What a better way to experience the true lifestyle and heartbeat of a state, than to attend it’s state fair… I mean, how much more southern can you get than turkey legs and corn on a stick, fried peaches and cream, fried cheesecake, fried bread, fried butter… yes, fried butter… fried onions, fried jalapenos, fried pickles, fried bananas, and fried ice cream. The State Fair of Texas, held in the heart of Dallas and home to the Cotton Bowl Stadium is not for the weak of heart… nor those of high cholesterol!
The community that surrounds the state fair really reminds me of my trip to Spain, and even of other parts of our country. There are just ways that people have figured out how to do things. For instance, all the bus drivers in Spain respond to your body language, for whether or not to pick you up at a stop. If you are hanging back, and not looking at them, they will just fly right on by. In Athens, the street restaurant maitre d’ will say ‘Come sit down! Best food in all of Greece!’, and if you don’t continue to walk, you will find yourself bottle of wine in hand, a loaf of break, and lots of pictures of octopus and lamb on the menu. Every type of vendor has their special way of calling you in. At the State Fair of Texas, it starts with the parking. The self-designated attendants, who rent their grass lots surrounding the Fair Park for the 28 days of the state fair a year, all have orange flags. You know if they have parking in their lot by the way they snap their flags, and whistle at you, ‘Yeah! Here! Right here!’ and direct you into their lots. It’s a pretty good system, actually. For twenty dollars, you have someone watching your car ‘untih the las’ one isall’ outta he’ya!’
The state fair itself is ginormous. Then, add the 80,000 crazy Oklahoma Sooner and Texas Longhorn fans, and the place is packed with orange, red and the screams from the carnival. The Red River Rivalry (which I read off of the tshirts being sold at one of about 500 booths) isn’t something to be taken lightly. It’s in the livestock barns we really felt at home. The sweet straw, and the sounds of livestock reasons… for some reason, this huge 28 day extravaganza, which includes a permanent Ferris Wheel as well, is almost like being at county fair. It’s Texas, so people are still friendly, still say yessir and yes ma’am. The country music is fabulous, and even the small-time singers aren’t afraid to pick sides… or maybe they are. The livestock and agricultural section of the fair was amazing; they did an excellent job of showing and educating the public about the animals. Each breed of beef, sheep and swine was present, with a stall card briefly describing the history of the breed and it’s place in the tier of Texas agriculture. The Food and Fiber building had interactive booths, milk tasting, and a wine tasting area outside in the amazingly dry, pleasant and warm air. The ENTIRE fair is ran off of carnival tickets… 12 tickets for the deep fried cheesecake, 8 for a fresh squeezed lemonade.
Football is definitely a topic people reach with the delicacy of politics (although, generally good-naturedly); yet in Texas, most people aren’t afraid to talk about that either. President Obama made an appearance last Friday during a ceremony which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Points of Light community service project started by Bush senior in the 1980s. He arrived amid the picketing and anti-health care rally, full of ‘Don’t tread on me’ signs and American flags. Every week, I find more and more that it’s not often that you find a Texan that doesn’t say what he means… and right or wrong, they have at least found something to dedicate themselves to, a cause for which they can stand up and fight-even if it’s in a way that us West-Coasters may find a little less kosher or politically correct. There is something to be said for passion, pride and a deep love of country that is hard to find in such a large population as south-east Texas.