By Tyler Satchwell
I was looking for positives to counterbalance the cynical voice inside my brain that said, “You know this is going to suck.” I’ve lived within walking distance of Fair Park for 10 years, and I’ve never bothered to go. The annual State Fair of Texas has always been an annoyance.
Between people parking in my complex, increased foot traffic and the resulting garbage left on the streets, I’ve always dreaded the first couple of weeks of October. I don’t even want to think about Red River Rivalry weekend. A friend of mine convinced me to try to stow away all this baggage and give the State Fair a chance, so off I went.
Walking to Fair Park was a very good choice. There is a reason DART has a station directly in front of the venue. Free parking in the area is not plentiful. I saw signs for upwards of $20 to park. I highly recommend using the DART station for anyone not so blessed to live close to such an amazing venue. Upon arriving, slightly before noon, I had expected some sort of line for tickets. None at all. Another lesson learned for the first-timer: arrive early. Dallas doesn’t like to get up before noon on a Saturday. An adult ticket at $17 before discounts didn’t seem too bad, really. My opinion on that would drastically change a bit later, though.
Immediately upon entering the venue, I was hit by the overwhelming theme of the State Fair: food. Food everywhere. I could not walk 50 feet without seeing another food booth. I had always sort of chuckled at the State Fair meme, “deep fry everything,” but seeing it in person was something else. I stopped off at the local food ticket booth and purchased $60 in tickets. This would clearly not make even a small dent in everything I wanted to try. I looked down at my gut, which simply told me, “Challenge accepted.”
I knew there were at least three classic things I had to try: a Fernie’s Funnel Cake, a Fletcher’s Corny Dog and a turkey leg. All three were tasty. I had apple caramel sauce on top of the funnel cake, which was simply divine. I decided against trying any more of the fried delicacies, as I was close to being able to roll myself down a bowling alley for a strike.
I hit up the various exhibits at the fair, mainly because they were free. I was quickly coming to the conclusion that this was going to be an expensive afternoon. I was let down by the car show, as it was just a showroom for various local dealers. The most exotic vehicle was the 2015 Nissan GT-R.
I really was expecting farm animals at the fair, cows and pigs and the like. I went to my first fair as a child. I competed in a greased pig contest, and it might have been the most fun thing I ever did. I didn’t run into any of that, and I was disappointed. The one wildlife exhibit I found was pretty small, but I did get to touch a baby crocodile.
I later learned I had just missed all the animals by making a wrong turn. That may be my most lasting impression of walking around Fair Park looking at the various exhibits. It’s big. I highly recommend actually using the map, unlike my stubborn self.
My last intended stop was the rides and games. By this time, I had spent about two hours walking around the park. Fantasia Barrino was just getting started on the Chevy Main Stage. Not my cup of tea, but the crowd seemed to be into it. The concert area was almost full.
I hadn’t been paying attention to it beforehand, but the place was now getting packed. I made a beeline over to the Midway game area before the lines got too long. When I got there, however, I was a little shocked. None of the rides had lines, and most were only half full, waiting for people to get on. It did feel a bit odd, until I started to look at the prices. Most rides cost 10 tickets, or $5 per person. That’s enough to make anyone on a budget take pause for a three-minute ride. With a bit of a bad taste in my mouth over the money grab I was starting to feel the fair to be, I did hit a couple of the classic rides, such the Ferris wheel and the bumper cars. They were fun, I suppose, but I was still in a bit of shock over the prices.
As I slowly made my way toward the Fair Park exit, I stopped and tried the various, weird fried foods I had seen earlier. Most were simply too much for me, but I did enjoy the fried Reeses’s and the Sriracha balls. Most of the different items I tried would have been much better without that trip to the deep fryer, such as the fried s’mores and fried lemonade. Making my way out of the gate about 15 pounds heavier than I started sort of summed up my general feelings about the fair. It was fun and I had a good time, but everything was a bit overdone and pricey.
I’ll probably go back again with friends in the future. As I walked back to my house seeing the garbage littering the street already, I still looked forward to it being gone more than it showing up again.