For a First-Timer at The State Fair of Texas, Reality Doesn't Always Live Up To Expectation.
When it comes to celebrations of statehood, the State Fair of Texas' reputation precedes it. And, as one of the country's biggest state fairs in our country and a haven for all things fried, there's no question as to why millions of visitors travel from all over to see what the hell the big deal is.
In turn, persons visiting the State Fair of Texas for the first time enter into the experience with a head full of expectations that are often times drastically altered almost as soon as they make it through the entrance.
Hey, that's thing with legends. Sometimes their barks can be bigger than their bites.
Naturally, that was at the forefront of my mind during my first-ever trip to the State Fair of Texas. And it turned out to be true, too: My expectations were completely different from the reality that I found.
How so? Let's take a look.
Expectation: This would be a gritty look into the process that begins the supply of our meat to grocery stores and restaurants.
Reality: Attending a livestock auction is probably one of the most seemingly “Texas” activities one can participate in. It's more than just sending animals off to their eventual fates on someone's dinner table, though. It's also a chance to see all of the hard work and dedication of the agricultural community come to fruition. You get to see the sense of pride that goes into raising each animal — not to mention the uncanny bond between man and beast. It goes to show that, oftentimes, we don't spend enough time considering where our food comes from.
Fletcher's Corny Dogs.
Expectation: There was no doubt in my mind that this would just be an overpriced version of the corn dogs that you can find at just about any fair.
Reality: There's definitely a reason that Fletcher's Corny Dogs have such an illustrious reputation among fair foods. One bite into one of the hot, fried favorite is almost reason enough to visit the fair alone. The batter has a consistency and flavor that resembles cornbread, making it the perfect match for its meaty counterpart. Plus, it's almost heavy enough to require two hands — and filling enough to be your only snack during your visit (not that you'd want it to be).
Original State Fair Brew (Funnel Cake Ale).
Expectation: A popular fair treat in a clean tasting ale? Sign me up.
Reality: This brew comes as kind of a letdown. It's definitely more ale than funnel cake. And the powdered sugar rim of each cup lends to more excitement than necessary, as this is the only aspect of the beer that actually comes across like funnel cake. It's way more bitter than most of its descriptions would have you believe, and tastes like just about any other ale. There were few times while drinking it that I thought I picked up on some hints of funnel cake, but it turns out it was just the smells of funnel cakes being fried by nearby vendors and my senses playing tricks on me. For about $7 a cup, you're almost better off picking up a 6-pack of Blue Moon or Armadillo Farmhouse Ale to actually get your money's worth.
New Foods versus Old Favorites.
Expectation: ZOMG FRIED FOODS.
Reality: It was really hard to chose from the vast selection of foods throughout Fair Park. So hard, in fact, that after walking around for a while, trying to decide between deep-fried Texas blue bonnets, fried gulf shrimp boil and other newly advertised treats, it ended up being the classics that tempted my taste buds the most. Y'know, things like sausage on a stick and fried onion straws. Although available just about every year, these ended up being my go-to choices. Why? Because unlike some of the crazier items available for purchase, at least there's no real question about what you're getting here.
Expectation: The guy's just an animatronic nightmare with the potential to overtake us all if the machines ever rise, right?
Reality: Despite his seemingly ominous nature, Big Tex is all the representation of a good ol' Texan that he was meant to be. Except, now he can add flame-retardant to his resume so that his fans never have to go another year without him. Let's just hope that no other slightly suspicious incidents get in the way of him seeing his centennial.
All photos by Kathy Tran.