AT HOME IN HEATH: DALLAS KEEPS LURING ME ACROSS THE LAKE
I may have moved across the lake from my hometown, but I’m still very much the Dallasite. I recently got an email blast from Stephanie Faulk (firstname.lastname@example.org) Public Relations /Outreach Manager for the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. The correspondence spelled out some of my favorite things to do around Dallas. Allow me to share a few.
You had me at Fletcher’s Corny Dogs! I have always loved the fair. I go every year. My husband is not as fascinated with it as I am, so it’s a good thing my bestie is. We make a day of it.
First order of business is a corny dog – then I repeat whenever the opportunity presents itself. That means I don’t eat much else. The fair is famous for fried things, but I don’t want to waste my calories. I know I’m not going to like anything as much as I do the corny dogs and I have to get enough of them to last me all year.
Part of my love for the fair is nostalgia. I go through each building as if it were required by some divinely assigned task. I look at the new cars, test drive recliners, listen to pitches for gadgets, gawk at handicrafts, admire photographs, smell livestock, listen to music, sample goodies, walk down the Midway and sometimes even ride something.
Fair day is one of my favorite days of the whole year. Don’t miss your fair day!
I may go to the fair one day every year, but I go to the Arboretum much more frequently. Not as often as I’d like, but that’s life. I’ve been during the best days of Autumn in the Arboretum and Blooms, but I’also been there on chilly days in February. I don’t think there is a bad day to visit the arboretum. Even if it is pouring rain there’s a tram to deliver you to the DeGolyer House for a tour.
Ms. Faulk reported that folks voted Autumn at the Arboretum one of “America’s Best Pumpkin Festivals” in Fodor’s Travel 2014. With more the 75000 pumpkins dressing the garden up for fall, who can blame them. Kids of all ages love to see the spectacular fall display and gorgeous gardens. Put it on your calendar.
I’m ashamed to admit how infrequently I visit the Meadows Museum on the SMU campus. With so many attractions and events to distract me it’s not hard to understand why the quiet little Spanish Museum gets forgotten. However, the museum itself is a wonder of architecture with its grand staircase and the works of art it holds are gorgeous.
If like me you’ve been neglecting the Meadows, now is the time to rectify that. One hundred and thirty works from three spectacular palaces will be on hand, including works by Van Gogh, Goya and Renoir – to name just a few. This will be the first time this private collection will be leaving Spain. What a marvelous opportunity to see these masterworks of decorative arts and painting.
Other Exciting Opportunities
These wonderful events barely scratch the surface of things to do this fall in Dallas. A survey of Jackson Pollack‘s works will be at the Dallas Museum of Art beginning in November and staying through March. And speaking of modern art, on October 16, downtown Dallas will be turned into a wonderland of light, video, sound, performance and projection by some of the world’s best contemporary interactive artists in an extravaganza called Aurora. Following this man-made light show, the Perot Museum will be showing off some of Mother Natures most amazing creations in Creatures of Light: Natures Bioluminescence.
If Dallas is your hometown, please take advantage of these wonderful opportunities. If you don’t live here, then it’s time for you to come visit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 thing 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.
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
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?
My post about the fair last year is getting a lot of hits lately, so I knew I’d be visiting Big Tex soon. I just got home from a marvelous day there, so if there are more typos than usual please forgive me. I wanted to fill you in as soon as I could.
Our 2012 Visit
The rainy Sunday morning scared away the throngs and the cooler weather made it even more enjoyable. In spite of the dreary weather, great luck accompanied us all day long. First luck was asking some policemen about the price of parking. They pointed out a free place
and said they’d be there watching the car. It seemed too good to be true, but the car was still there when came back.
As soon as we entered the fairgrounds, we walked by a pavilion where they were giving away samples of Sensodyne Toothpaste. That’s Bill’s toothpaste of choice, but he hates that he has to use it because it
costs more than other toothpastes. We loaded up on samples and coupons – and then Bill visited them again on the way out.
Cross-referencing our entrance gate with my list of free shows sent us towards the Greenhouse on the Midway where the Tree Man Stilt Walker was the next show in proximity . We located it with time to spare, so I hurried to the nearest Fletcher’s to get our first corny dog of the day. Very happy mouth and tummy!
You’ll want to go to the Greenhouse. You’ll love the garden inside with it’s miniature trains wandering among miniature Texas landmarks. There’s a pumpkin carver creating autumn delights from HUGE pumpkins in one corner and Southern Living celebrities giving lectures in the other. However, don’t worry about getting there for the Tree Man Stilt Walker. It’s just a guy dressed like an Ent posing for pictures. I’m sure he’s a very nice Ent, but no need plan your day around him.
Next we went over to the Thrillway to catch the BMX Bike Show – a much better use of time. What these guys can do
with two wheels is amazing; so go! From high flying bikes we segued to high flying birds at the Kroger Birds of the World in the Band Shell. This show has been coming to the fair for many years and there’s really nothing new. If you have kids or are just crazy about birds, then you’ll enjoy it, but I wished that I’d used my time otherwise.
On the way to the Cotton Bowl Plaza for our second corny dog, we passed the Chinese Lantern Exhibit at the Lagoon. We were able to peek over at it from the Band Shell and at the end of the plaza they have a gate where you can peep at a snippet of what’s there. We would have loved to see it all, but it’s nigh onto $20 each and that just didn’t make any sense with all the other expenses of the day. So you rich guys go and tell me how it is.
Near the Lagoon we passed the Tree House Maestro. It’s a guy singing in a treehouse. If you take a food break at the plaza I recommend carrying your meal around the corner and enjoying his music. If you eat your meal in the plaza you might be there when the Midway Barker is doing his act and that’s well worth missing.
As we strolled by Big Tex, four o’clock was drawing nigh, which meant that we had some choices to make. Most of the
free entertainment have last shows between four and six, so we had to decide which to make an effort to see. We chose the USMC Drum & Bugle Corp. They were great, but we also wanted to see the African Acrobats, so after a few numbers we sneaked away and got in on the last part of the acrobats. We should have stayed with the Marines.
Since we were next to the automobile building, Bill made a detour through it. Favorites? The Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro. The Ford Fusion had great exterior styling, but on the inside it looked like a Ford. The Impala was pretty amazing and we’d be happy with any of the Cadillacs.
Exiting the automobile building, Bill heard Arabic music and made a beeline to the steps in front of the Hall of State. His reward was scantily clad women gyrating with scarfs, swords and other paraphernalia. He was one happy guy. There was folk dancing of all types being preformed there throughout the day and if I had it to do all over again, I think I might have camped out there and enjoyed it. We would have missed out on a lot of exercise, but I think it would have been entertaining.
Poor Bill was worn out from all the walking I’d made him do, but being the champion he is, he followed along as I tried to find two more shows. I found the stage for the Chinese Acrobats, but I’d been mistaken about the time, so we missed that show. We found the Tropical Music Man in the Coliseum. He was a really nice guy, playing some great tunes, but he wasn’t Elvis and there were these wild kids creating havoc. We got out of there and found The Kildares on the Backdoor Stage. Now these guys are worth a little effort. They’re a Celtic rock
group and they perform on a revolving round stage. I hadn’t planned on seeing them, but was glad we didn’t miss them.
When The Kildares were through, it was a little early to catch that last Chinese Acrobat show and Bill was hungry again. He’s been on the South Beach Diet and even though he’d shared a couple of corny dogs with me, he didn’t want to stray too far from his regimen. He found some grilled shrimp (he doesn’t recommend it) and we moseyed over to the Texas Wine Garden to eat it.
The Wine Garden is a pleasant shaded area and most of the tables were inhabited. On my own, I would have looked around and been disappointed no empty tables were available. Bill talked me into inviting ourselves to a table where a couple of girls were sharing a bottle of wine. We discovered we’d invited ourselves into one of the best parts of the day. These fun girls not only shared their table with us, but they let us taste their wine. The pair were cousins from Flower Mound and worked at a restaurant called Decanter Restaurant and Wine Bar. They told us about the extensive wine training the restaurant gives their employees, so we’re going to make the trip over there sometime soon.
After sharing corny dog number three, we said good-bye to our Flower Mound buddies. When Bill is surrounded with pretty women he loses all track of the time, so he thought we still had time to see the Chinese Acrobats. The Acrobats were over, but there was still a lot more fair.
We crossed over to the Creative Arts Building and perused the ribbon winners, amused ourselves with the Embarcadero salespeople and breezed through the Food and Fiber Building (where we were too late for samples). As we headed to the Centennial Building to see the imported cars we heard Uncle Cracker, at the Chevrolet Main Stage, pouring out some toe-tapping tunes. We didn’t stop to cut a rug, but we did cut through the Craft Pavilion where we saw some amazing wooden airplane models, but our billfolds stayed safely tucked away. Inside the Centennial Building Bill lingered lovingly in the Lexus area and I drooled a little bit over the Volkswagon CC.
Our day was winding down, but the fun wasn’t over yet. Bill caught the tail end of the second appearance of the belly dance ensemble, which put us in exactly the right spot for the Parade. It was a nice little parade, but I think I’m ruined for parades the rest of my life. After seeing The Grand Floral Parade in Portland this year it will take some kind of parade to make an impression.
We had a few more food coupons left and the Tower Building was nearby, so we found a way to spend them. The Diet Dr. Pepper was refreshing, but the gyro was below par.
Illumination Sensation at the Esplanade was a spectacular end to our evening. I’d try to explain it, but words aren’t adequate, so be sure not to go home until you’ve experienced it. Bill held my hand on the way back to the car and I decided it had been one of the best visits I’d ever made to the fair.
I hope you’ll make it to the fair this year. Let me know how you like it!
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!