October 4, 2008: A Saturday Tour of the Arts District
September 9-21, 2008: Fall Trip to New England
Return to Index for 2008

September 28, 2008
A Visit to the State Fair of Texas


Brad Glendenning and Will Hamilton have come up to Dallas to spend the weekend with Greg and Fred and I. Today, we are making a trip to the State Fair. It is an interesting trip to make every other year or so; the last time we went was the year Greg moved back to Dallas and bought his condo on Oak Lawn- two years ago. Today, since Brad and Will are in town, we are occupying our Sunday afternoon with a trip here.

Probably the best thing to do for the photo album is to try to group the photos by attraction- such as "The Midway" or "The Aquarium"- or by topic, such as "Architecture and Decoration." I'll try to keep the topics generally in the order we encountered them on our route through the Fair, and I will also use a map of the State Fair to try to generally trace our route through it. All this effort may not mean much; and you are certainly welcome just to click on the picture and movie links or thumbnails and not worry about the rest of it.

Entering the State Fair


This morning I stopped by the Kroger to get some discounted tickets to the State Fair, and then Fred and I met Greg, Brad and Will for lunch. When we were done, we headed out to the fair. On the way in, I asked someone to take our picture, which they did. Unfortunately, I had the camera set to take a movie, so the picture you see at left is actually a still frame from that movie. That's why the quality isn't that great. Anyway, from left to right, that's Fred, Greg, Brad, Will and myself.


Gateway Plaza and Nimitz Drive


When we entered the fair, we walked through the entrance plaza towards the Cotton Bowl, and then went north around the Cotton Bowl along Nimitz Drive. Along the way, we just took some odd pictures of each other and of the scenery along this route at the fair.

Right at the entrance there is, for some reason, a huge statue of Horus, an Egyptian god, and Fred snapped a picture with Will and Brad.

Just past this statue, you can look to your left and see the Midway. We were going to do the Midway later, so we continued to walk straight ahead towards the Cotton Bowl.

We took some other, random pictures along this part of the route, and there are thumbnail images for some of them below. Just click on the thumbnails to view the pictures:



Poultry, Swine and Horses


Next, we took a detour from Nimitz Drive, and went up towards the swine building. On the way, we passed an area where they were either judging poultry or where there were just some on exhibit. From the swine barn we went across to the horse area, but there wasn't much going on there, so we walked through the barns and came back out on Nimitz Drive.

I took a movie inside the swine barn, and you can watch that movie with the player below:

Pearls Before Swine

Here are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures that we took in these three areas:



Creative Arts Building


The Creative Arts building was interesting. Here you can find all kinds of arts and crafts- from needlepoint to ceramics to photography to cooking and even butter sculptures. As soon as we walked into the end of the building, we found ourselves facing the test kitchen, which I presume is used for cooking competitions during the fair. At this point I filmed a movie of this end of the building, and you can watch that movie with the player below:

The Creative Arts Building

Fred took a couple of pictures of interest; click on the thumbnail images below to view them:


Along one wall of the building there were some individual display cases full of all kinds of arts and crafts. Many of the items in each case had little red or blue ribbons near them, which I took to mean that they had won some kind of award in a judging held somewhere (perhaps here at the fair). It wasn't until I got to the third or fourth display cases that I realized that while the items in any given case could be from many different creative disciplines (there could be some embroidery, some quilts, plates, ceramics, and so on), all the items pertained to a particular theme or subject. It was fun to try to guess what the theme was, although there was no answer key anywhere that I could see.

Anyway, I took pictures of ten of these display cases. You might try your hand at guessing the theme (or just admiring the creativity). There are no right or wrong guesses since I don't have an answer key anyway. Click on the thumbnails below to view the contents of each of the displays:



On International Boulevard


When we came out of the Creative Arts building, we walked just a bit further west until we were in front of the main performance stage, where not much was going on this afternoon.

Just to our left is the entrance to International Boulevard, which is an area of the fair that runs from the main performance stage down and past the colossal figure known as "Big Tex"- the animatronic representative of the fair.

Along the way are food courts, the Texas Hall of State, and entrances to the Esplanade, the automobile exposition buildings, the Midway and, to the south, the museums of Fair Park.

While we were here on International Boulevard, we got our first snack of the day (that's one of the things about the fair- you simply have to leave your diets at home) and, while the guys were gone food shopping, I made a 360-degree movie in front of the Texas Hall of State. You can watch that movie with the player below:

The Texas Hall of State


On the Esplanade


The Esplanade is the area between the Centennial Building and the Automobile Building. The State Fair has always had a large auto presence, and automobiles actually spill over into part of the Centennial Building. Greg always likes to look at cars, so we walked through the Centennial Building first, stopped at the end of the Esplanade to take some pictures and then walked back to International Boulevard through the main auto exhibits.

The only pictures we took during this part of our walk were taken at the head of the Esplanade, and they are pretty self-explanatory. You'll note that there is one pair of pictures that go together. I lent my camera to Will for a few shots, and he got one picture of Brad actually taking one of the other pictures. In the captions for the thumbnail images below, I'll point out which pictures these are. Just click on the thumbnails to see the pictures we took here:



The Lagoon and Sculpture Garden


We walked into the Grand Place building for a while, looked at some exhibits and had another snack. Greg found an iron to buy (he is "into" gadgets) and then we walked back out of the building and down to the walkway that leads across the top of the lagoon and over to the Dallas Aquarium and the Bird Show.

Along this part of the walk, there seemed to be some sort of sculpture garden or sculpture competition, with a large number of interesting, fanciful sculptures of all different kinds.

There is not much to say about each one, so I've just selected the best of the pictures that all four of us took of these various sculptures, and I have put thumbnail images for them below. Click on as many of these thumbnails as you wish to look at this amazing variety of interesting sculpture:



The Aquarium


Our next stop was the Aquarium at Fair Park. This is not the main Dallas Aquarium; that is downtown. It is a smaller affair, but has a number of interesting exhibits. Fred took quite a few pictures inside, but because of the lighting many of them did not turn out. I have put thumbnail images below for some that were good, and you can click on those images to view the pictures:



The Bird Show


Just across from the Aquarium is the bandshell, and it was here that a bird show was just getting started when we came out of the Aquarium. The other four guys got some seats out front in the audience, and I went off to the side to see if I could get closer (since my zoom is not nearly so good as Fred's).

The show itself was pretty interesting, and there were lots of unusual birds on display. They all seemed to be pretty well trained. Two of them flew down to the stage on cue from a gondola in the giant ferris wheel over by the Midway, to come to perfect landings on the stage. One large hawk flew on cue from the back of the bandshell, over the head of a girl from the audience who'd been brought up on stage and to a landing on a perch behind her.

One of the highlights of the show was a parrot who san "Old MacDonald," and Fred took an excellent movie of the performance that you can watch using the player at left.

There was also a very interesting bird that has developed the practice of taking prey in its mouth and then slamming it down on rocks both to kill it and also to break it apart for easy eating. It was really quite comical-looking, and another example of how interesting practices can be discovered, perfected, and then learned by subsequent generations. All the birds of this species seem to do the same thing. You can watch a movie of this bird in action with the player at right.

At the end of the performance, the emcee brought out a lucite box with a slot in the top for donations to the Texas Bird Sanctuary program. But instead of having people just drop their contributions in the slot, he had a large bird snatch currency from the outstretched hands of the visitors and then himself put it in the slot (each time getting a treat from the handler). This was also a comical act to watch, and you can see a movie of it using the player at left.

We took a number of other pictures here at the Bird Show, and I have put thumbnail images for them below. Click on the thumbnails to view the pictures:



The Texas Discovery Garden


Next, we took a walk through the Texas Discovery Garden. There is a pretty pool and fountain at one end as well as a separate butterfly garden. I made one rather long movie here in the gardens, and you can watch that movie with the player below:

The Texas Discovery Garden

Below are thumbnail images for the pictures we took here; click on the thumbnails to look at the pictures:



On the Midway


From the Discovery Gardens, we walked north back towards the entrance we came in, and soon found ourselves at one end of the Midway. At this end, you can find the rides (including the tram and a couple of small roller coasters); further east along the Midway are all the games of chance and stuff like that.

From this end of the Midway, I made a couple of movies. One was a general movie of the rides and stuff, and the other was of a very interesting and colorful ride- Indiago. I just found it kind of mesmerizing. You can watch both of these with the players below:

On the Midway
On the Midway

We just walked along for a while, and tried our hand at a couple of the games. Towards the end of our stay, we made an effort to use up the extra coupons we had, so we sat and had yet another snack. Below I have put thumbnail images for the best of the candid shots that we took here on the Midway; click on those images to view the pictures:



Architecture and Decoration at the State Fair

To understand the architecture and decoration that you've seen in many of the pictures on this page as well as the specific photos of decorative and architectural aspects, you'll benefit from a condensed history of the Texas State Fair.

The Dallas State Fair & Exposition Corporation was chartered on Jan. 30, 1886. Immediately, differences arose among the directors over where to build the new fairgrounds. (Eventually, the corporation split, and in 1886, two fairs were held simultaneously at two different locations.) The rival associations merged in 1887 becoming the Texas State Fair & Dallas Exposition. The single Fair succeeded modestly until the Texas Legislature banned gambling on horse races in 1903, thereby eliminating the Fair's main source of income. The State Fair Corporation sold its property to the City of Dallas in 1904 under an agreement that set aside a period each fall to hold the annual exposition.

The reorganized State Fair of Texas prospered immediately; 300,000 people streamed through the gates in 1905. Attendance topped the 1 million mark in 1916. A magnificent auditorium which eventually would be known as the Music Hall was completed in 1925, and outstanding New York shows were presented to Texas audiences for the first time. The Texas-OU football game was established as an annual fairtime event in 1929. And in 1930, the race track complex was razed to permit construction of 46,000-seat Fair Park Stadium later renamed the Cotton Bowl.

Affected by the Great Depression, no state fair was scheduled in 1935, but construction began on a $25 million project that transformed the existing fairgrounds into a masterpiece of art and imagination. Attendance reached the 2 million visitor level in 1949. In 1952, "Big Tex," a 52-foot cowboy figure, was erected in the center of the grounds. In 1968, the total number of fairgoers exceeded 3 million for the first time.

In 1986, Fair Park was designated a National Historic Landmark, and the State Fair of Texas hosted a 31-day exposition celebrating both the Texas Sesquicentennial and the Fair's own 100th anniversary. In 1988, the traditional fair season was extended from 17 to 24 days, and involvement by major companies made it possible for the State Fair of Texas to offer its visitors a range of exhibits, entertainment and services that are unmatched by any annual exposition in North America.

So, many of the buildings and facilities date from the 1930s, which explains the look of much of the adornment one finds all around Fair Park.

Below are thumbnail images for a wide variety of pictures we all took of these architectural and decorative elements. Click on as many of the images as you wish to view the full-size pictures:



Leaving the State Fair


It was a great visit to the State Fair, and should hold Fred and I for another few years at least. We hope you enjoyed visiting with us. At left are the last two thumbnails for the two pictures we took as we were leaving. Click on them to view the full-size pictures:

October 4, 2008: A Saturday Tour of the Arts District
September 9-21, 2008: Fall Trip to New England
Return to Index for 2008