Julie Tam, NBC 5 News
The gates to the State Fair of Texas opened on Friday, and people young and old took advantage of nice weather to enjoy fried foods and fun fair rides.
The State Fair of Texas returns to Dallas' Fair Park on Sept. 30, 2011 and runs through Oct. 23, 2011. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the fair, which has been running since 1886. That means they've had a long time to get things perfect -- so prepare for the Fair with our essential guide to the best fest in the west.
We always make it a point to go see Big Tex in front of the Grand Place and Food Court. The guy behind the Big Tex voice, Harry Cooper, is always a hoot -- especially since his announcements are live for nine hours a day through the run of the Fair, leading to all sorts of neat messages coming from the 52-foot-tall cowboy. He's also a great meeting place for your group if you get separated -- he's easy to spot from most of the West side.
Fried Food Fest
In the past, the Fair has even featured deep fried butter (which we didn't even know could be done). This year, they're featuring something called "deep fried bubblegum." Arteries beware. However, if you're searching for a fried treat, there's a handy way to track down Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack and more. Head to BigTex.com for their list of food vendors plus a printable map of the Big Tex Choice Award finalists -- 'cause what's a Fair without Deep Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake?
Plan for Walking
Everything's bigger in Texas -- especially the Fair. Though the fair has an excellent tram and parking would be no problem if you ride the DART rail, you'll still need to hoof it around the sprawling fair grounds. Wearing comfortable shoes is a must and we'd recommend socks -- your tootsies will thank you.
Save Some Cash
Tickets might run you $16 at the gate, but if you're buying online, you'll already knock off a few bucks. The best deals, though, can drop the price as low as $2 per person (with three cans of food on Wednesday). McDonald's has coupons for $4 per ticket, Coke and Dr Pepper have empty can/bottle promotions, and you can even budget your transportation and ticket cost with a DART combo ticket at Kroger stores. Get a whole list of savings here.
Check Your Calendar
There are lots of days to visit the Fair, but the weekends are (expectantly) super busy. The calendar at BigTex.com allows you to take a look at all the events -- big and small -- for any day to help plan your visit. We've enjoyed visiting the Fair on a weekday for a less hectic experience with perfectly reasonable lines. Then again, schools often have a fair day that could add hundreds of hungry youngsters to the lines for Fletcher's Corny Dogs.
Sounds Like Fun
The main Chevy music stage has concerts every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and it's all included in Fair admission. That means you could see Jack Ingram, Mitchel Musso, Hanson, KC and the Sunshine Band, Crystal Bowersox, Miguel, Finger Eleven, Randy Travis, The Bangles, or La Mafia and enjoy the Fair for the same price -- but it means all the other attendees can, too. It's hard to gauge how many folks in the midway are going to head over to the Colt Ford show (who?) but an easy way to figure out how early you need to be in front of the stage is to check the t-shirts. The more images you see of the band scheduled for that night, the earlier you need to stake out a spot.
For additional information, the very best place to head is BigTex.com -- the Fair's official website. You'll find tons of info at that location, plus be able to buy tickets, check the official map, and see parking information. See you at the Fair!
State Fair of Texas
Sept. 30 - Oct. 23, 2011