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America’s 10 Best State Fairs Will Teach Your Kid The Joy Of Fried Food On A Stick

Flickr / George

There’s nothing like a great state fair: The sounds of the midway. The sights of the pavilions. The sensation of biting into a fried Snickers bar while you’re being flipped around in a rickety steel cage. U-S-A! U-S-A!

While these expos have been around since the start of the 19th century, providing good PR for the agricultural lifestyle, today they’re more about what you can throw into a Frialator or what 90s band is still touring. But there are a bunch of places that still turn these annual celebrations up to 11. Luckily for you, the State Fair season starts now! Check out the greasy things you need to eat, rides you need to fear, and big concerts you need to attend with your family, conveniently broken down state-by-state.

Minnesota State Fair

August 25 – September 5
Thing To Eat: Spam sushi. Sure, there’s lots of other fried weirdness, but you came to taste the weirdest.
Thing To Do: Go see Garrison Keillor play on his home turf. He’s already hung up his mic for A Prairie Home Companion, but you can still hear him wax “land of a thousand lakes” in the Minnesota Show.
Music To Listen To: Alabama are 18-time veterans of this fair, but they’re playing again this year for the first time since 2001. Why aren’t they playing Alabama, you ask? Hey, look, Weezer is playing, too.
Minnesota State Fair

State Fair Of Texas

September 30 – October 23
Thing To Eat: Fried jambalaya. Because you’re curious how a stew becomes a solid.
Thing To Do: If you’re not competing in one of the 950+ categories — from cooking to taxidermy — then take your kids to catch up with the Clydesdales. The big news of this year’s State Fair of Texas is that the Budweiser Clydesdale horses will be making their first appearance at the fair since 2005. But will they play new stuff, or the greatest hits?
Music To Listen To: Head to the main stage to check out Kacey Musgraves, who is everything that bro country isn’t.
State Fair Of Texas

Wisconsin State Fair

August 4 – August 14
Thing To Eat: Your kids couldn’t be prouder of you for entering the fair’s sixth annual jalapeno-eating contest. And your toilet couldn’t be more fearful.
Thing To Do: Give your kids an introduction to falconry at a demo exhibit called “Vulture Visit/Hawk Talk.” Of course, if you end up buying a raptor you’re probably going to have to separate it from the family hamster.
Music To Listen To: The Beach Boys are performing without Brian Wilson. But you may just want to see Salt-N-Pepa. At least they kept their original lineup.
Wisconsin State Fair

Arizona State Fair

October 7 – October 30
Thing To Eat: Bacon-wrapped Jack Daniel’s. It’s a whisky-soaked churro wrapped in bacon and served with syrup. It’s basically one level of shame above sitting on a bench and eating a bag of flour.
Thing To Do: Cash in on free rides at the amusement park. If you sign a form verifying that your kid read 3 books so far this summer, they’ll get 3 free rides. Just don’t let them read that ride’s warning sign.
Music To Listen To: The concert lineup hasn’t been formally released yet, but the fair solicited ideas from its Facebook followers on which musical acts it ought to book. Last year Bret Michael, Meat Loaf, and Sheryl Crow showed up. So, something like that.
Arizona State Fair

Iowa State Fair

August 11 – August 21
Thing To Eat: Ice cream nachos. That’s cinnamon ice cream, chocolate chips, peanuts, hot fudge, caramel, and strawberries. You’ve never called nachos refreshing — until now!
Thing To Do: You must visit the fair’s famous Butter Cow, sculpted every year and kept on display for the duration of the fair. It’s made out of 600 pounds of Iowa-made butter. It’s also the only sculpted dairy product to have its own Twitter account.
Music To Listen To: KISS is in town. Show your kid that vomiting blood in platform heels can be a viable career option.
Iowa State Fair

Indiana State Fair

August 2 – August 11
Thing To Eat: Bacon cheeseburgers on donut buns. Donuts are made of bread, right?
Thing To Do: The thrice-daily Timberworks Lumberjack Show. If logrolling isn’t your scene, here are 200 things other things to do for free.
Music To Listen To: Want to see Blues Traveler? No. Wanna see Blues Traveler for free? Oh, hell yes!
Indiana State Fair

North Carolina State Fair

October 13 – October 23
Thing To Eat: Should a pickle should be deep-fried and covered with peanut butter? Stop with the philosophizing, Plato, and just eat it!
Thing To Do: Teach your kid where food comes from (although the fried-pickle is unexplainable) by bringing them to the miniature farm. Hopefully this is separated from the petting zoo.
Music To Listen To: Last year perennial country classic Charlie Daniels Band played (it was their 12,384 time playing “Devil Went Down To Georgia”). You’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s on tap this year.
North Carolina State Fair

New York State Fair
The Best State Fairs For Your Family

August 25 – September 5
Thing To Eat: Get the Empire State specialty: Deep-fried kangaroo.
Thing To Do: It’s a lot of their little pony, as horse shows dominate the agenda. Sports memorabilia guys and gun collectors also are well-represented (just don’t try to haggle with the gun collectors).
Music To Listen To: Remember when swing music had its resurgence in the late 1990s? Show your kids how you wooed their mother with your jitterbug skills at the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy show.
New York State Fair

Ohio State Fair

July 27 – August 7
Thing To Eat: Jumbo Stuffed Crab Tater Tots. Crustaceans, meet your kid’s cafeteria.
Thing To Do: Whether you’re inked yourself or just find body art interesting, you have the opportunity to attend Ohio’s Best Tattoo Contest. Perhaps you’ll use it as an opportunity to teach your kid a lesson about poor decision-making.
Music To Listen To: Gods of prog rock, Yes, will be there. Teach your kids why owners of a lonely heart are much better than owners of a broken heart.
Ohio State Fair

Kentucky State Fair

August 18 – 28
Thing To Eat: The fried “hot brown” on a stick pays homage to the local sandwich — by submerging it in hot oil.
Thing To Do: They may not remember Lassie, but you can still show them how a well-trained border collie exhibits feats of obedience at the dog show. Prepare yourself for cries of, “I want one!”
Music To Listen To: Ashanti’s playing the main stage. Ja Rule is nowhere to be found.
Kentucky State Fair

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