Monday morning, and my foot hurts. Well, both of them do really. The left one has bothered me for some time, but has been much better over the past month or so, until yesterday. And yet I don’t mind. Why? My family and I spent the day at the State Fair of Texas, and we had an amazing time.
For those not in the know, the State Fair of Texas, held every year at Dallas’ Fair Park complex, is a four week celebration of all things Texan — big rides, big shows, Big Tex, and some of the most unique stomach ache inducing foods (that are most certainly not good for one’s health) you can find in one location.
Having taken the last two years off, we were excited to go back. We made a short list of activities and foods to eat, and off we went on a Sunday. And this wasn’t any ordinary Sunday at the Fair. Our daughter picked this day in particular because the feature attraction on the main stage was none other than the Beach Boys.
Here’s how our day went:
Arrival Gate 11
The plan was to get there when the gates opened at 10am. We succeeded, along with about 10,000 other keen fair goers, lol. But that’s ok. Parking was smooth and painless and there was virtually no wait at the obligatory security check. Once inside the gates, we headed straight for the Texas Star, for us the one ride that can’t be missed.
Silly me, I foolishly assumed that arriving early might help us avoid the line. Not so. The line snaked out from the ride and then ran a couple hundred feet down the walkway. But it moved quickly, and before we knew it, we were on. Now I’m afraid of heights and the Star rises to over 200 feet, but it’s a slow rise and drop, is very peaceful, and the view of the fairgrounds along with the downtown skyline are exceptional. Well worth the wait. The actual ride is only two revolutions, which at 16 tickets (the equivalent of $8), seems about half as long as it should be. But this is in line with the typically inflated prices one finds at the fair.
We’re generally not fans of midway rides, but we do enjoy walking around to see what stomach turning options are available just in case. Plus, the midway always features a number of sideshow type exhibits worth a few tickets. And this year there was a reptile exhibit entitled “The World’s Largest Traveling Reptile Show” that was fascinating.
An intensely curious iguana and a scary looking black mamba looking for a way out……
Along with the above pictured critters, the exhibit contained a couple of horned lizards and Tegus from Argentina, a deadly selection of vipers including the green mamba, a couple of species of cobra, a copperhead, a cottonmouth, and a couple of non-venomous constrictors. An interesting exhibit, although calling it the “World’s Largest Traveling Reptile Show” seems a tad over the top. But who am I to judge? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time an attraction hyped itself. So all good — it was fun.
A few more attractions from the Midway:
Works of art in pumpkin by Farmer Mike the Pumpkin Carver. And yet, all I could think of was pie – my bad.
The Texas Tower and the Texas Skyway
The Antique 1914 Dentzel Carousel and the Log Flume
And there was so much more, including the usual gaggle of midway barkers tempting any and all to try their hand at a carny game. For us, it was time for lunch. And that meant Fletcher’s Corny Dogs!
Yum! Crispy, crunchy goodness with a generous dollop of mustard! For a special occasion like the State Fair, it can’t be beat. If you’re not familiar with the heavenly, fried, and salty crunchiness that is the Fletcher’s Corny Dog, a State Fair staple since first being sold at the Fair in 1942 by brothers Carl and Neil Fletcher, it might not sound too appetizing, or filling. But give them a try and you’ll see why the longest lines for food at the Fair congregate around Fletcher’s stands. Each year, Fletcher’s, who have stuck to the same original recipe, outsells all of the other vendors as they compete to batter and fry an increasingly ridiculous assortment of foods.
Our former Governor agrees:
After lunch we headed over to the Dog Show held in the Pan Am Arena.
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show
The show features a canine crew performing a series of high flying leaps and crowd pleasing tricks. While the venue was stuffy and the view in the corners was impeded somewhat by the columns (you can see them in the top left corner of the pic), for the dog lover and even the casual observer, the show is a lot of fun. Some hyper, hyper dogs jumping very high, catching air, catching frisbees, and catching applause. A fun way to rest the feet for 20 minutes or so.
Back outside, we were craving something sweet, and the Fair never disappoints where food is concerned. From fried flan cake, fried kettle corn, fried pumpkin spice donut chips, to fried milk chocolate bacon on a stick, the choice wasn’t easy. But in the end, we settled on a personal favorite: fried cookie dough. Yum!
Fried Cookie Dough – they expand in your stomach, I’m convinced of this…..
After just one hunk of fried cookie dough, it was necessary to do some walking. So, we headed over to the Auto Show to see most of the new models on display.
Toyota Concept Car
For us, the Toyota/Lexus display was the hit of the party. They had all of the upcoming 2016 models along with three fascinating, and just plain weird, concept vehicles. It will be interesting to see if anything resembling these examples makes it to the street in the not too distant future. I won’t hold my breath, at least not in this market.
Along with Toyota’s display; Subaru, Hyundai, and Fiat stood out to me. Given I’m not a fan of Nissan and the domestics, many would rank their displays as highly, if not higher. And certainly, if quantity is the measuring stick; GM, Ford and Chysler would rank 1-2-3. But quantity is no guarantee of quality, or style. And this is where the domestics are left behind by the likes of Toyota and Subaru. Oddly enough, no sign of Honda at this year’s show. Ditto for Volvo and VW. Although in the case of VW, perhaps their absence was fortunate given their current PR issues.
By the time we had navigated the crowds and had seen the new models, it was time to claim a spot for the rapidly approaching Beach Boys concert – the main reason why we chose to brave the weekend crowds on this particular Sunday.
We managed to get reasonably “close” to see the stage, and the show started promptly at 5:30.
The Beach Boys on the Chevrolet Main Stage
Each year the live music featured on the Main Stage is a mainstay of the State Fair. And for 2o15, approximately 85 performances over 24 days offers something for everyone! And for us, that was the Beach Boys fronted by original member Mike Love with Bruce Johnston who joined in the band in 1965 replacing Brian Wilson for live performances. Rounding out the band are a talented group of touring musicians who all flawlessly reproduced many of the group’s well known hits. Considering this was a “free concert” I envisioned a 30 to 45 minute set. Not so. The lads went for 90 minutes without a break. They outlasted me by two songs as I had to find a place to sit after about 75 minutes, lol.
To say they were popular, is an understatement……
It was every bit as jammed on the other side of the stage.
With the show wrapping up at about 7 pm, it was time for another bite. One of the least expensive items on offer were the street tacos at 4 coupons each ($2) — a great deal.
After dinner, all that was left was the street parade:
The nightly illuminated parade featuring spectacular floats, dazzling costumed performers, lively music, all populated by a fun assortment of characters.
And the capper to the day, the Illumination Sensation Celebration:
Billed as being “completely remastered,” the show is set along the main entry mall with its 700 ft reflecting pool framed by a number of the classic art deco buildings the State Fair’s grounds are known for, along with their accompanying statues. The show features a combination of fireworks, lasers, liquid-fire fountains, and dancing waters, all choreographed to a lively soundtrack. The 20 minute display was pleasing enough, and certainly popular, if mildly underwhelming. And that was our day at the 2015 State Fair of Texas.
One more thing…..
Fulfilling a humble request by our daughter for that all time classic of classics, the funnel cake – the real nightcap to our day at the fair.