Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
On Monday, Big Tex took his position at the State Fair of Texas, ready to welcome visitors to the annual event.
State Fair season is here, but we don't want you to let planning your trip make you feel like you downed two fried butters and jumped on the tilt-a-hurl.
Grab some essential info on how to survive the massive State Fair of Texas from this handy list:
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 featured deep fried butter and deep fried bubblegum. This year, they're featuring things like Deep Fried Jambalaya, Chicken Fried Cactus bites, and Fried Bacon Cinnamon Rolls. If you're searching for a fried treat, there's a handy way to track down. Head to BigTex.com for their list of food vendors -- 'cause what's a Fair without Deep-Fried Divine Chocolate Tres Leches Cake? Arteries beware.
Big and Bright
That's the theme for the Fair this year, and they're making good on that promise by adding a special exhibition of Chinese Lanterns. The ancient Chinese tradition will be a dynamic display featuring pandas, flamingos and even a 110-yard long dragon made from 15,000 porcelain dishes tied together by hand. At night, the festival lights up from within to illuminate the night. Sounds pretty "big and bright" to us.
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.
Check Your Calendar
There are lots of days to visit the Fair, but the weekends are super busy. The calendar at BigTex.com allows you to take a look at all the events 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 Kansas, Texas Tornadoes, Bridgit Mendler, Kevin Fowler, Uncle Kracker, and even Kevin Costner and Modern West and enjoy the Fair for the same price -- but it means all the other attendees can, too. It's hard to gage how many folks in the midway are going to head over to the Elle Varner 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 artists 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. 28 - Oct. 21, 2012