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Deep-fried pickles and icy strawberry lemonade. Eat it all and try to keep it down on the tilt-a-whirl. Along with food you never knew could be fried, state fairs have long honored home-grown spirit and local agriculture and businesses. Many state fairs use the exposure to present new ideas and community startups. These 10 summer celebrations are trying something new this year while making sure the classics stay intact (don’t worry, there will still be plenty of deep fried goodness).
Giving Generously in Iowa
The Iowa State Fair, August 8-18, is focused on giving back from its farmers’ bounty. On opening day, volunteers will work for one-hour shifts to package 250,000 meals with an aim of alleviating worldwide hunger.
Fried And Fresh Options in California
Fried favorites like funnel cake and deep-fried green beans will still be available at the state fair, July 12-28, but California is offering more fresh options like grilled fish tacos and the “shrimp State Fair Tacos.”
A Year For Healing The “Big Tex” Burn
The State Fair of Texas is collecting donations to repair the damage to its 52-foot-tall “Big Tex” statue at this year’s fair, to be held September 27-October 20. The giant served as mascot from 1952 until his untimely death-by-fire last year. The last weekend of the 2012 festival, Tex went up in flames as the result of an electrical malfunction.
Mobile Options in Minnesota
For history buffs, the Minnesota State Fair offers a smartphone version of its Walking & Cell Phone Tour, August 22-September 2. With archival images, maps, text and audio, the self-guided tour turns the grounds into an exciting interactive museum. The organizers also created a “food finder” website and phone guide to guide you directly to the chocolate-covered bacon.
Homebrew Competition Gets Serious in Ohio
The Ohio State Fair, July 24-August 4 Homebrew Competition is experiencing a record number of entries with 544 as of June at pre-festival events. Rating each brew on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression, the judges had a difficult time awarding just one Best of Show and elected to award the first-ever runner-up Best of Show.
Agriculture Up-Close-And-Personal in New York
For city dwellers in New York who never learned about farm life, the state celebration in Syracuse delivers the animal world in action. New this year is the opportunity for visitors to watch a live dairy calf birth. We’re not sure how the cows feel about it, but the exhibit is open daily, August 22-September 2.
Don’t Stop Believin’ in Illinois
State-run shows don’t have to be headlined by washed-up cover bands. Many states are proud of the stars they attract. This year’s Illinois State Fair, August 8-18, arranged for REO Speedwagon to perform, in addition to Toby Keith, John Mayer, Kesha, and most importantly, Journey.
Jumbo Food in Indiana
To celebrate its position as one of the biggest growers of popcorn in the country, Indiana will unveil the world’s largest popcorn ball on August 3. The tasty monster treat will weigh 5,200 pounds and can be seen during the fair, which runs August 2–18.
Peaceful Florals in Wisconsin
When moms and dads are tired of carnival bells and roller coaster rides, a quiet stroll offers a moment of zen at the Wisconsin State Fair, August 1-11. The new “Garden Walk” will lead visitors past a living wall of plants and into a recycled planter garden. There’s even a six-foot topiary horse hitched along the trail.
Rodeo Riches in Montana
The Montana State Fair, July 26-August 3, is all about rodeos and this year’s line-up is a doozy including a “Tough Enough To Wear Pink” night supporting breast cancer research. Payouts are expected to top a record $110,000 at themed rodeo events honoring families and veterans.