Stop what you’re doing and find out when your state fair takes place. Once you find out what you’ve been missing, you’ll want to make sure you clear your schedule to attend! If you haven’t been taking part in the time-honored tradition of visiting a state fair, here are 10 reasons why you need to be at the next one.
Fuzzy ducklings at the fair — Photo courtesy of iStock / ideabug
Farm animals headline at state fairs, whether they’re being shown for a 4-H contest or housed in educational exhibits. Those of us who haven’t had opportunities to visit farms or ranches will enjoy the experience of interacting with critters like cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep and more. You might even get to pet some adorable baby animals!
2. Calorie-packed food
While it might seem impossible, there actually are ways to eat healthy at the state fair. But we’re not interested in that. It’s not a true state fair experience unless you leave reeking of oil and clutching a grease-soaked bag of fried Oreos to-go. Where else can you try a hot beef sundae, a Twinkie dog and any number of fried desserts all in one place?
From traditional arts and crafts to the more outside-the-box displays – like sand or butter sculptures – there is an amazing amount of handiwork to admire at the fair. Peruse the booths, pick out a souvenir to take home, or watch in awe as craftspeople create right in front of you.
Among the many contests occurring at state fairs are cook-offs. You’ll find everything from the more conventional baking and chili competitions to the more bizarre like Goo Goo Clusters or Spam.
Great New York State Fair in 1954 — Photo courtesy of Great New York State Fair
Annual state fairs have taken place in the United States since the 1800s, so many have long and storied histories that are worth exploring. It’s amazing to observe how state fair culture has changed over the years.
6. Eating contests
Cream puff eating contest at Wisconsin State Fair — Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Fair
You might find eating contests to be an ill-mannered display, but it’s difficult to deny that this pastime is woven into the fabric of American culture. And not all eating contests have to be as revolting to watch as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
At state fairs, many of the competitions include children, dialing down the “eww” factor and cranking up the “aww.” For instance, the Chug-a-Lug contest in Iowa, where kids see who can gulp down a glass of milk the fastest.
Concerts at state fairs are getting bigger and better — Photo courtesy of E+/South_agency
Musical performances have long been a tradition at state fairs, but it seems that the concerts get bigger and better with each passing year. Lineups are jam-packed with weeks of shows that highlight big names as well as up-and-coming musicians.
State fairs have also inspired many artists to relate their own views and experiences on the midway, making for a festive playlist that you can enjoy en route.
People-watching is an undeniably entertaining fair activity — Photo courtesy of iStock / Jacob Ammentorp Lund
One of the most fun things to at the state fair is completely free: people-watching. You can find hours of entertainment just sitting back and taking it all in, with folks trying to figure out just how to eat a giant turkey leg gracefully, families making new memories and crowds laughing themselves silly on rides.
9. Recipe sharing
This stunning cake is a blue ribbon winner — Photo courtesy of Pat McDonogh, The C-J
Food is a huge draw for fair-goers, and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to take home some recipes. Many events across the country have cooking demonstrations where you can learn how to make select dishes. And some cook-off winners are willing to share their recipes, allowing you to create award-winning items at home.
The Ferris wheel is perhaps the most iconic fair ride of them all — Photo courtesy of iStock / kamisoka
Of course, the rides are a huge attraction at state fairs. There’s always something for everyone, whether you seek thrills on the Zipper, twisting-and-turning amusement on the Scrambler, or low-octane fun on a Ferris wheel.