It’s state fair season, y’all. The 2011 Big Tex Choice Awards winners were released today for the most creative and best-tasting fried foods (big difference) to be launched upon thousands of hungry fair-goers at the 125th annual State Fair of Texas. That’s right, step right up, folks, because beginning on September 30 you’ll be able to nosh on Fried Bubblegum and Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack…served with maple syrup. Swoon.
Okay, technically the fair doesn’t start for 24 days, but the announcement of the reigning fried food champions for the 2011 fair and the brisk 65 degrees (!!) that I woke up to this morning signal the beginning of fall. And fall means the fair. You see, going to the fair is an annual pilgrimage. It’s a right of passage. And this fair isn’t some hokey country carnival. By God, it’s the State Fair of Texas. It’s emceed by a 52-foot-tall man named Big Tex, attracts thousands of people each year and raked in a staggering $37 million last year during its’ three-week run. That is a
lot buttload of money considering the best food available comes on a stick. It hosts the Red River Shootout between arch-enemies University of Texas and University of Oklahoma (boo hiss). It features the largest ferris wheel in North America and there’s really no better way to spend a fall evening than riding the Texas Star with a funnel cake and a beer.
I keep hearing about folks who decry our blatant delight in fried excess and beer-soaked debauchery as an obesity and diabetes lovefest. Here’s what I have to say to you naysayers: You’ve clearly never been to the grandiosity that is the State Fair, and you’ve certainly never feasted your eyes on the perfection of a golden, steaming Fletcher’s Corny Dog lovingly wrapped in parchment paper and slathered in mustard. You’ve also probably never coughed-up $12 to throw three softballs at weighted bowling pins on the off-chance that you might win a 75-cent fake flower. Your loss, my friends.
During its three-week run, the stately Art Deco buildings of Fair Park watch as people pass through the exhibit halls, meander through the seizure-inducing light show of the Midway and chow down on artery-clogging goodness. Not feeling the Paleolithic-sized turkey legs? Or the deep-fried pineapple upside down cake? Not even the melt-in-your-mouth, so-delicious-it-should-be-a-sin fried butter? (Which incidentally is not actual pieces of fried butter…its just really buttery fried batter. So a buttery donut hole. Yum). Sure…you could have a salad…but that would be like going to Nobu and ordering chicken fried rice or putting ketchup on a steak.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just go. Go to the fair. If you’ve never been to Dallas…well…as someone who has grown up here, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not exactly Austin in terms of its tourist appeal. But for three weeks we have the state fair. And if you’ve never been to Texas, now’s your chance: football season and the state fair and fried bubblegum. If you’re from the Dallas area and have still never been to the fair, well…I’m sorry.
Is the Fair an excuse to indulge your wildest fried-food fantasies? Yep. Is the Midway horrifyingly overpriced? Certainly is. But you know what, it’s the Fair. Suck it up and soak up a little Americana. $12 to throw darts at some balloons? Don’t mind if I do. It’s the State Fair, baby!