Sizzling turkey legs, steaming grilled corn, fingers sticky with cotton candy and screams of delight emanating from the Midway. These experiences come only once a year and that time is finally upon us.
Yes, it’s officially fair season. There’s no arguing the most iconic local fair is certainly the Oklahoma State Fair. One of the greatest things about this annual event is that it takes kids of all ages on a thrilling journey through time. It’s one of the few local events that truly has something for every age and stage.
Scott Munz, the vice president of marketing and public relations for the Oklahoma State Fair, is definitely a patron of the event.
“My kids have grown up at the fair,” he said. “Now I have a 13 and a 16-year-old and I’m starting to realize the things I used to do with them don’t keep them both entertained anymore. At the fair we’re still able to find things they love and will actually do with their dad.”
To prove the event caters to even the tiniest visitors, a nursing mothers’ area was recently added. A private room stocked with comfortable chairs and baby items like spare wipes will be available to moms in the southeast corner of the Oklahoma Expo Hall.
While rides take center stage in the minds of most fair visitors, your kids will be blown away by some of these off-the-beaten-path fair attractions.
Contests & Competitions
The fair offers an assortment of contests for all ages. These range from cooking and visual arts competitions that have to be entered in advance to walk-up contests you can participate in at the spur of the moment during your visit. Off-beat skills like hula hooping and paper airplane making are put to the test in the On the Spot Walk-Up Contests happening almost daily during the fair. Start practicing now for other fun contests like blowing the biggest bubble with your bubblegum or building a sailboat for the Rain Gutter Regatta.
Older kids will relish an opportunity to try some of the more serious Creative Arts Competitions the fair has to offer. Categories include cooking, photography, sewing and junior arts and crafts. Kids ages 7 to 17 can even compete in The Great American SPAM Championship and whip up a tasty treat using the iconic canned meat. For a complete schedule of On the Spot competitions, visit www.okstatefair.com.
Animals & Agriculture
While Oklahoma is very rich in agricultural heritage, many Oklahoma City children have never experienced farm life. The fair offers a chance to take a behind-the-scenes look at some of the state’s agricultural history.
The Barnyard Birthing Center is a great place to start. Chickens, sheep and pigs on the cusp of having babies are on display behind glass for fair visitors to see. Although Mother Nature dictates when these animals actually go into labor, it’s not uncommon for fair visitors to see the birthing process. If nothing else, you’re guaranteed to see precious newborn piglets, chicks and lambs.
“The purpose of this part of the fair is to give a chance to talk to veterinarians and veterinary students about what it takes to be good stewards of animals,” said Gina Burchfiel, vice president of the state fair division. “Who doesn’t like baby animals? It’s such an intriguing exhibit that everyone always goes through it for entertainment and never even realize how many educational tidbits they end up with.”
Munz agreed that the educational opportunities at the fair for both kids and adults abound.
“We masquerade education with a lot of entertainment,” he said. “We want them to have a good time but we want them to learn a little something, too. They come here and even though they haven’t been in a traditional educational setting we know they’re learning.”
Another top spot for an agriculture experience is the Oklahoma Frontier Experience, which features unique pieces of Oklahoma history through Native American dancers, a Wild West show and demonstrations of age-old traditions like soap making and chuck wagon cooking. The most adventurous kids (4 to 6 years old) can try their hand at mutton busting, a traditional rodeo event where kids climb aboard a sheep for an exciting race.
For good reason, the fair’s most popular destination is the City of AGtropolis in the Oklahoma Expo Hall. Learning adventures continue here with live animals and insects, valuable lessons in farming and exciting exhibits like honeycomb extraction demonstrations.
Insider Tip: Weary little ones can take a short break here with ongoing showings of a five-minute film that runs all day long at the 3-Silos Cinema inside the City of AGtropolis.
Food & Fun
It’s no secret a major fair attraction is the food. Especially among older kids, the menu items they probably enjoy only once a year will be a big draw. Whether you have a sweet tooth that craves caramel apples and cotton candy or you’re more into corn dogs and turkey legs, you’ll find all the variety you desire. Before you fill up, hit the Midway for classic rides and games.
Insider Tip: The Oklahoma State Fair app is free for iPhone and Android and features a map that helps you find your favorite fair food vendors.
New rides come and go, but it wouldn’t be a trip to the fair without a ride on the Ferris wheel. While the other activities mentioned in this article are free with your fair admission, rides will cost you. A sheet of 30 ride coupons is $25 and most rides require four to six coupons. Carnival armbands ($30 Monday-Thursday and $35 Friday and Saturday) allow unlimited rides for one day.
Insider Tip: Costumed dinosaurs will be strolling the fairgrounds, so be sure to keep your camera handy for this awesome photo op.
Trying to stretch your family entertainment budget? Let us help. If you plan to eat at the fair, it’s a great idea to invest in the Little Book of BIG Deals. The $5 book has more than 50 coupons in it, many for food vendors. All the food offers in the book are for at least 25 percent off, so large families can seriously save with these coupons. The books can be purchased at the box office and ticket booths while supplies last.
If your kids plan to go on many of the rides in the midway, you can save money by purchasing an armband in advance. Through Sept. 16, you’ll save $10 on armbands purchased at area Walgreens stores, the Jim Norick Arena Box Office (333 Gordon Cooper Blvd) or by calling 948-6800.
To save money on general admission, visit the fair on a Special Discount Day. Opening Day (Sept. 15) admission is $2. On Sept. 19, admission is free for all kids through 12th grade. Sept. 20 is Super Saver Tuesday where everyone is admitted for $3 and Armed Forces personnel and their spouses are admitted free. Enjoy Senior Citizens’ Day on Sept. 21 with free admission for everyone 55 and older.