What is it about this annual assemblage of please-let-em-hold-together rides, championship bovines, blue-ribbon quilts, pies, jellies, and jams, and deep-fried everything that captures our hearts and imaginations? We asked our Facebook Brain Trust to weigh in.
“I love the way a state fair transitions from day to night,” writes Amanda. “It's like two different experiences!” (Amanda, by the way, loves EVERYTHING about the fair, from the funnel cakes to “all the gunk on the bottom of your shoes when you leave.” Now that’s a fan, ladies and gentlemen.)
Lighting is key to the best state fairs. Remember your first sight of those spinning, blinking, sparkling colors against an early evening sky when you were a kid, with the Ferris wheel as the centerpiece and the midway beckoning you to try your luck at an endless string of relatively unwinnable games in hopes of taking home a prize? OhmygoshIlovethefair!!!!!!!
A dash of state fair comedy never hurts. “When I was little, our favorite was Bozo the clown, who sat in one of those dunking booths and heckled the crowd relentlessly,” writes reader Katsy. “We would watch him for the longest, while my dad laughed and laughed.”
“I remember a carnival barker guessing everyone’s weight as they walked by (took the long way around that one),” writes Kelly, a transplanted Southerner recalling her state fair days from NYC.
The rides are a given draw. But as much as we all loved the Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, merry-round, bumper cars, and that strange centrifugal force ride that spun fast enough to pin riders against the inner wall (where they hoped to remain when the bottom dropped out)—as much as we loved all that—the food has always been nine-tenths of the fair. Florida reader Teresa said it for all of y'all: “I love the smell of deep-fried sweet food. Everywhere.”
We’ve stood in line for funnel cakes, fried Oreos, and Polish sausage dogs; candy apples, caramel apples, and cotton candy; fries with vinegar served in a cone and all kinds of fried stuff on a stick.
Texas being an all-that-and-then-some kind of place, the Texas state fair takes carnival food to a whole new level (picture Texas Cream Corn Casserole Fritters and Southern Fried Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo Balls). Texas fair goers swear by the famous Corny Dog (which, they will quickly tell you, is NOT the same thing as an ordinary corn dog).
And what about the exhibits—the photo contests and home ec demos; the 4-H kids with their well-groomed, well-behaved Holsteins; the chickens and rabbits and pigs—oh my! (There was always one especially portly pig to wow the crowd with his girth.)
One last thing you had to love about the fair—the excitement of standing in line at an old-fashioned ticket booth and waiting for Mama or Daddy to buy enough of those little rectangular paper tickets for you to ride your favorite “JUST ONE MORE TIME—PUH-LEEEEEEASE!!!”
Come to think of it, that's probably the best part of the state fair—grown-ups with cash. And now it's our turn.
WATCH: How to Make Apple Cider Fritters
They're crispy and sweet and fried golden brown. These tasty little globes would be perfect state fair food, right up there with funnel cakes and candy apples.