Big Tex. Fried foods. And a lineup of Texas music artists. All this can only mean one thing: The State Fair of Texas returns to Fair Park on Fri., Sept. 30. 🗓️
The first state fair was proposed in 1886 and because local leaders couldn’t decide where the event should take place, there were two fairs. The Dallas State Fair took place on 80 acres in Fair Park and the Texas State Fair & Exposition opened just north of town near North Dallas High School. The two sides eventually came together in 1887 and by 1916, the annual event welcomed one million people for the first time.
With less than 100 days until the fair kicks off, we’re giving you the run-down of what’s happening this year at Fair Park. Ride with us.
🎟️ Hours, tickets, parking
- During its 24 days, the fair runs Fri., Sept. 30-Sun., Oct. 23 and the gates will open at 9 a.m.
- Tickets + parking passes are available online. Admission costs $5-$25.
- Parking is available on site — prices range from $20-$40 depending on the proximity to the fairgrounds. Check out the directions to get to the gates.
- Pro tip: If you arrive after 5 p.m., all guests will pay the price of a child’s ticket.
🎤 The concerts
Some big names are headlining this year’s concert series on the Chevrolet Main Stage, Bud Light Stage, and Yuengling Stage. More than 90 performers will take the stage this year — 74 of those hail from the Lone Star State. Pro tip: a fair ticket will get you free admission to all concerts.
- Summer Dean | Fri., Sept. 30 | 1,3 + 5 p.m. | Bud Light Stage
- Ashanti | Sat., Oct. 1 | 4 p.m. | Chevrolet Main Stage
- Ryan Glen | Fri., Oct. 7 | 2,4 + 6 p.m. | Yuengling Stage
- Frankie Leonie | Fri., Oct. 14 | 1,3 + 5 p.m. | Bud Light Stage
- Fitz & The Tantrums | Sat., Oct. 15 | 8:30 p.m. | Chevrolet Main Stage
Check out the full list of performers.
🎡 The theme
“Treats of Texas” is this year’s theme, highlighting fan-favorite foods like corny dogs, funnel cakes, and turkey legs. According to a press release, the commemorative art was designed to “represent the diverse variety of foods the State Fair has to offer.” The artwork features anthropomorphic caricatures of items like dill pickles, cotton candy and craft beer.
🍗 The fried fair fare
As always, expect a lot of fried food along the midway, as well as the winners of last year’s Big Tex Choice Awards. Since 2005, the Big Tex Choice Awards has welcomed new chefs into the exclusive club of fried food creations. Everything from Deep Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls to Fernie’s Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake has made it to the final round of the contest.
On Wed., Aug. 10, the State Fair of Texas announced the 10 finalists of the 18th Annual Big Tex Choice Awards competition. After weeks of deliberation, 51 entries were narrowed down to five savory and five sweet dishes after a blind taste testing. The contestants will compete for one of three winning titles: “Best Taste – Savory,” “Best Taste – Sweet,” and “Most Creative.”
The chosen dishes include:
- Chicharron Explosion Nachos | Fried pork rinds + beef fajitas over crispy nachos smothered in cheese.
- Deep Fried BLT | Fried tortilla-wrapped bacon as sandwich bread for fresh lettuce and tomatoes.
- Deep Fried Lasagna Roll | Who said lasagna wasn’t finger food? Served with a side of fried zucchini.
- Fried Charcuterie Board | Meats, cheeses, and fruits fried inside a golden wonton wrapper.
- Holy Biscuit | Shredded brisket, street corn, thick-cut bacon, and honey on a homemade southern biscuit.
- Cha-Cha Chata | This milkshake is a mamba in your mouth.
- Deep Fried Rocky Road with Blue Bell Ice Cream | Fried ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, sweetened condensed milk, mini marshmallows and nuts.
- La Bluebonnet | Citrus and blueberry drink with a lemon-mint-berry twist.
- Peanut Butter Paradise | Deep-fried honey bun topped with peanut butter, Reese’s Pieces, Butterfingers, and caramel.
The Ultimate Brookie Monster | Chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, and marshmallows baked into a brownie.
The finalists will compete in the final round at this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards ceremony. Until then, check out last year’s winning concoctions.
🐮 The exhibits
The fair is known for its exhibits spanning all kinds of interests. Here are a few that we’re excited about:
Rodeo | Fair Park Coliseum | From high-energy bull riding to wild cow milking, you won’t want to miss the ride.
Pig Races | Marine Corp Square | Dressed in racing suits, little piglets will run the race four times a day in their new outdoor home.
African American Museum | Grand Ave. next to Gate 5 | The museum showcases African American fine art + traditional African art and historical artifacts dating back to the 1800s.
Children’s Aquarium | On the corner of MLK Jr. Blvd. and First Ave. | Kids can enjoy eye-level interactive exhibits and learn about aquatic friends.
Celebrity Chef Kitchen | Creative Arts building | Chefs prepare a favorite signature dish + share kitchen tips with the audience.
Butter Sculpture | Creative Arts building | A local sculpturist uses 1,000 lbs of butter to create a refrigerated display depicting the fair’s yearly theme.
Creative Arts Contest | Creative Arts building | The winners of this year’s Creative Arts contest — focused on arts, craft, and food — will be on display for millions to view.
For a full roundup of daily events, check out this year’s attractions.
📝 Final game plan
Of course, no fair is complete without rides + games, and the Texas State Fair will have plenty of those, too. This daily calendar of events will also help you map out your visit. Whatever you do, give yourself plenty of time to explore, bring sunscreen + wear your stretchy pants and comfy shoes.