Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, TRAVEL

State Fair of Texas

The New Big Tex
The New Big Tex

TRAVEL HERE: THE GREAT STATE FAIR OF TEXAS

I interrupt this series of blogs about traveling beyond DFW to remind everyone that it’s State Fair time in Texas.  If you’ve followed this blog for very long or know this blogger, then you know I love me some State Fair of Texas.

Free-style Fair Visit

This year I tried something new, a free-style fair visit.  If you’ll remember, free-style cruising didn’t suit me very well, but life’s been a little bit demanding lately.  I just didn’t have time to fully research this year’s fair before showing up.  We just headed south on 75, cut over to 45 and ended up on MLK Boulevard.

I guess we might have been a little earlier than usual, because the parking flaggers weren’t out in droves.  There were Park Here signs all around, but it wasn’t quite clear which signs went with which spots and no one was begging us to park there.  We happened upon a nice young man, out in the yard with his little house-coated grandmother, but they were taking out the trash, not selling parking places.  They invited us to park in her front yard and accepted $5 as an afterthought.

Inside the Greenhouse. This photo was taken last year, but it's the same this year.
Inside the Greenhouse. This photo was taken last year, but it’s the same this year.

We entered at Gate Nine, which is by the Carousel and Midway Greenhouse.  We made the first potty stop behind the carousel and set out to find our first corny dog.   We enjoyed our Fletcher’s and Shiner break at a picnic table near the Coca Cola Stage, but we’d missed the performance, whatever it was. Next up was Big Tex.

If you follow me on facebook, you saw some photos of Big Tex that I shared from another site a few days ago.  I was pretty critical of the guy, but come to find out, what I hated most, the Santa Fe colored clothing and boots, aren’t a part of his reality.  It was a trick of the lighting or photoshop or something.  His outfit was better than I’d hoped for, but one thing’s for sure, whoever put him together knows nothing about human proportions.  Big Tex really is chunkier than he used to be, but unless Lucchese has started making thigh-high boots for men, somebody’s done something wrong.

Next was the Grand Place.  You know that building where they have the outdoor spas and vibrating chairs.  I have no idea why we went, but we always do.  One quick circuit and we were out, but I did sample the wine slushies.  Not a big hit with us.

2013-10-06 14.16.14

On to the Automobile Building – gotta keep my fella happy.  I thought the Ford Robot Guy was interesting and Bill kicked some Cadillac tires, but we spent most of our time at Chrysler’s Golf Simulator.

Across the Esplanade, Bill sat in Hyundai’s Genesis and Equus, as well as a short sojourn in a Lincoln, but I don’t think Mercedes has anything to worry about. He will be buying one of the new CLA’s.  Just give him some time.

We checked out the rest of the Centennial Building and fell in love with some fancy yard furniture, but the price tag was a bit hefty.  We could better afford some of the offerings in the Embarcadero, but we didn’t see anything we wanted.

A perennial favorite with us is the Creative Arts Showcase and this year was no different.  We made our first of two visits, lingering over the photos.  Then we knew it was time for some more fair food.

The break that really refreshes.
The break that really refreshes.

Last year we’d really had a good time in the Texas Wine Garden, so we headed that way.  This year, Texas Craft Beers had invaded the wine garden and it was a perfect afternoon for a cold one.  Bill got the beer and sent me on a food safari.  Well, I checked out the cheese trays, but we’d have needed to bring all our friends to justify one, so I headed down to Hans Mueller’s.  It wasn’t exactly next door, but definitely worth the trek.  A plate of too many cheese cubes was twenty-four coupons in the wine garden, but for sixteen I got three brats, a huge roll, sauerkraut and some German potato salad.  Yum, just perfect to share with our Texas craft beer.

Another hit from last year had been the Sensodyne toothpaste tent.  I swear Bill got enough samples to last him the year, so he wanted to see if they had a tent this year.  The program lists them as a sponsor, but we never did find their space.  If anyone else does, please bring Bill a few tubes.  Instead of toothpaste, I got a Hill’s dog food sample and a few bites of Wolf Brand Chili.  Bill considered the Chevy Test Drive and Air Force Simulator, but the crowds deterred him from both.

The Kildares were just as good this year as they were in this picture from last year.
The Kildares were just as good this year as they were in this picture from last year.

Heading back towards the Texas Food & Fiber Building, Bill’s tires ran low and he wanted some funnel cake.  The Kilidares were playing on the Dr. Pepper Stage, so I offered to find him some funnel cake and went to grab myself a Diet Dr. Pepper, my beverage of choice.  The Diet DP would have been easy enough, but for some reason, funnel cake wasn’t represented nearby.  I kept thinking, “There has to be some in the next batch of food vendors,” but that took me all the way back to Big Tex.  I finally found his treat inside the Tower Building, but I’d already been gone too long.  My phone rang and Bill wanted to make sure I hadn’t been mugged.  I found a shortcut back, but by then, my tires were running low, too.

As we relaxed, the Kildares (who’d quit playing shortly after I left on the serach for funnel cake) came back onto their revolving stage and we enjoyed their beautiful Celtic music.  As we considered what to do next, I checked the daily program and it said there were samples in the Food & Fiber building until seven. We detoured through the Creative Arts Showcase to avoid the crowds, but enjoyed getting another look at the crafts.  When we reached the Food & Fiber Building we discovered the program had lied.  We arrived by 6:30 and the place was a ghost town.  Even Elsie and Beauregard had found other places to be.

Jane and Big Tex in 2012
Jane and Big Tex in 2012

So far, the day had been perfect with one small miscalculation.  As we sat in the wine garden, someone said they were leaving and offered us their remaining coupons.  I made the mistake of thinking they were offering to GIVE us the coupons, because that’s what I always do when the day is over, but NO!  They expected us to pay them and it flummoxed me so that I actually did.  Now Bill was damned and determined to recoup my loss as we wandered back to Gate Nine.

On our quest to spend our coupons, we visited the Elvis impersonator on the Silverado Stage, checked out the Craft Pavilion and gazed down the Esplanade.  Bill decided he could forego the Illumination Sensation, but he did want to get rid of the coupons, so I opted for another Fletcher’s Corny Dog from the stand down by The Old Mill. We hooked up with Big & Bright Boulevard and caught a peek at The Chinese Lantern Festival.  We were there about the time that the Parade was lining up, so instead of standing on the sidelines and watching the parade pass, we strolled along looking at the floats.

Entrance to Fair Park's Chinese Lantern Festival
Entrance to Fair Park’s Chinese Lantern Festival

One taste treat that I’d been eyeing all day was some beverage concoction in a pineapple.  I finally found the booth at the end of the Cotton bowl Plaza, but it cost more coupons than we had remaining.  Then I found Bill by one of the ticket booths hawking our last coupons, so I realized it was time to go home.

This was a great weekend.  Dallas had that perfect October weather Cottonwoodthing going on.  I attended two events of my 40th High School Reunion and made a visit to Cottonwood Art Festival.  A weekend like this is reason enough to live in Texas.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Farewell to the Real Big Tex

Jane and Big Tex in 2012

TRAVEL HERE: FIRE CLAIMS BIG TEX

The State Fair of Texas is always big news for me, but it’s not usually on World News with Diane Sawyer.  In case you didn’t know, the State Fair’s iconic mascot, Big Tex, burned down to his frame on Friday.  Though the event is certainly not on the scale of other tragedies in our nation, over the last few days when a Dallasite asked, “Where were you when you found out,” I knew what they were talking about.

Big Tex & Me

I met Big Tex for the first time in 1966.  My family had just moved back to Texas after following Dad’s job throughout the South for my first 11 years.  Going to the State Fair of Texas was the most exciting thing I’d ever done in my young life.  A Fletcher’s Corny Dog was the second best thing I’d ever put in my mouth.  I say second, because 1966 is also the year I first tried Tex-Mex.  That maiden visit to the Fair is also when I saw and fell in love with my first Jaguar, but I’ll leave that unrequited passion for another day.

I loved the State Fair as a kid and when I got old enough to visit without my parents, I loved it even more.  (Sorry Mom

From our 2011 visit with Bill’s family

and Dad!)  Frugality and moderation were of great importance in my family.  Our superiority was measured by the fact that we didn’t waste money on frivolous stuff.  Unleashed from parental control, I adored strolling through the Midway with a corny dog in one hand and a beer in the other.  I enjoyed it so much I repeated it frequently throughout the day.  I loved riding the rides and buying incense burners and brass whatnots in the International Bazaar.  (There is no longer an International Bazaar, but there are still opportunities to waste a little cash on something you’ll throw away in a week or two.)  I was never big on Midway games, but I didn’t need to pay anyone money to prove that I was clumsy and uncoordinated.  I was well aware of that paradigm.

You might think that someone this enamored of a local fair just hadn’t been anywhere else, but you’d be wrong.  I’ve been around the world, and I still love to travel, but if it’s October, I’d rather stick close to Dallas so I can hang out at the Fair.

I am very sorry my beloved city has lost it’s mascot, but the mayor and fair officials were quick to assure us of the return of Big Tex.  But therein lies a problem.  We’ve been promised that Big Tex is going to be bigger and better.  Big Tex was big enough for me and I’m not sure how they plan to improve him.  I’ve been to Disney World and other attractions utilizing animatronics.  Sure , it’s cool to ride through It’s a Small World and see Lincoln come alive, but part of Big Tex’s attraction was his kitsch.  He was like one of those long forgotten dinosaurs standing alone next to a defunct roadside attraction, except that Big Tex still had a gig.   I’m not sure bigger and better are what I want for Big Tex.

How about you?  Do you want bigger and better or more of the same?  What do you think the new Big Tex will have over the old Big Tex?

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Great State Corny Dog?

TRAVEL HERE; CORNY DOGS, THE NATIONAL FOOD OF THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS

Have you been to The Great State Fair of Texas, yet? It’s hyperbole to say that everything’s bigger in Texas, but when you’re talking state fairs, it’s only the honest truth.  And the fair’s mascot, Big Tex will never be called Tiny.  According to it’s website, the State Fair of Texas has been around in one form or another since 1886, but it really took off for the Texas Centennial Celebration in 1935.

The History of the Fair

Dallas went to great lengths to spruce up the fairgrounds as a part of the official Centennial Celebration and the actual State Fair was skipped that year.  Fort Worth had been overlooked by the Centennial Committee, but they decided to sponsor their own celebration anyway.  You can read about that at the Texas State Historical Society.  The not-so-friendly competition between Dallas and Fort Worth resulted in some magnificent architecture and since Art Deco was all the rage about that time, the fairgrounds ended up with some real gems.

Famous Fair Food

The food of the State Fair of Texas is so amazing that it gathers national attention.  Even Oprah visited the food court once to sample it’s collection of fried thises and thats.  Pickles, Snickers, Butter – you name it – someone will deep fry it.  The real star of the show however is the Fletcher’s Corny Dog.

Now I know it would be real easy to turn up your nose at corny dogs.  I’ve had those nasty excuses for a corny dog that they peddle in the freezer section of the grocery store.  In desperation, I even had those mall substitutes, deep fried by surly paper-hatted teens.  I’m not talking about those corny dogs.

I mention my desperation for a Fletcher’s Corny Dog, because I can’t just decide I want one and go get it whenever it pleases me.  It takes planning.  They only do Fletcher’s Corny Dogs at special events and venues.  They tried drive through restaurants once and found out they couldn’t maintain the quality and service they were famous for over the long haul of daily operations. Fletcher’s did what they did best in spurts.

I’m a big fan of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, but I’m not one of those people who plans my life around the events where I can find one.  However, I never pass an opportunity to get one.  If I’m at a fair, festival or special event and I spy a Fletcher’s booth I will get immediately get in line – in fact, I’ll probably be in line several times before the day is over – diet be damned!

But I never want a year to pass where I don’t eat a Fletcher’s Corny Dog, so come hell or high water, I attend the State Fair every year.  That’s where Fletcher’s first served their little miracle on a stick and it’s still their biggest event of the year.  Oh, I’ll enjoy all the animals, the creative arts, the cars and the concerts.  I’ll probably even ride a few rides.  But understand this, I’m going for the corny dogs.

There’s one other thing I need to tell you about corny dogs at the fair.  You can’t just sidle over and whip out your roll of cash.  It won’t buy you a thing.  First you have to go to the coupon kiosk.  The coupons will let you buy food, ride rides and visit attractions.  You get twenty coupons for $10.  Don’t tell Bill, but I always encourage him to buy too many coupons, so I’ll have an excuse to buy one more corny dog on the way out.

The State Fair of Texas and Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are a great reason to come to Dallas, but hurry, because there are only six days left!