Going to the annual state fair is a tradition that dates back to the 1800s. Back then, state fairs were a way for farmers to promote agriculture and sell their livestock. Today, you can still view and purchase livestock at state fairs. They've grown to include ideas for kids to get involved, especially through 4H groups.
In addition to animals and agriculture, state fairs are also known for carnival games, rides, and, of course, all kinds of fried delicacies and foods.
Above all else, state fairs are a great way to get to know a particular state's local culture and history, not to mention a great place to try unique foods from every state.
If you're traveling this summer and ready to get your hands on some local flavor, check out these seven state fairs that are worth attending.
Delaware State Fair
The Delaware State Fair started in 1919 and takes place in late July every year. It's located in central Delaware and brings together people from the entire state in one centralized location. With livestock and non-livestock agricultural competitions, the Delaware State Fair keeps the tradition of supporting and promoting farming and agriculture going.
In addition to keeping history and tradition alive, the Delaware State Fair also hosts concerts from world-famous singers every year. Adults can enjoy the expansive beer garden and wine tasting, plus a circus, helicopter rides, and a unique giraffe menagerie and petting zoo.
Also worth noting is the low ticket price for entry. Adults can get into the fair for just $9 per ticket, and kids are free under six or $4 for ages six to twelve.
The State Fair of Texas
Well, as they say, everything's bigger in Texas, and that goes for state fairs too. The Texas State Fair is the largest in the country. It's also the longest, running an impressive 24 days from late September through early October. Over two million visitors attend the fair every year, and, interestingly enough, that number has held steady since 1949, when the fair first hit the two million mark.
The State Fair of Texas began in 1886 as the Dallas State Fair & Exposition. It currently takes place at the historical fair park, located in Dallas, Texas. Big Tex greets every visitor. He's a 52-foot tall cowboy who was first introduced to the fair in the 1950s. During that same decade, famous visitors including Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon also came to the fair.
Along with traditional state fair activities like livestock, carnival games, rides, and food, you can also watch live college football at Cotton Bowl Stadium. The stadium is conveniently inside the fairgrounds. A ticket to the game includes a ticket to the state fair, so plan on a busy Saturday.
Minnesota State Fair
As we jump from one of the most populated states to one of the least, it might come as a surprise that the Minnesota State Fair is the second largest in the country. It's also referred to as "the great American get together," and brings in close to two million visitors every year.
Spread out over 320 acres, the Minnesota State Fair runs from late August until early September. It's been running since 1859 and continues to draw crowds from across the Midwest. The Minnesota State Fair is perhaps best known for the food, with over 300 concession booths that feature more than 500 delicious and exotic fair delicacies. There's everything from classics like deep-fried cheese curds and corn dogs to new foods like sriracha funnel cake bites.
Iowa State Fair
If you've ever wanted to see a life-size cow butter sculpture up close and in person, then look no further than the Iowa State Fair. The now-iconic butter sculpture is just for looking, not eating. So you'll also want to check out the wide variety of "food on a stick" fare.
Running during early August, the Iowa State Fair is the most significant event in the state and is also one of the oldest state fairs in the country. It attracts over a million people per year from Iowa and surrounding states. It is the inspiration for the novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, along with the three motion pictures and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway musical of the same name. Whenever you see a depiction of a state fair in film, you're probably getting a glimpse of the Iowa State Fair.
California State Fair
The California State Fair brings a uniquely Californian twist to the tradition of state fairs. Sample beers from the best California breweries at Brew Fest, take in some live-action horse racing at the horse races, or try your hand at one of the many competitions, including eating contests and a Cornhole tournament, held throughout the fair
Located in the state capital of Sacramento, the California State Fair has been running for 160 years. It takes place during the hot month of July, but there are plenty of air-conditioned buildings to go into if you need a break from the heat.
The Great New York State Fair
If you want to take a trip to the east coast, make sure to check out the Great New York State Fair, which takes place in August and September each year. This 13-day celebration has been going on for almost 175 years and is a tradition in New York state. Located in Syracuse, New York, people from across the state along with Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, and Ottawa attend the fair every year.
This fair is great for live music lovers, as the fair features top talent from across musical genres every year. It's also perfect for foodies who will love the Taste NY booth, which brings fair-goers together with the people who make some of the best foods in the state. Sample food and drink for free.
The Fryeburg Fair
If you're a woman who has thrown a cast iron skillet or two in her day, or if you want to watch other women throw cast iron skillets for sport, then make your way to the Fryeburg Fair in Maine. Along with the skillet throw, the fair also features harness racing, mechanical pulls, tractor pulls, pig scrambles, and sheepdog trials.
The Fryeburg Fair has been a tradition since 1851. It attracts fewer people than other fairs on our list (around 225,000 per year), which means it's less crowded than the others. Add this one to your state fair bucket list if you want to go to a fair that has a unique event lineup in the heart of Maine.