The air is thick with the sweet smell of fried Pepcid. The Texas Star Ferris wheel beckons your sweaty butt to its benches. As you read this, a kid is puking up a Fletcher's corny dog on the Midway, just as a yellow-naped parrot bird-diarrheas onto audience heads at the Birds of the World bird show. And somewhere in the depths of this fair-ness, a grandma is flipping off her grandma competitors as she wins a blue ribbon for her jarred sweet pickles for the 10th straight year.
That's right: Fried Christmas is finally, officially here. And this year, you're determined to have a front-row seat as the new Big Tex rises like a Jesus-phoenix from the ashes of his Gus Fring-ed face. You will hug New Big Tex's big-as-Ron Perlman's-big-ass-face boots. That hole in your heart will heal upon his return. And you will immediately reopen that heart hole by shoving booze and fried everything into it.
But if you're not careful, the fair can drain your bank account faster than you can say, "Holy crap, how did I just spend $100 on balloon darts?" Admission is $17. Parking is $15. And all that deep-fried magic? It'll take as many dollars from your wallet as it will years off your life.
Fortunately, I'm a fair veteran and a noted cheap-ass, and I'm here to help you tame this beautiful beast without letting it punch you in the gut place, dry hump your wallet and put its creepy mustache on your bank account's privates. We're about to extreme-coupon the shit out of the fair, y'all. Hold onto your butts.
Yes, it is possible to spend zero total dollars at the State Fair of Texas without pretending you work there or holding it up with the help of your local militia ("I am not playing around here, people. LET ME THROW THIS BALL AT THAT FAKE MILK BOTTLE OR I WILL STEAL EVERY LAST DROP OF THE FRYER OIL IN THIS BITCH"). It also may be the most challenging and fun option (and by "fun" I mean "it'll earn you a fried case of chlamydia").
Here's how it works:
Parking Budget: $0 Park somewhere free -- your favorite hooker's apartment, say, or on the front lawn of some dude who's charging but not you because you showed him your good boob -- and walk to the fair. Considering the caloric damage you're about to do to your insides, the post-fair walk will be necessary anyway. That goes for your toddlers, too, whom you can regale with nostalgic tales of walking to school and back uphill both ways through eight feet of dog shit.
Or just have a friend drop you off. Or just cut the crap and teleport.
Admission Budget: $0 Ask around: Someone's work or school probably scores free tickets, assuming you have friends who work or school. Or bring any Cinemark movie ticket stub -- I'm bringing the stub from when I peed my pants at Blair Witch Project -- and get free admission to the fair on Thursdays. Or go on Dickies Day (October 3) wearing a clothing item with the Dickies logo. It doesn't say you can't print a Dickies logo on a loincloth and get in free, so do that. And immediately Instagrammit.
Food Budget: $0 If you've ever bought a water at the fair, punch yourself in the tit right now. Then open your brain for a second and remember this important informational shit: You can bring your own cooler full of food and drink. No glass bottles, drugs or booze, though, so fill a rolling cooler with a gallon of Goldfish, a 12-pack of Red Bull, some jerky, a stick of Rolos, a brick of Crisco, pita chips and hummus, and you're set for a totally free food day that'll jack your insides up just like a full fried fair day would, but for free-er.
What's that? Chugging a brick of Crisco isn't as romantic as eating fried butter? You desperately want to try Fried Thanksgiving, which just won the award for Most Creative at the 2013 Big Tex Choice Awards, and you want it for free? Hit on a stranger and prepare to pay dearly, possibly in the back of a Yukon in the Automobile Building (Crisco optional).
Rides Budget: $0 Obviously you could go to the fair and ride zero rides and really not miss out on anything (except the chance to vomit a fried-beer buffet on passersby, a cherished fair pastime). But if you're set on riding a ride and not paying for it, an alternative option to our Boning a Stranger for Free Stuff Technique (patent pending) is the oft-forgotten BYOMILF technique.
Step 1: Bring a MILF. If you don't know one, go to Fearing's, ask if anyone has change for a $100, beat the ugliest MILFs off of you (these are also known as just moms you'd like to dry hump, or MILDHs) and take the best one with you in your pocket to the fair.
Step 2: Once you are at the fair with your MILF, ride on her MILFy coattails as she gets free rides just for looking ILF-able. This technique does not -- I repeat, does not -- work with DILFs.
Admission Budget: $0 Seriously, do not pay for admission.
Parking Budget: $5 You'll have free access to all the stuff mentioned above, but since you have a little cash to spend, let's get you to the fair on the DART, which'll be $5 (unless you're old, in which case it's only $2.50, because half-off is apparently a reasonable discount for the still-not-dead).
Food and Rides Budget: $5 Buy 10 tickets and spend them on the fair food or ride or Midway game of your choice. On Tuesdays, rides are half price, so a couple times around the Puke-A-Whirl might be fun, especially right after a dollar hot dog, available on the patio of the Old Mill Inn. Two things about those dogs: 1. They're real hot dogs, not a carnie's invitation to a very public blow-jay party. 2. I'm positive they're not the best food item at the fair, but they are cheap and passing out at the fair from lack of foods in you would be a bad thing. So if you're in a tight spot, dollar-dog it up.
Admission Budget: $0-$5 Either go on a day when you can get in free or, if you love riding rides at the fair, bring a Dr Pepper can and only spend $5 on a Tuesday for admission. Every Tuesday, rides are half price.
Parking Budget: $5 You should definitely do all the stuff mentioned in the lower price-point options. Get all that free stuff, and absolutely ride the DART to the fair for $5.
Food and Rides Budget: $10-$15 With $10-$15, you can do all kinds of crazy fair stuff. You can eat crazy fair food, ride rides or play Midway games. You could go on a day when you get into the fair for free and then you'd have the money to buy a ticket to the Chinese Lantern Festival ($14 for adults, $9 for kids 4 to 12).
Spend the money this way: Pre-drink 18 Four Lokos at home for free, pay $5 and ride the DART to the fair (or put some Depends on your head and pay $2.50) on a free day. Then, spend the extra $15 on fried chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls on a stick (three for $6), a ride on the Texas Star ($7), and use the two dollars left to bribe an old dude to tweak the nips of the Big Tex butter sculpture.
Alternately, you could always spend your money on America's favorite carnival ride: beer. I'm told the cheapest beer at the fair will be at BW's Fried Ribs in the Tower Building. If there's a long beer line, tell everyone Big Tex is doing a Channing Tatum-y one-leg-up dry hump of the Texas Star and watch your hops troubles disappear.
Opening Day Big Tex Time At 2 p.m. on Opening Day, they'll unveil what will surely be a somewhat frightening version of Big Tex -- less scary than when his face was on fire, more scary than just before his face was on fire. We should assume the new version of Big Tex will be exactly like the new version of Jerry Jones: made of 100 percent shiny plastic, full of empty slogans and happy to take your money.
Watch Old Ladies Glare at Each Other On any morning of the fair, walk into the Creative Arts building, where all of the food competitions are hosted, and watch some old ladies talk shit at each other.
Their anger is purer than Walter White's meth. It goes back half a century to when they competed in this sweet-pickles category for the first time at the young age of 70. Before the blue ribbons are handed out, everyone's all Texan-lady nice to each other, with their fake smiles and their "bless your little heart"-ing. Then the results come in, the tennis balls come off the walkers and shit gets real. Minutes later, passersby see the carnage and don't understand: A fair worker sweeps golden hoop earrings, several gray wigs, knuckle blood and heart meds. Glorious angry gramma-ing is all around you, and laughing at it costs nothing but a slice of your soul.
Ostrich Races This year, the fair brings you ostrich races for the first time. The ostriches will be ridden by jockeys. Three ostriches race at a time. I've never seen an ostrich race before, but it promises to be better than the best rainbows. Do the ostriches wear little helmets? Is there head-to-ostrich-head ramming involved? Are there holes on the course for them to stick their heads into? How much glitter is allowed? Do they throw ostrich 'bows as they run the course? At what time does PETA show up? So many questions. And all answers point to awesome.
Birds of the World Didn't get enough sweet-ass bird-on-bird action at the ostrich races? Check out the Birds of The World show when you feel like sitting on some hot bleachers would be really fun. Every year, some crazy bird flies from the top of the Texas Star Ferris wheel and divebombs the audience. If you look closely, you can see the exact moment in time that the drunks, potheads and toddlers crap themselves with bird excitement.
Big Tex Photo Photobombing Taking a photo with Big Tex is a State Fair tradition. Help make those photos so much more memorable by photobombing them with your naked butt. Buttbombing is the new planking, y'all.
Butter Sculpture! Every year, there's a sculpture at the fair carved out of butter. Because: America. This year, the butter sculpture will be a tribute to Big Tex. They're using 2,400 pounds of butter to create the sculpture -- compared with 1,100 last year -- and they're hoping to break the Guinness Book of World Records record for Most Ridiculous Shit Ever Done in the History of Ever. BYO butter knife and loaf of French bread for a free snack.
Celebrity Chef Demos Take a break from the heat and watch fancy chefs make fancy food in the air-conditioned Creative Arts building. Feel free to heckle Maple & Motor chef Jack Perkins during his demo. Just know he'll heckle you back. Heckle start: "Hey, Jack Perkins, can you put hummus on my burger?" Heckle follow-up, after he tells you what "hummus burger" means according to Urban Dictionary and calls your mom a whore: (run out of chef demo room crying).
Auto Show in the Automobile Building There are cars. You can see them. And this building is air-conditioned, so you won't be sweating your boobs off while you make out in the back seat of that 2015 Ford Explorer. If you need some self-enforced fried-coma nap time, this is the place.
Midway Heckling Midway games can get expensive. But making fun of people is always free. Point and laugh as a father fails at knocking down bottles for the fifth time. Bonus: This activity comes with free punches in your earhole.
Parade At 7:15 p.m. every night of the fair, there's a parade complete with giant puppets and a drum and bugle corps. Which happens to coincide perfectly with the giant puppet and bugle corps show that happens in your pants every night. Yes, they planned it that way.
Illumination Sensation Right after the parade, put down a picnic blanket and watch the laser light show with fireworks. Watch out for sober people, who, for some reason, won't enjoy your synchronized-to-the-laser-show floppy ball dance finale. Show starts at 8 p.m. every night of the fair. Floppy ball dance improv expected throughout.
High-Schoolers Making Out Don't watch. Do heckle. My favorite make-out heckle opener: "So how does lady reflux taste? Does it taste like herp? Because it's herp."
Concert on Main Stage After you're all laser-mind-blown from the laser show, go see a free concert on the Silverado Main Stage. Let me share with you the best options of the stunning lineup of this year's fair concerts:
An Evening with Molly Ringwald. October 4 at 8:30 p.m. She sings standards and during every break, you yell, "No more yankie my wankie, the Donger need food!"
Kelly Rowland. October 5 at 2 p.m. You can spend the whole time yelling at her how much better she is without 'Yonce. And then begging her to sing "Bugaboo."
Kraig Parker (Elvis Tribute Artist). October 6 at 5:30 p.m. Dude. It's State Fair Elvis. He'll be sweaty, drunk, probably pounding a fried PB&J and definitely murdering his hits. It'll be just like Real Elvis times. Must see.
Kristian Bush. October 13 at 3 p.m. I did not make that dude's name up. He's in a band called Sugarland. They do not have a song with a chorus that just repeats, "Kristian Bush, Kristian Bush. Oh, how I love me some Kristian Bush," but they obviously should.