Enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the rides: 2014 State Fair’s
Fall and fair season set in at a similar pace. For the past few weeks and in the weeks to come, states across the country have been and will be hosting fairs that millions will attend. State fairs allow us to become better acquainted with our state’s traditions and customs, and they also give us all a chance to appreciate our local communities and, more specifically, our agricultural communities. As many fairs have come and gone, let’s recap two of our nation’s largest and most successful state fairs, take a look into one that is currently going on and look forward to one that will be starting shortly.
Recap: The Iowa State Fair & Alaska State Fair
The Iowa State Fair, which was held from August 7 to August 17, takes place every year on the 450 acre fairgrounds in Des Moines, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The fair sticks to its roots and features extensive agricultural and horticultural exhibits. There are numerous competitions held at the fair, and this year’s show stopper was a two-year-old Hampshire ram named Zeus. Zeus, who is from Perry, set a new Iowa State Fair record in the Big Ram Competition weighing in at 507.5 lbs. and crushed the competition, beating the second-place ram by nearly 87 lbs.
The Iowa State Fair is also home to nearly 200 concession stands, but one snack has stolen the hearts of Iowa State fairgoers: the Octodog. Like its name implies, the Octodog is an octopus-shaped hot dog. The bottom 2/3s of the hot dog are cut into eight sections, and after it is cooked, the sections curl upwards to resemble octopus tentacles. A straw is then inserted into the top, and it is served over a bed of macaroni and cheese. It scores big on both the novelty factor and overall deliciousness, making it the perfect fair food.
The Alaska State Fair, which was first held in 1936, features horticulture competitions that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States. In the weeks leading up to the fair, Alaska experiences approximately 18 hours of sunlight, which leads to tremendous crops. Perhaps the most prestigious of all the Alaska State Fair competitions is the Giant Cabbage Weigh Off. This year the massive “Marmaduke” won, weighing in at 118 lbs. However, this cabbage fell short of the world-record-holding cabbage, which was at the Alaska State Fair in 2012 and weighed 138.25 lbs.
This year the fair also paid homage to the rich and extensive culture of the Native Alaskans. The exhibit, called the Gathering Place, was put on with the goal of educating and providing a great understanding of Alaska’s indigenous culture, and it featured performances, native food and traditional art.
In Progress: The Big E
The Big E, which started in 1916, was initially created to raise agricultural awareness and teach younger generations necessary farming skills and techniques. While it still has a focus on agriculture, it has grown far beyond that, and people all over the Northeast await its arrival year after year. Originally called the Eastern States Exposition, the Big E is currently underway until September 28 and is unique from other fairs in that it is the only fair in the country to have participants from multiple states. In fact, every state in New England participates and has a life-size replica of their original state building on display at the Avenue of the States. In each building fairgoers can learn about the traditions, products and culinary treasures from each state. The states actually own the land on which their state houses sit, and state police from each state can be found within their respective buildings.
If you take in a day at the Big E, check out this year’s butter sculpture, which is sponsored by the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board. The sculpture was carved from more than 600 lbs. of butter. It is on display in a cooler designed for the sculpture, and it has the theme “Grown in New England.” Fairgoers also have the opportunity to see a number of musical acts, including Darius Rucker, Eddie Money and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In the Near Future: The State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas has taken place just about every year since 1886, with the exception of a few years during WWI and WWII. This year’s event will take place from September 26 to October 19, and will feature some of best rides in the nation. With over 70 rides, there is something for everybody, and a number of the rides and attractions provide excellent views of not only the fair, but also the Dallas skyline. The Texas Star Ferris Wheel rises 212 feet and gives a relaxing ride with great views of the surrounding area, but it is no comparison to the Top o’ Texas Towers, which stands 500 feet tall and has 360° views that stretch all the way to downtown Dallas.
The State Fair of Texas probably gets the most national attention of any state fair, due to hosting one of the biggest college football games of the year, the Red River Showdown. Every year the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns square off, in one of the most-heated rivalries, at the Cotton Bowl, which is centrally located on the fairgrounds. With unranked Texas beating then-ranked, #12 Oklahoma by more than two scores last year and Oklahoma now ranked #4 and Texas struggling with losses to BYU and UCLA, this year’s game is setting up to be a good one.
State fairs are the perfect way to appreciate our agricultural communities and local communities as a whole. They remind us why we love where we live by promoting local traditions and customs, and they’re one of the best ways to spend an autumn afternoon. Get out and spend some time with family and friends by taking in a state fair.