News and Features

Art&Seek Jr: A Guide To Fun Stuff At The Fair

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

Here’s a true story that many of you can relate to.

Every year, as we’re working our way through the Midway at the State Fair of Texas, my sister and I like to sample the, uh … cuisine while Rose and my brother-in-law are testing out some spinning, whirling, stomach-churning ride. We do this mostly to pass the time. I need a diversion as my child is hurled about like she’s on some sort of out-of-control paint-mixing machine. Also, my sister and I have a running contest to see who can undo months of dieting the fastest. Last year, as we began our fried-fest follies, we both got a hankering for Fried Praline Perfection, one of the past winners of the Big Tex Choice Awards. Our desire quickly turned to obsession as it became apparent that a “fried praline stand” wasn’t just right around the corner. Desperation forced us off-road and into buildings as we searched for the elusive pastry; all the while Rose protesting loudly, “But we’re missing all the good rides!” It was only after we had covered the entire perimeter of Fair Park that we discovered the Fried Praline Perfection was not part of the lineup of food items for sale. Dejected and disappointed, we settled for a fried s’More instead, while my brother-in-law and Rose disappeared back into the Midway with mutterings of “wasted time” flying over their shoulders.

AS-State-Fair-Map

Click on the map to make it big! (original map from the State Fair of Texas; additional artwork by Tom Pribyl)

My family learned two valuable things from the Great Fried Praline Debacle of 2012: 1) Some food items don’t automatically return year after year. I guess it’s sort of like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders – no matter how delicious you are, you still have to try out each year for a spot on the team. 2) You’d better have a plan if you’re going to get between a kid and her Midway rides.

With that cautionary tale in mind, we’ve compiled a handy-dandy list (and map) of some of the things you and the tinies should not pass up at this year’s Great State Fair of Texas.

1.  Just south of the front gate, behind the Music Hall, you’ll find the Mapapa African Acrobats at the Truck Zone Stage. These guys will amaze you with their tumbling, contortions, dancing and human pyramids. There’s also some audience participation, so be sure to brush up on your juggling. You can catch them daily at noon, 1, 2, 3 and an extra show at 4 p.m. on the weekend.

2. The Fair food fare is pretty spectacular this year, but I’m thinking that the deep-fried Nutella might just take the cake (sorry for being so punny). What could be better than cream cheese and Nutella whipped together, spread on phyllo dough, deep fried and then drizzled with honey? Am I making you hungry? Well then, just walk yourselves over to the food booths outside the Embarcadero for this sweet treat.

See Big Tex as you've never seen him--made of butter! (photo: Kim Whitaker)

See Big Tex as you’ve never seen him – made of butter! (Photo: Ethan Tolentino)

3. There’s nothing people like to see better at the State Fair than animals racing. Sure, we’ve all seen dogs race, pigs race and even the occasional armadillo race. But how many of you have seen an ostrich race? Not many I’d wager. Here’s your chance to check ostrich racing off your “Seen It, Done It” list. You can watch these big birds fly around the track at the Pan Am Arena at 6, 6:45 and 7:45 p.m. daily.

4. One can’t-miss attraction at the State Fair that’s educational, artistic and quirky all at the same time is the enormous butter sculpture. Year after year I’m amazed at the skill required to create this annual dairy masterpiece. I mean, c’mon, that’s a lot of butter! This year’s sculpture is an ode to everyone’s favorite cowboy, entitled Welcome Back Big Tex. The butter sculpture can be tricky to find; look for it in Creative Arts Pavilion.

5. For a double dose of cute, have the little Buckaroos grab a hat, bandana and (stick) horse and compete in the Pee Wee Stampede. Kids race around the Ranch Arena while mom and dad encourage them on from the sidelines. Daily at noon, 1:30 and 4, with an 11:30 a.m. show added on Oct. 11 and Oct. 14.

6. After you’re finished with the Stampede, and while you’re in the neighborhood, have your kids look for the Woofus. He’s a funny little animal comprised of six animals (a sheep, a duck, a horse, a turkey, a hog and a longhorn) that sits on a pedestal near the Swine barn.

chinese lantern

Grab someone you love and go see the Chinese Lantern Festival while you’re at the fair! (Photo: Shelley Crist)

7. If the tot-lettes liked the Pee Wee Stampede, and you’re needing more cute pictures, then head over to the Ag Power Plaza for the Kid’s Pedal Tractor Pulls. Wee farmers 4-12 can test their pedal tractor skills while (you guessed it) the parental units root from the sidelines. Daily at 12:20 p.m., 2, 3:30 and 5.

8.  Outside the entrance to the Midway on the McDonald’s Stage is a golden opportunity to embarrass the older kids in your group.  The Giant Sing-Along invites fairgoers to sing their heart’s out, karaoke style. There’s a field of 16 microphones to choose from, so your whole group can belt out that Bon Jovi song together.

9.  As you’re making your way to the Texas Star, be sure to stop in the Greenhouse on the Midway and take a look at Farmer Mike’s colossal pumpkin carvings. Known as the “Picasso of Pumpkin Carvers,” Mike starts with a ginormous pumpkin and whittles out 3-D faces that only a mother could love. You can catch Mike at work on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

10. If you missed it last year, don’t worry, the Chinese Lantern Festival is back! With 24 spectacular lantern displays (17 that are new), it’s definitely a reason to stay late at the fair. One of the more eye-catching displays is the Imperial Dragon Boat that sits in the middle of the lagoon. At over 300 feet long, it’s big enough to welcome passengers aboard.

11. Finally, here’s hoping you never need it, but just in case you misplace a child (or two), head over to the Safe Kids Corral located near the Midway Arch. Children who have been separated from parents are escorted there by Police Officers, where they are looked after until you arrive.

Have fun!

Therese Powell is an Art&Seek calendar coordinator and KERA-TV producer. She spends most of her free time seeking out adventures for her 8-year-old daughter, Rose. Tell us about your ideas for kid adventures by leaving a comment. Or e-mail Therese at tpowell@kera.org.