So many of us have made the annual trek to southeast Dallas for a corny dog and some questionable fried food, but how much do we really know about this yearly Texas celebration? Here are a few interesting facts about Big Tex and the rest of the fair that's become such an innate part of the Lone Star State's culture.
It's Been Around for 130 Years
There's a reason we feel like the fair is a timeless tradition. When it opened its doors for the first time on October 25, 1886, it marked the beginning of a cultural festival that would delight Texans for decades to come. The first fair season even took place at the same site in southeast Dallas where it is open right now.
The Fair Used to Host Competitive Horse Races
Back in the day, one of the most popular aspects of the fair was its horse races. Hundreds of attendees came to place bets on the races, but when gambling was banned in Texas in 1903, the sport lost popularity. Car racing and stunt flying exhibitions quickly took over, and today the fair is dominated by other kinds of competitions. The Big Tex Choice Awards for food didn't officially take place until 2005!
Two United States Presidents Have Attended the Fair
The State Fair of Texas is nationally recognized for its fun activities and interesting foods, so it comes as no surprise that two presidents stopped by to see what all the fuss was about. William Howard Taft visited in 1909 and Woodrow Wilson came in 1911.
There Were Closures During Both World Wars
In 1918, Fair Park was converted into a temporary army encampment for WWI soldiers, so the fair wasn't able to take place. Then, the fair ceased operations again from 1942 to 1945 due to WWII's devastating effects.
Some Pretty Huge Names Have Performed at the Fair
Did you know The Beatles and Elvis Presley have put on shows at the fair? Since then, many other big names have graced the stages, from Flo Rida to the Beach Boys. For a list of this year's performances, click here.
The New Big Tex Is Taller Than the Original
It was headlining news when Big Tex caught fire in 2012. The giant cowboy had been greeting fair visitors since 1952 and had become a real symbol of the state. Of course, the big guy was restored to his original glory after the accident. The first Big Tex was 52 feet tall, but the current icon measures in at 55 feet.
The Fairgrounds Span Across 277 Acres
Everyone who loves the State Fair knows to wear good walking shoes when they visit. Originally, the fairgrounds were only 80 acres large, but they've grown as more vendors and attractions are added to the event. Prepare to grab a map and navigate through throngs of people, past hundreds of stalls, and across a vast amount of space.
The State Fair Is Technically a Nonprofit Organization
To be more specific, it's a privately-run 501(c)(3) organization. Despite the fact that you shell out the big bucks to sample fried foods and rides (as well as pay a steep entrance fee), the fair doesn't walk away with that big of a profit each year. The operating costs are quite high, and the fair hosts many free events for children, discounted tickets, donations, and more.
So, when are you going to check out this Texas tradition? Hurry and grab your tickets before the fair ends on October 22.