The State Fair of Texas puts a lot of money and effort behind its now famous Big Tex Choice Awards, where they crown each year’s best, most creative foods.
They release the names of the new creations in strategic, well-timed waves. First, in July, we get a laundry list of the semifinalists. The State Fair of Texas drums up excitement and speculation by releasing only the name of the dishes – no descriptions. We’re left wondering what the heck Texas Fried Hill Country or Texas Thai Delight might be.
Two weeks later, they hold a press conference in the wee hours of the morning, where they announce the top 10 Big Tex Choice Awards finalists. Each finalist is paraded in front of reporters and cameras while the Senior VP of Public Relations reads a description of their dish.
At the end of August, at a live event with even more fanfare, the State Fair of Texas finally reveals the three winners of the Big Tex Choice Awards. Eight “celebrity” judges taste the finalists and award winners. The public can take part and be the first to taste everything – for $125, the price of a ticket to this year’s awards.
They’re still not done, though — 10 days out from opening day, they issue yet another press release, a list of “more new foods,” which includes the semifinalists from July, but this time with descriptions of each dish. News outlets all across North Texas pick up and highlight each announcement, online, in print and on TV. The State Fair of Texas knows how to get people hyped for the new fair food.
But when you finally arrive at the fair, after two months of being bombarded by tales of the wackiest, weirdest and best-tasting things you can eat this year, they don’t make it easy. It’s like a scavenger hunt trying to find these crazy concoctions they’ve been touting for weeks.
Start by grabbing a visitor’s guide. In it, there are maps of the Big Tex Choice Awards finalists, semifinalists and Thrifty Thursday options. But the maps are small and cramped and they use a series of abbreviations, numbers and stand names as guides. It’s not an easy or intuitive experience.
Somehow, the map on their mobile site is even worse. It links directly to Google Maps and only includes bare bones attractions, like buildings, the Midway and the Texas Star. If you go to the New Food section of the site, there is the option to find each food on the map, but whenever we’ve tried to click on this, we’re directed back to Google Maps, where we then get an error.
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If you’re looking for a dish that isn’t new this year or on the Thrifty Thursday list, forget it.
In that case, your best bet is to march up to an Information booth and ask where you can find the deep-fried pineapple on a stick or deep-fried butter. There, they are equipped with detailed, laminated maps and they will do their best to describe the route to find the dish you’re looking for.
A State Fair of Texas mobile app would be a great solution to this problem. They need an app that includes a map with geo location and the ability to search for specific foods, attractions and events. Daily schedules could also live in the app. Not only would it benefit those on the hunt for fair foods, it would make going to the fair a more streamlined experience for any fair-goer.
With the amount of effort, time and money the State Fair of Texas puts into advertising its new food, the experience of being there and actually trying to find these new foods is a disappointment and letdown.