the esplanade with flames, fireworks and lasers choreographed to music. The Blockbuster Starlight Parade--going on every night--starts at 7:10 p.m. at the Taste and See Pavilion and Gardens and winds past Big Tex to the livestock area.
The big news Saturday is the ABC Fun in the Sun Tour with soap opera stars from All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital on the Main Stage. From 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. meet OLTL's Kassie DePaiva (Blair) and Kathy Brier (Marcie); AMC's Leven Rambin (Lily), Jacob Young (J.R.), Jeff Branson (Jonathan) and Bobby Steggert (Sam); and GH's Scott Clifton (Dillon). Stick around to see musical group 112 perform at 3:30 p.m. On Sunday, Asleep at the Wheel performs at 3 p.m.
Three times a day, the pig races, missing from the State Fair since 1980, will take off in the Reliant Arena. The popular petting zoo was canceled because of skyrocketing insurance costs, but livestock and poultry shows and auctions promise plenty of one-on-one contact with barnyard creatures. New rides debuting this year should provide plenty of vomit-worthy action after you eat your way through the food pavilions. There's a three-story funhouse called King's Circus and an obstacle course ride called Fear Factory in which participants wear a body harness, grab suspended ropes and navigate through a 12-station course. The Phantom's Great Scare haunted house in the coliseum is another way to scare your pants off.
In the Taste and See Pavilion and Garden, food, wine, garden and travel vendors set up shop with ice carving, a mural artist, chefs and landscapers. There's a Tropical Greenhouse tour at 12:30 p.m. and a monarch butterfly tagging demonstration at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Garden Stage.
The State Fair's auto show is the largest in the Southwest, with vehicles from at least 23 manufacturers, including Cadillac, Hummer, Infiniti, Jeep, Lincoln-Mercury, Saab and Scion. Check out concept cars such as the sleek 2006 Chrysler Firepower. There's also the 2006 Truck Zone with the latest and greatest in the Lone Star state's preferred vehicle, the Luxury Showroom and the Classic Corral with vintage gems. Friday through Sunday, the Chrysler Group is sponsoring the Dodge Mega Livin', Mega Givin' contest to benefit the American Red Cross with prizes for things such as the biggest belt buckle, biggest hair and biggest hat. It all promises to be a bumper-to-bumper, deep-fried weekend as the State Fair kicks off.