It’s fair time! As we mourn the end of summer, the nation’s great state fairs give us something to look forward to in the fall. And we suggest getting out your calendars, because some of the best fairs are either under way right now or coming up soon. Here are the eight we feel deserve blue ribbons.
Alaska State Fair (August 21 – September 1)
You’d think Alaska’s short growing season would work against it, but 18 hours of sunshine from June to August can turn an ordinary fruit or vegetable into one ginormous piece of produce. Visitors come from Alaska and beyond to see the fair’s giant prize winners, which in the past have included: a 20-pound carrot; 83-pound rutabaga; 1,101-pound pumpkin; and 138-pound cabbage. If that’s not enough to get you to the fair, come for the full metal, un-choreographed daily jousts.
Great New York State Fair (August 21 – September 1)
New York’s state fair draws great performers like Kid Rock, Journey, and Carried Underwood, but for some the real attraction is the Wine Village, featuring the state’s best offerings in 5-ounce glasses. This year, though, the program’s been expanded to the Taste NY Wine, Beer & Spirits Village — which means that in addition to New York wines, you’ll be able to purchase mixed drinks made with spirits distilled in the Empire State, craft beer brewed in-state, and a glass of local hard cider.
Minnesota State Fair (August 21 – September 1)
It isn’t its size — the second largest behind Texas — that sets the Minnesota State Fair apart; it’s this fair’s emphasis on agriculture. During the fair’s 12-day run, you can witness the birth of approximately 200 calves, lambs, and piglets at the Miracle of Birth Center. $1 dollar gets you unlimited milk at the All-You-Can-Drink-Milk booth, and you can cheer for your favorite farmers as they compete in milking, butter carving, and animal calling contests.
State Fair of Texas (September 26 – October 19)
Unsurprisingly, Texas goes big when it comes to its state fair, the largest in the nation. More than 75 thrill rides — including the 500-foot-high Top o’ Texas Tower, 1,800-foot-long aerial Skyway gondola, and 212-foot-high Texas Star Ferris Wheel — pack the Dallas park, presided over by the fair’s 55-foot mascot, Big Tex. When you work up a big appetite, look for fried Sriracha balls, fried gulf shrimp boil, and funnel cake ale.
Georgia National Fair (October 2 – October 12)
The Georgia National Fair, held in Perry, is the official state-sponsored fair of Georgia. And it has a lot going for it, including a Georgia Grown exhibit featuring 20,000-square feet of the best that the state has to offer. It also has three horse shows and attracts popular acts like Lady Antebellum and Jennifer Nettles.
Arizona State Fair (October 10 – November 2)
At the Arizona State Fair, you can watch Native American dancers perform, cheer on cowboys competing in rodeo events, and sample Southwestern favorites like fry bread and aqua fresca. The fair is also known for its solid concert line-up — you’ll see Darius Rucker and Barenaked Ladies this year — as well as 75 Midway rides and more than 100 food booths. Oh, and did we mention the lemur races?
Bonus: Iowa State Fair (August 7-15, 2015)
You’ll have to catch the Iowa State Fair next year, since it was held earlier this month, but jot the dates down now. This is the granddaddy of state fairs with nearly 200 concession stands serving 50 different on-a-stick treats. It also boasts the world’s largest livestock shows and hundreds of competitive events and wacky contests. That’s not to mention the butter sculpture, which this year took the form of the cast of “Field of Dreams.” Yes, there was a Kevin Costner butter sculpture.
Bonus: Kentucky State Fair
The Kentucky State Fair has also come and gone, but keep it in mind for next year, especially if you love all things equestrian. More than 2,000 horses compete here in the World’s Championship Horse Show for $1 million in prizes. That’s not to mention the quarter horse and miniature horse shows. Plus, Kentucky draws some serious big names to its concert line-up. Free concerts in the past have included Plain White T’s, Scott McCreery, Newsboys, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.