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What is a State Fair?

Diane Goettel
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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A state fair is an event that is usually held in the summer and occurs on an annual basis. The event can be considered part agricultural expo and part carnival. Some people attend the fair for just one of these elements, but many attend for both. As part of the agricultural expo, there are often prize winning animals on display as well as unusual breeds. There are also sometimes marvels made from products produced on regional farms such as life-sized sculptures made out of butter or cheese.

Sometimes a state fair will also sponsor agricultural competitions. The fair may award prizes for certain types or categories of animals. There may also be competitions and races. Although the prizes are usually judged by a committee for the fair, the races are usually presented as spectacles that the attendees of the fair can watch and enjoy.

In addition to the agricultural features, a state fair also usually has a number of carnival rides. Depending on the size of the state fair, there may be dozens of rides including roller coasters, ferris wheels, and a number of other thrill rides that are meant to create a rush of adrenaline for the riders, or many consecutive rushes of adrenaline depending on the type and length of the ride. It is also quite common for a state fair to have a number of stands or booths where attendees can play games in hopes of winning prizes.

A staple of almost every state fair is food. Regional cuisine may change slightly from state to state, but every fair offers multiple kinds of food and drink. Some of the most common foods include french fries, corn dogs, chili dogs, funnel cakes, and ice cream. Although there are many beverages available, a summer favorite is lemonade, which is usually a very popular drink at a state fair.

A state fair can require quite a bit of space. It is not uncommon for a state to designate a certain plot of land as state fair grounds. Although many of the features of a state fair, including the rides, the games, and the stands that sell food are mobile and are taken to many fairs and carnivals throughout the year, there may be some permanent structures on the grounds. These permanent structures may include eating areas, restroom facilities, an arena for races and events, and one or more buildings to house and show the livestock.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By lonelygod — On Nov 25, 2011

Has anyone been to the Arizona state fair before? Can you recommend anything that I shouldn't miss?

My friends are intent on dragging me to the AZ state fair this year, and while I had a chance to go the NC state fair when I was a kid, I don't really remember much of what there is to do at one. I remember the great foods and petting zoo, but I may be a bit old now to cozy up to the sheep and other critters on display.

Also, while I liked some of the rides when I was young, I am not sure which would appeal to me now that I am adult. I don't think pony rides are going to cut it these days.

By drtroubles — On Nov 24, 2011

@manykitties2 - My family and I love to go to the state fair and one of the strangest things we ever saw were some of the entries at the state fair film competition. The event let just about anyone enter a movie they had created for a selection of prizes. Some of the stuff we saw was just crazy.

As far as food goes, I think deep fried ice cream has to top my list of worst foods I have seen, though the meat sundae one booth was selling was kind of gross too. It never ceases to amaze me what people will put in their mouths when they are in a state fair mindset.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 24, 2011

Some of my favorite things to do are go to state fair concerts and visit the state fair grandstand. I just love to be around all the people and feel excited about the shows.

When I was younger, I also remember how much I loved eating all the decadent foods that were available. Nowadays though it seems like the food has gone from a once a year treat, to something to be avoided at all costs. Some of the things I have seen at the state fair are just disgusting and I wonder how people can eat them. Deep fried butter on a stick? Why would anyone do that? What do you think is the weirdest thing you have seen at a state fair (food or otherwise)?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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