Best State Fairs Guide

How Did State Fairs Begin

A state fair is a United States phenomenon. It is a gathering place where a state’s residents gather, typically about once per year in the summer, to compete and to enjoy activities. It wasn’t always like that. State fairs in the 1800’s and early 1900’s focused on agricultural improvements (New York State Fair), farming, displaying of livestock (Iowa State Fair) and the selling or display of farm products like corn and oats. Only in later years did State Fairs understand its potential audience and began marketing to it. Model vehicle and truck displays are now displayed (State Fair of Texas), amusement rides are common as are games, live bands, human and animal races, arts and crafts competitions and exhibitions, baked goods (apple pies!), jams, jellies, barbecued meats and more. There’s even a Guinness world record holder that builds the tallest buildings made of playing cards (State Fair of Texas).

Larger fairs like the State Fair of Texas, Iowa State Fair, Arizona State Fair, Minnesota State Fair, and the Great New York State Fair average over 1 million visitors over the course of a 1-2 week run. The State Fair of Texas attracts over 3 million people. In state fair competitions, it is normal for 1st place finishers to receive a blue ribbon, 2nd place finishers to receive a red ribbon, and 3rd place finishers to receive a white ribbon – all colors in accordance with our nations flag colors.

Kid-friendly Vacations the whole Family will enjoy.

The Best Local State Fairs Directory is your guide to finding fun and educational state fairs to visit during your summer holiday. Visiting the state fair has been a favorite kid-friendly vacation for more than 100 years, offering wholesome good fun for the whole family.

While state fairs still spotlight the agriculture, competitions, events and carnival rides loved by millions, they’ve also changed to meet the needs of 21st century visitors. In recent years, state fairs have modernized to cut costs, become more efficient and reduced negative environmental impacts.

State Fairs Get Efficient to Help Keep Family Vacations Inexpensive.

  • In 2007, the New York State Fair began allowing visitors to use the EZ-Pass to pay for parking.EZ-Pass, New York’s electronic toll collection system, automatically collects the fair parking fee and quickly admits visitors into the fairgrounds. The money and time saved using EZ-Pass helps reduce operating costs, allowing the state fair to pass the savings on to visitors looking for an inexpensive family vacation.
  • Many state fairs now let volunteers, contestantsand vendors register on-line to expedite processes and allow forefficient record-keeping, too. The cost savings measure helps keep tripsto the state fair inexpensive for family vacation.
  • Like many festivals, state fairs have started going green. The Wisconsin State Fair has been recognized by the Wisconsin state board of tourism for encouraging staff and vendors to recycle and reduce waste. In 2006, the Wisconsin State Fair reduced the amount of garbage they send annually to landfills by several tons and cut back on annual utility usage by one-third. The state fair’s efforts to go green include educating visitors on the importance of cutting back on clutter and caring for our environment- a great lesson for children to learn while at home or on vacation.

State Fairs: A Tradition of Favorite Summer Food Recipes, Fun Events and Famous People.

The food, the fun and the celebrities: you’ll find them all when you visit the state fair. Doug Melvin of Boise, Idaho tells us some of the history of favorite summer food recipes at the state fair; Catherine Woods of Mobulls in West Plains, Missouri brings us up to speed on a motorsports event that’s a real find: the demolition derby; and Nicholas Lane of Detroit, Michigan talks about state fair celebrity visitors.

When you’re looking for things to do with your kids, the state fair provides distraction, education and most of all fun- it’s the perfect pit stop during your summer vacation.

Favorite Summer Food Recipes at the State Fair: A History by Doug Melvin of Boise, Idaho. 

Since the early 1800’s recipe contests have been a part of state fairs. Men, women and children gear up by practicing ahead of time, and then bring their favorite summer food recipe to the fair to show it off. A prize for a best-winning recipe might be a ribbon, or in West Virginia, it’s the chance to have your specialty food marketed on grocery store shelves.

Fun Facts about Favorite Summer Food Recipes at the State Fair:

  • In 1852, Gail Borden, Jr. entered a recipe for a dried meat biscuit into the Texas State Fair competition. It didn’t win, but his condensed milk, developed later, is available in every grocery store today.
  • In the early 1960’s, a woman in St. Paul won 85 ribbons for her jelly at the Minnesota State Fair- bringing her total toover 3,000!
  • Old fashioned SPAM (canned ham, not junk email) has become a favorite summer food at state fairs everywhere, and many fairs include a SPAM category in their recipe competitions.

Best Local State Fairs Directory: The Demolition Derby by Catherine Woods of Mobulls in West Plains, Missouri.

You might be surprised to find a real motorsports event at the state fair. Catherine Woods tells the Best Local State Fairs Directory that he’s something of a demolition derby aficionado, attending county fair exhibitions and state fair demolition derbies, too. He describes the anticipation he feels every time he walks into the stands to see a show: “The smell of burning oil, the high keening of whirring engines and the loud crashing sounds emanating from the field can only be the demolition derby.” Fasten your seatbelt. And enjoy the demolition derby!

  • A real motorsports tradition at most county fairs, you can now find the demolition derby event at many state fairs, too.
  • The goal for each demolition derby driver is simple: crash your car intoas many other cars as possible, rendering them un-drivable. The driverscompete in heats; the winner of each round competes in the final round.The last car standing… err, running…wins.
  • Demolition derby drivers use junkers, cars that would be in the town dump if they weren’t resurrected for competition. Cars catch fire, they crumple and they stand on end once they’ve been crashed. It’s fast and it’s fun- and making side bets with your family on who will win each round makes it even more exciting.

Nicholas Lane’s Best Local State Fairs Directory: Celebrity Corn Dog Lovers.

Politicians, musicians, prizefighters and women suffragettes have at least one thing in common: they all love going to the state fair!

A Few Fun Facts about Historic Figures who Visited State Fairs:

  • Susan B. Anthony camped at the Oregon State Fair while campaigning for the women’s right to vote in 1871.
  • Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope, the Beatles, ElvisPresley, President John F. Kennedy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt,President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush have all made appearancesat the Indiana State fair.
  • The Iowa State Fair has hosted Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. Fun Fair Fact: Ronald Reagan broadcast his radio show from the Fairgrounds in the 1930s.

Best Local State Fairs Directory Gives You Plenty of Options, Lots of Ideas this Year.

The Best Local State Fairs Directory helps you learn a little bit more about parts of your state that you may never see: the rural towns, the hardworking farmers and the time and effort it takes to raise livestock and transport it to the state fair for competition and sales.

In the old days, state fairs were a place for farmers to sell livestock and for stay at home moms to compete in recipe competitions for the best jams and jellies. Today, the livestock competitions and sales include exotic animals and the recipe competitions have expanded to include gourmet items from a widespread group of male and female budding chefs. With carnival rides and midways, demolition derbies and plenty of top-notch people-watching, state fairs have transformed to become a favorite destination for families everywhere.

The State Fair is an Inexpensive Family Vacation that Everyone will Love :

  • Livestock and agriculture at the Minnesota State Fair, sporting activities at the State Fair of West Virginia and great food and dozens of entertainers at Wisconsin’s State Fair;
  • The Ohio State Fair focuses on competition while Oregon’s State fair brings arts and craftsto the table and the Illinois State Fair is just onebig party;
  • The State Fair of Texas showcases new cars, Iowa’s State Fair butters up with the Butter Cow and the North Dakota State Fair is strictly for cowboys (and cowgirls);
  • For family-friendly state fairs, try Kentucky’s State Fair for down-home fun, celebrate special days, i.e., senior citizens days, fireworks displays, with New York’s State Fair or check out the Michigan State Fair- they specialize in family fun.

This year, consider taking a detour during your family road trip, and visit some of the best state fairs in the country. You won’t regret it!

We thank our contributors:

  • Doug Melvin Boise Idaho
  • Catherine Woods, Mobulls, breeders of French and English bulldogs, West Plains, MO
  • Nicholas Lane Detroit, Michigan

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