11 Reasons This Year’s State Fair of Texas Will Be the Best Ever

It’s finally here! I just spent the entire opening weekend at the State Fair of Texas!

 

If you go every year, you know the fair just gets better and better every year. If you’ve haven’t been to the fair in years, this is the year you want to give it another try. If you went once in the last few years and decided it wasn’t for you, this year will change your mind. And if you’re going for the first time this year, you’re in luck. It’s going to be the best year ever. Here’s why!

 

#11 – Fair Park’s Future Is Looking Bright

big statue wearing a cowboy hat and waving howdy
Big Tex looking good with new boots this year at the State Fair of Texas.

We might have to buy Big Tex some shades, because it looks like, at long last, there’s a plan to make better use of Dallas’s beautiful Fair Park year-round while preserving its status as the long-time home of the State Fair of Texas.  Controversy is no stranger to Dallas, and City Hall maneuvering can be Byzantine to say the least. But this year, the city, its Parks department, its city council, and representatives of Fair Park and its neighbors may finally be on the same page.

 

If you’ve been attending the state fair for years while worrying that supporting the fair prevents growth in the neighborhood it lives in for part of each year, the developing plans for Fair Park should lighten your step when you visit the fairgrounds this year.

#10 – This Year’s Butter Sculpture Is Very Innovative

 

For the third straight year, the sculptor of the fair’s annual butter sculpture is local painter and sculptor Ken Robison. As an artist who had worked on other projects for the State Fair of Texas over the years, he was eager to take on the challenge of sculpting butter, despite being a vegan.  In a Texas Monthly interview, he says that’s OK since he doesn’t have to eat the butter. 

 

Even people who love dairy wouldn’t want to eat the butter used for this wacky art. Some of it’s four years old. Eeeewww. 

 

For Robison’s debut butter art, he recreated a prize-winning steer made of butter. Last year, his “Mount Muchmore” became a fun guessing game when he substituted Texans for the busts on Mount Rushmore. This year’s fair theme is “Celebrating Texas Innovation” and, well…see for yourself.

cowboy bust sculpted from butter
This year’s butter sculpture has (Steampunk?) Big Tex, the beloved as the subject.

# 9 – There’s Food Sampling From Big Name Chefs

If you’ve read any previous posts I’ve written about my own experiences at the State Fair of Texas, you know that the Cutco Celebrity Kitchen is my favorite part of the fair. Seeing cooking demos by Chef Janice Provost and Chef Uno Immanivong has become part of my state fair opening day tradition.

 

 

woman wearing an apron and a pink chef coat
Janice Provost and Parigi Dallas have been part of the State Fair of Texas opening day for over 15 years.

 

I credit Janice Provost, chef/owner of Parigi with getting me excited about Dallas restaurants, chefs, and our impressive food scene. Her story of reinventing herself as a chef after a successful career in the telecom industry inspired me to have greater faith in myself during my own career second act. I think that’s appropriate because her success is the kind that’s shared. The 32-year-old neighborhood bistro is rocking along under her leadership; she also founded the The Parigi Scholarship Endowment Fund which offers educational assistance to culinary and hospitality students at El Centro Community College. Parigi has been part of the State Fair of Texas opening day for over 15 years – how’s that for a story?

 

Each chef who appears in the celebrity kitchen (in the Creative Arts Building) at the fair will share a story, demo something yummy to eat, and share samples with you. This isn’t new at the fair, but this year you’ll see some familiar faces as well as representatives of some of the best restaurants in Dallas and a couple of the newest ones.

 

Three or four celebrity chefs make presentations each day of the fair. This year’s lineup includes a few you’ve seen on TV – John Tesar (Knife) and Tiffany Derry (Roots Chicken Shack) to name a few. Other well-known and much-loved Dallas chefs include Chris Patrick (Abacus), Graham Dodds (The Statler), David Pena (Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House), and so many more. Some of the most elegant Dallas restaurants – Uchi, Salum, Mirador, The Tower Club, Bullion, Fearings, and Perle on Maple – will be featured too.

 

I know the State Fair is synonymous with corny dogs and fried food, but here in the Cutco Celebrity Kitchen, you’ll find another whole world of can’t-miss fair food. See the full schedule here

#8 – The Big Tex Choice Awards Winners Look Absolutely Fabulous

The Big Tex Choice awards have been honoring favorite fair food for almost 15 years, and every year, the winners look better and better. This year’s Cotton Candy Taco (most creative) might be the most creative dish I’ve ever seen take this prize. I was rooting for Arroz Con Leche, a sweet crispy rice dish, early on, and sure enough, it took the prize for best sweet taste. This year, for the first time, I have more than half a dozen sweet treats on my must-have fair food list. It’s a good thing I have a season pass – I’m gonna have to make several trips to eat them all (and walk off the calories.) 

 

Cotton Candy Taco - Trio on the Green

Winter Family Concessions is no stranger to state fair concessions or Big Tex Choice Awards wins. Their winning savory dish, Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce is made with black-eyed peas, known in the south for bringing luck and prosperity in a new year. Whatever the reason, I know I’m gonna feel lucky to get to eat it. 

#7 – The Rides and Shows are High Flyin’

Family-friendly doesn’t have to mean boring, and the Xpogo team and Team Big Air will amaze you with extreme sports pogo and acrobatic basketball. Favorite high-in-the-sky rides like the Texas Star, Midway Skyway and Top o’ Texas Tower will give you a real life birds eye view of the fair. New rides will take you to new heights too – check out the spinning Orbiter and the fast to furious AIRMAXX.

#6 – You Can Enjoy Quiet Time at the Fair

For the first time ever at the State Fair of Texas, a sensory-friendly experience is available at the fair to visitors living with autism, intellectual disabilities or special needs. Even if you just enjoy a moment with less sensory overload, you can take part in special activities and accomodations on Wednesday mornings. You can get the  guided itinerary on the State Fair of Texas websiteOthers who just need a little time away from the hustle and bustle can spend some time wandering First Avenue, past all the museums to avoid the busier Cotton Bowl, Big Tex, and Midway areas for a little bit.

people strolling down a quiet street with trees
Stroll down First Avnue past the lagoon and the museums for the quieter side of the fair. It’s the part of fair park that really looks like a park.

#5 – You Can Chill With Some Great Wine

Even if you don’t need to dial down the excitement all the way, you can definitely enjoy some laid-back experiences at the fair. The State Fair Wine Garden is a fair favorite that just seems to get better with time. Relax with a sample, glass, or bottle of wine while enjoying performances on the Wine Garden Stage on weekends. Be sure to check out the GO TEXAN Blue Ribbon Wine selections – 12 examplary Texas wines honored with this designation.

#4 – The Visitors Guide to the Fair is Available Online

Unless I missed it last year, this is the first time ever the Fair Guide has been available online. Picking up a visitors guide has always been a high-priority stop at the fair, but now you can get a sneak peek at it before you get there. All of the Big Tex Choice Awards are featured in the guide with the locations where you can find them. The guide also lists ALL of the Thrifty Thursday discount food offerings with their locations.

 

Booklet with cowboy on the cover
Showtimes, food locations, discount coupons for food, and a map. Be sure to pick one up as soon as you arrive.

You might still want to pick up a copy as a (free) memento, but this year you can plan your fairgoing strategy ahead of time or check out that map on your phone while you’re there. See the .PDF version of the  State Fair of Texas Visitor’s Guide here. Remember, the day will be fun whether you’re a planner or a freestyler. Just go, see, and do in the way that makes you happy.

#3 – This Year’s Exhibits Are Enlightening

Whether you want to learn about the past, celebrate the present, or look to the future, this year’s State Fair of Texas has an exhibit for you. I visited the African American Museum to see the Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello exhibit. I found it very moving and wish I’d spent at least half a day just to absorb all the details and experience the emotions it brings up. There isn’t any violence depicted, but from an intellectual standpoint, some of it is hard to fathom. I spent less than an hour (not as much time as I wanted to) but I’m a better person for having seen this up close. I hope you’ll choose a learning experience at the fair this year, and spend as much time as you like soaking it up.

A bronze figuer in front of a wall of remembrance
Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty Exhibit at the African American Museum in Dallas.

#2 – Pretty Patios and Other Covered Seating

More than ever this year, you’ll find patio umbrellas and awning-covered seating. Whether you’re stopping for a beer or glass of wine, something yummy to eat, or just a spell of people-watching, you’re sure to find a place to make yourself comfortable.

pumpkins and fall foliage in front of a patio establishment
The Magnolia Beer Garden is a charming spot, but somehow Ruibal’s makes it even prettier!

 

#1 – Weather

What? No triple-digit heat? Forecasts are just predictions, but if they hold up, we’re going to see some of the fairest weather of them all. As of this writing, there are 10 days (during the run of the fair) predicted to have high temperatures in the 70s.  The seventies. Just let that sink in.

 

I didn’t count it, ’cause that would be immodest, but this year is also the first year you can count on me as a guide. Follow me here for blog posts, follow me on Instagram and Facebook for live video and photos, and follow FunCityStuff.com where I’ve already shared some incredible State Fair of Texas as well as all the fun stuff I can find around DFW.

 

Enjoy your day at the fair,and if you liked this post, please share!