Beyond The Fact That Attending The Fair Is An Objectively Pricey Commitment, Most Of The Attractions On The Midway Are Total Ripoffs.
Unlike seemingly every other media outlet in Dallas and, to a degree, the whole goddamn state, we here at Central Track aren’t exactly enamored with the State Fair of Texas. Why? Because, for starters, we’re not kids any more, and we’re no longer oblivious to the ways of the world. But also for a litany of other reasons, which we’ll happily run down for you here, one per day, over the entire course of the fair’s 2017 run.
The State Fair of Texas is a lot of things. It’s a superlative place for people-watching. it’s perhaps the most family-friendly place in the world where one can develop type two diabetes. But perhaps most of all, as we’ve already discussed some, it’s a place to spend a ton of money.
Before you even get in, you have to pay to park — often in the yard of someone who lives nearby — or drop some dough on public transportation. Then comes the exorbitant admission prices charged just for walking through the gates.
And all that? Well, that simply sets you up for the privilege of dropping more money once you’ve gone inside.
That’s how fairs go, really. But a lot of the things the fair wants its attendees to spend their coupons on are just straight-up bad. A few of the ripoffs on the midway are especially egregious offenders, though. And, really, everyone should be aware of them.
So, with that in mind, here are our picks for the nine worst State Fair of Texas midway ripoffs that we’ve encountered during our visits in recent years.
9. The Beer. Just because you know something is coming — in this case, ridiculous alcohol prices when a venue has a captive audience — doesn’t mean it’s right. But five dollars — cleverly obfuscated, like the rest of the prices at the fair, by the currency-to-coupon exchange — for a 12-ounce, lukewarm, flat beer is just flat-out outrageous. Plus, the fair’s an unappealing place to drink anyway, what with the beating sun during the day and the heavy police presence all the goddamn time.
8. King’s Circus. Ostensibly a fun house, King’s Circus isn’t much fun for anyone, to be honest. Following a short jaunt through a series of what are supposed to be obstacles, this attraction’s big finish is an excruciatingly slow wheel that participants are instructed to run on — like a hamster — until a carny pulls them off. The reward for surviving this ordeal? Getting to see this terrifying ceramic clown as you exit the “ride.”
7. This Basketball Carnival Game. Frankly, all of the games on the midway are ripoffs — they wouldn’t be there otherwise — but some are astoundingly unscrupulous. Take, for example, this game. If you make a shot, you win a decent-sized, but most assuredly cheap, prize. You probably aren’t going to win, though! Check out the “non-regulation rims” sign posted quietly in the booth. You might see this as fair warning, but it just seems like a slap in the face to us. The carnies don’t even have the courtesy to pretend they aren’t just blatantly taking advantage of us with one.
6: The Magic Maze. On the surface, this one seems like it might actually be fun. Finding your way through a maze made out of mirrors? That isn’t the worst thing in the world. Thing is, much like your iPhone’s password, it’s way too easy to figure this game out because of all the smudges on the glass. Maybe an attraction based around keeping glass clean at an event featuring as much artery-clogging goodness as the State Fair of Texas isn’t the best idea?
5. The Texas Lottery Tent. Actual quote by one of the Lottery’s hawkers in this tent: “These are scratch-offs! That’s way better than cash!” Nope. A total rip, on the fairgrounds or not.
4. Mega Drop. From the name, you’d expect the “Mega Drop” to include a fast drop from pretty high up. Instead, it features a quite slow drop from not all that high up at all. Unlike a lot of the other rides on the midway, you don’t get multiple trips, either. It’s just one pretty boring shot, and you’re done.
3. The Rope Climb Carnival Game. We watched this thing for almost 15 minutes during recent fair trip. No one won — not much of a surprise. But not one competitor even got close! And yet, amazingly, people of all sizes and ages kept coming up and taking shots at climbing the thing, with all of them flipping off way before the end. Adding insult to injury were the carnies who scurried up the ladder with no issues between almost all the contestants. Jerks.
2. The Old Time Photo Booth. This attraction allows you to put on an awful-looking Old West-style costume and get your picture taken with one or more of your companions. Sounds like the recipe for a bad photo. But not much of a ripoff, right? Well, get this: A single eight-by-ten-inch memento of your shoot will run you a cool $27.
1. Tiny Tim, the “World’s Smallest Horse.” Now that Tim’s predecessor, “Tiny Tina,” has been sent to the world’s smallest glue factory, “Tiny Tim” has taken her place. Barkers and a recording beckon patrons to come see the “world’s smallest horse,” who they promise “isn’t a baby,” just really small. The reality: It’s just a sorta-small to average-sized horse standing pathetically in a pretty deep hole that messes with your depth perception. The whole thing is so ridiculous it’s a little sublime. Doesn’t make it any less of a ripoff, though.
Cover photo by Mikel Galicia. An earlier version of this article originally ran on October 14, 2013. It has been updated, edited and re-purposed for use in this series with the permission of the author.
More Reasons Why The State Fair Of Texas Sucks:
- Its history is super racist!
- It’s a major drain on Dallas police!
- It’s bad for your health!
- It’s so damn expensive!
- It’s not the economic driver it says it is!
- It’s a super shitty neighbor!
- It’s an altar to false idols!
- It makes Fair Park useless!
- It wastes city funds on out-of-towners!
- It exploits cute animals!
- Its executives take home too much money!
- Everything on the midway is a ripoff.
- It has willfully ignored its obligations and allowed Fair Park to fall into disrepair!
- It refuses to be transparent about the way it spends public funds.
- It can’t handle Fair Park’s long-term needs.
- Its lauded scholarship program is a joke compared to those of other, similar events.
- It uses fear tactics in its negotiations with the city.
- It goes out of its way to shield its crowds from the poor black neighborhood that surrounds Fair Park.
- Its low-level employees get burned by its executives’ bad business decisions.
- Its ticket-based economy is designed to squeeze even more cash out of attendees.
- It cares way too much about parking lots that go unused most of the year.
- It’s petty as fuck.
- It celebrates humanity’s fucked up relationship with livestock.
- It refuses to change.