Marking one year shy of three quarters of a century, the 2013 (74th annual) Arkansas State Fair offers free concerts, food, livestock competitions, creative arts contests, professional bull riding, a midway full of rides, Friday-Oct. 20 at the State Fairgrounds, 2600 Howard St., Little Rock.
The 65-plus rides (again the work of Stuart, Fla.’s Deggeller Attractions) on the Arkansas Federal Credit Union Midway include “Vertigo,” a thrill ride that takes riders soaring 100 feet above the fairgrounds.
Approximately 50 food vendors will be selling fair food from funnel cakes, corn dogs, cotton candy and hamburgers and pizza to the newbie items, including the Mega Burger (four beef patties, five cheese slices, four strips of bacon, onion rings, chili, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions on a - need we say it? - giant bun).
Among the other new food offerings: chicken-n-waffles, fried garlic spuds on a stick,fried ravioli, fried avocado on a stick, shrimp gumbo, chicken parmesan sandwiches, Indian tacos and fried Klondike bars.
The Big Show Diner, with the covered Showtime Deck overlooking the midway, will offer fresh prepared foods “cafeteria style” for fast service and a child’s menu.
And for the fifth consecutive year, parking and gate admission are free for folks coming out to the fairgrounds for “Lunch at the Fair,” 11 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays.
Opening-weekend concerts, all at 8 p.m. on the Wendy’s Main Stage (with a limited number of VIP seats, $12, available for each show):
Friday - Country legend Charlie Daniels fronts the Charlie Daniels Band; Saturday - Rockers 38 Special; Sunday - Country singer Josh Thompson.
Through the following week: Wednesday - Night Ranger; Oct. 17 - R&B singer Ginuwine; Oct. 18 - R&B singer Johnny Gill; Oct. 19 - Everclear.
New to this year’s fair, says fair General Manager Ralph Shoptaw, are Bruno’s Bengal Tigers (rare striped beasties perform to commands from trainer Bruno Blaszak) and the K9 Crew Trick Dog Show (high-flying canines do aerial tricks while catching flying plastic discs). Returning this year, Shoptaw says: the Exotic Petting Zoo with pony rides, and the Show Me Swine Racers.
And it’s not exactly an animal, but it’s not entirely human: the 9-foot-tall Rock-It The Robot, who (which?) will roam the fairgrounds engaging in friendly banter with fair goers, complete with light show and animated dance moves.
More than 4,000 Arkansas 4-H and Future Farmers of America members will be showing nearly 10,000 beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, boer goats, dairy goats, poultry and rabbits in the Livestock Show. The annual Junior Livestock Sale of Champions, 1 p.m. Oct. 18 in Barton Coliseum, raises more than $100,000 a year to support prizes for Junior Livestock Show winners. Competition schedules are available at the fair website.
Creative Arts competitions, including floral arrangements, ice cream, pies, pork, rice and a chili cook-off (with the help of sponsors Floral Express, Pulaski County Farm Bureau, Spam, Pillsbury, Karo, Johnston’s Home Center and Arkansas Farm Bureau), take place throughout the fair in the Farm Bureau Arts & Crafts Building. That includes the Gold Medal Flour Scratch Bakers Cookie Challenge, 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, and the Arkansas Wine Competition at 3 p.m. Sunday, which this year will also include a special wine-tasting event that will be open to fair attendees 21 and older; cost is $10, which includes a take home State Fair souvenir wine glass. All wine competition and tasting proceeds (wineries pay a per-bottle fee to enter) go to the Dr. Justin Morris Scholarship Fund, for students at Arkansas colleges and universities that offer courses in viticulture, horticulture, food science, hospitality and wine-making.
The State Fair is also sponsoring a “This Is Arkansas” Photography Contest for amateur photographers. Contestants can enter color or black and-white photos that reflect their perception of what Arkansas means. Judging takes place at 1:15 p.m. Friday.
During the fair’s second weekend, the Professional Bull Riders Tour will be “Ridin’ in the Rock,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18-19 in Barton Coliseum. Tickets are $10-$20, $25 for VIP seats and, bought in advance, include State Fair gate admission. Visit ticketmaster.com.
Arkansas State Fair Friday-Oct. 20, State Fairgrounds, 2600 Howard St., Little Rock.
Admission: $8, $4 for children 6-12 and senior citizens 60 and older, free for children under 6.
Fairgrounds parking: $5 per vehicle. Advance gate admission $5.99, $2.99 per child and senior citizen, available at 77 participating central Arkansas Walgreens stores through Friday or online at ArkansasStateFair.com before 5 p.m. today. Advance-purchase ride passes redeemable for a one-day unlimited ride armband, $22, good any day except Dollar Day (Monday). Special daily specials available throughout the fair.
(501) 372-8341 ArkansasStateFair.com
Weekend, Pages 36 on 10/10/2013
Print Headline: Garlic potato on a stick, roamin’ robot new at fair