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50 Things You'll Only See at the State Fair

Nothing says all-American summer fun more than a trip to a state fair.  You may go because you love the games and rides or because you love the kitsch of the sideshows and tractor pulls. Maybe you go for the deep fried pickles on a stick or funnel cake. Maybe your favorite band is playing (because Carly Rae Jepsen and The Wanted are TOTALLY playing the Iowa State Fair on August 17th, you guys). It doesn’t matter why you go, it’s just quite an experience.

It’s also a great place for kids to see and learn tons of new things. I mean, where else would your tykes get to taste deep-fried Kool-Aid and see monkeys racing on dogs (yes, I’m serious.) I’ve been to state fairs in New Jersey, Alabama and West Virginia, and each one had great food, animals of all kinds, crafts, rides, exhibits, contests, entertainment, carnival games (that I never, ever win), and tons of stuff to learn about the history, artisans, economy and agriculture of the state.

If you want to check one out, this link provides a ton of information about the state fairs in all 50 states for summer and fall 2013. And just in case you’re curious about exactly what you would see on your visit, here are 50 things you’ll only see at the state fair. Brace yourself.

  • Let’s get started! 1 of 51
  • Fried Kool-Aid 2 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 5.48.33 PM

    Yes. This is real. Don't even pretend you wouldn't taste it if you could. Hey, can I get a side of diabetes with that? Oh, it comes free? Sweet.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Monkeys racing on dogs 3 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.26.44 PM

    They call it the Banana Derby and it takes place at the Tennessee State Fair. The monkeys are dressed like jockeys ... with little patterned jackets. It's just ... I can't even ... I know.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A hypnotist! 4 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 6.07.16 PM

    Performers you don't see every day, like magicians and hypnotists, perform at state fairs. Would you be willing to try it?

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Barf-worthy rides 5 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 6.26.28 PM

    You've got to love all of the rides — even if they leave you burying your head in a trash can, like this one from the Louisiana State Fair. IT'S ALL PART OF THE EXPERIENCE!!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Beauty queens 6 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 6.59.33 PM

    Most fairs have a queen! If you're lucky, you might get to see her. If you're even luckier, you might get to go to Iowa and see her looking like this.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Seed-y art 7 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 6.04.09 PM

    The artwork at state fairs is always incredible, like these amazing portraits in Minnesota that were made with seeds!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A man in a wall 8 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 10.55.44 PM

    Sometimes the art is a little out there, but it's always worth checking out. This fake man in a wall might be worth the trip to Iowa alone.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A pig with enormous … 9 of 51

    I took this picture a couple of years ago at the West Virginia state fair. When my kids saw this pig, one fell into awed silence, one almost fell down with laughter, and the other began to ask in a VERY LOUD VOICE exactly what he was looking at. Oh yes.

  • Butter scupltures 10 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 6.51.47 PM

    Yes I did.  I said butter sculptures. This bovine piece of art was featured at the Iowa State Fair.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Cow pie-throwing contest 11 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 6.53.58 PM

    There are a lot of amazing contests at state fairs — pie eating, jelly and jam making, wood-cutting — just to name a few. But cow pie-throwing? Yes. A real thing in Iowa.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Giant shadows and lots of SWEAT 12 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.02.21 PM

    Most state fairs occur during the summer when the weather is HOT. Be ready.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Kissing goats 13 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.07.08 PM

    There's a lot of livestock at the state fair. You might even get to see some babies. If you're really lucky, you might even get to snuggle some baby goats like these kids at the Tennessee State Fair.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Wonder Bread and a Twinkie hanging out 14 of 51

    We're shocked an ambassador for good nutrition and an ambassador for sweet treats would be caught hanging out together. Only at the Missouri State Fair...

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A wood-chopping contest 15 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.12.28 PM

    This guy, er lumberjack?, is killing it in the Iowa wood-chopping contest.

    Photo via Flicker.

  • Gator wrestling? Oh yes. 16 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.16.22 PM

    There's all kinds of great stuff to see at the Iowa State Fair. Like this man on top of a gator that looks like it could bite his whole, entire head off. Crazy!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Tractors, you guys. 17 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.19.25 PM

    At the Illinois State Fair, there are tractor pulls, tractor parades, antique tractor shows, and even some tractors your kids can sit in and pretend to drive - it's tractor heaven.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A zedonk 18 of 51

    You will get to see all kinds of incredible critters! Meet the "Zedonk" of Tennessee. In addition to having the best name in the history of ever, this half-donkey, half-zebra is adorable.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A woman in a lemon 19 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.31.01 PM

    Would you take a drink from a Tennessee woman in a lemon? I really, really would. I bet her drinks are icy, refreshing and lovely.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Mind-blowing sand castles 20 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.33.19 PM

    Some state fairs have contests like sand castle (or more accurately sand sculpture) building. Isn't this one at the Colorado State Fair amazing?

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Unusual delicacies 21 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.35.24 PM

    This is a Scottish Egg (an egg, covered in sausage and deep-friend) at the Minnesota State Fair. Are you brave enough to attempt to eat one? Maybe you would feel brave enough if you painted your face blue first and gave a battle cry. I'll do it, too. You go first.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A snake child 22 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 10.10.58 PM

    The freak side shows are a very interesting part of the Delaware State Fair experience. And hey, there might even be a special to see a snake child for only $.50!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • 5-legged sheep and midget cows 23 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 10.51.16 PM

    In addition to unusual people, there are also unusual critters of the same ilk. Who knew North Carolina's animal kingdom was so...unique?

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A pepper on vacation 24 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 10.19.02 PM

    If you want your peppers (or other produce) to look good enough to beat the competition, you have to display them with a little extra creativity.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Sad, sad Care Bears 25 of 51

    Yes, these Washington State Fair prizes do look enormous and sort of sad, but you could win one! You probably would only have to spend $100 trying to throw rings on bottles. AND IT'S SO FLUFFEH!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A man made of pots 26 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 10.31.55 PM

    Here's even more interesting arts and crafts! Well done, people of Utah.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Fluffy baby critters 27 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 10.37.01 PM

    This little chick may be sort of funny looking but seriously, how cute is he?! There are lots of baby animals in the livestock area of most state fairs.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • BAAAAAACCOONNNN!!!!! 28 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.39.36 PM

    Everything about this is yes. If this doesn't make you want to go to the Oklahoma State Fair, I don't know what will.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A giant bobblehead of a senator 29 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 11.00.53 PM

    You'll see lots of local folks advertise (awesomely). Senator Dean Barkley got himself an enormous bobblehead. This is worth seeing.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • 6 Bills on a car 30 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 11.07.20 PM

    Yes. Six Bills on a car in Iowa. See what I mean about local advertising? Awesome.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Bubble boys 31 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 11.16.43 PM

    There's always something fun and unexpected - like ginormous bubbles for your kids to get inside of and splash around.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • When you win, you can do this 32 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 11.24.02 PM

    If I was lucky enough to win a huge animal from a carnival game, I would totally do this. But probably it would be me on the bottom, carrying one of my kids, who would be carrying the big pink gorilla.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A teeth whitening booth?! 33 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.09.37 PM

    Actually yes. Or maybe get a massage. Or your nails done. You never know what vendors are going to be there. Tons of different local folks will have booths to promote their businesses and might be providing services or giving away little things, too (think key chains, cups, etc).

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Doughnut burgers 34 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.13.51 PM

    What's a Krispy Kreme burger? A juicy cheeseburger sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme donuts instead of a hamburger bun. It may about the worst thing for you, but I'd still like to try one just once.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • You can read signs like this … 35 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.26.07 PM

    This was next to the sign in at the swine barn in Minnesota. Because the costs of handling poop is going up, you guys. Also, "Sign In at the Swine Barn" would be an awesome band name.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • … and this 36 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.53.59 PM

    Smoking near a barn or stable is really, really dangerous. Even the sheep in California know that.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • All the smells! 37 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.28.01 PM

    Some smells at the Iowa State Fair are awesome (funnel cake) and some are not (the swine barn at the end of the day), but they're all free!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Spicy Italian brats 38 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.42.18 PM

    I know I love a spicy Italian. And I love this sign. That Minnesota State Fair really knows how to advertise.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • You can find out what a wattle is … 39 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.46.45 PM

    See all the things you can learn at the Minnesota State Fair? Wattles serve no useful purpose. FACT.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Weird fashion statements 40 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.51.35 PM

    This guy from Minnesota is rocking the kilt/fanny pack/plastic lei look. Rock on.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • You may see some creepy things 41 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 4.57.21 PM

    This clown from the 2007 Texas State Fair is freaking terrifying. He is going to haunt my dreams and not in the good Ryan Gosling sort of way.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • OMG fried butter 42 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.17.33 PM

    Yes, it's really real. You can find it at the Texas State Fair.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • You could see a ventriloquist! 43 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.19.33 PM

    I'm actually a little scared of ventriloquists. But here's one from the 2008 Tennessee State Fair and he's hardly creepy at all. Well, maybe a little bit. Just me?

    Photo via Flickr.

  • … or crazy vegetables! 44 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.26.40 PM

    These carrots seem very ... what's the word? Affectionate. They also have contests for big veggies and lots of other categories. Go check out a giant tomato!

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A guy chilling with a bear 45 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.30.27 PM

    This guy is chilling with his bear. The bear he just won. LIKE A BOSS. But the best part of this photo is the sign that shows the schedule of events at the Indiana State Fair. Things like "The Big Cheese Unveiling" and "Snakes Alive." It's just all so awesome.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Deep-fried Spam curds 46 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 9.54.41 PM

    I don't even know what Spam curds are (hint - look at the sign), but they sound unbelievable. Like you want to travel to Minnesota, grab one right now, and toss it in your mouth, am I right?

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Bananas with dreads 47 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 10.13.34 PM

    If you're concerned that you might not win anything at the carnival games, you can just look up at these guys and envision them singing "every little thing, is gonna be all right" and you can relax and throw that dart right into the water balloon. Boom. You're a winner.

    Photo via Flickr.


  • A sign for vulcan parking 48 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 10.17.45 PM

    Not buying this sign at the California State Fair would be illogical. Perfect for any of the folks in your nerd herd.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • A cowboy on fire 49 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 10.22.58 PM

    No, it's not burning man. This is Big Tex, and he accidentally got set on fire last year. It's creepy and sort of awesome at the same time, right?

    Photo via Flickr.

  • Dear GOD. What is that?! 50 of 51
    Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 10.26.06 PM

    This is a bloody hole in the head of a ginormous inflatable giant at the Michigan State Fair. You can walk into the bloody hole and then through the giant's puffy, prone body. Fun!




    First of all, is everyone sure that's his head? Because that is just really, really not clear. Second, why would you ever?! And third, was this fun family attraction designed by a serial killer because terrifying.

    Photo via Flickr.

  • You can find nirvana 51 of 51

    Or failing that, you can just go to hot dog heaven. Because it's not heaven without wieners, right?

    Photo via Flickr.

Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook , Pinterest and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can catch up on all her posts for Babble Pets and or read her Babble Voices blog, Rants in My Pants.
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