The State Fair of Texas

For three weeks each autumn, Dallas becomes home to all Texans: farmers, ranchers, home cooks, rodeo junkies, gridiron fans and music lovers, all of whom converge on the city for the great State Fair of Texas.

Staged just east of the downtown area in the beautiful 277-acre spread of art deco buildings known as Fair Park, the State Fair represents a grand tradition that began in 1886.

It’s the nation’s largest such gathering, pulling in
more than three million attendees each year, all of whom get a hearty welcome from Big Tex, a 52-foot mechanical cowboy with size 70 boots and a 75-gallon hat, who has waved at visitors and offered a drawling ‘Howdy, Folks!’ since 1952.

Many guests coming to the fair do so for one of the two successive Saturdays on which classic college football grudge matches are held at the Cotton Bowl: the showdown between Grambling University and Prairie View A&M, followed by the Red River Rivalry between the universities of Texas and Oklahoma.

Throughout the fair, various music stages welcome stars such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Pat Green, and the Dixie Chicks. Each night, there’s the Starlight Parade, led by the U.S. Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps, complete with lighted floats, stilt walkers and giant puppets.

Other big draws include the State Fair Auto Show, showcasing next year’s vehicles and fancy pickup trucks; a classic car show; daily cooking contests; the ever-popular pig races and corn-dog-eating contests; and, of course, the Midway (amusement park), offering carnival games, thrill rides and food booths.

Among the 70 rides is the 212-foot Texas Star, the tallest Ferris wheel in North America. More than a few people come each year to eat the beloved Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, famous since 1942, along with a heart-stopping number of other fried goodies, including fried Twinkies, fried pork ribs and fried cheesecake.

While you’re in Fair Park, take time to explore its nine museums, halls and memorials, including the beautiful Texas Hall of State, home to the Dallas Historical Society; the exceptional African American Museum; the Age of Steam Museum, a terrific place for railroad and train buffs; and the Women’s Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate that details the lives of more than 3,000 accomplished American women.

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