For 10 days, beginning Friday, lovers of dusty revelry, livestock, meats on sticks and rides that, if not dangerous, are dangerous looking will gather at the Arkansas State Fair. Organizers expect somewhere around 440,000 souls once it's all said and done. Which is more than 15 percent of the population of Arkansas. There's nowhere in the state where you'll find such a mass confrontation with humanity. Ain't it grand?
As expected, there are new wrinkles: Rides inspired by natural disaster like the Typhoon and Funnel Force. Foods inspired by drunken experimentation like meatballs on a stick and deep-fried hot dogs. Shows inspired by God knows what like the Jungle Island High Dive show, where “high dive specialists” dive off an 80-foot ladder dressed like giraffes, monkeys and zebras. “Special” shows inspired by like destruction, like “Night of Destruction” (7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11), a demolition derby and a monster truck exhibi-tion, where fans will be able to catch rides in the “Kajun Cadillac” monster truck (only $8 to $12 per).
Of course, for all of our love of new things on sticks and bizarre sideshows, the fair is mostly about nostalgia. And thankfully, the hallmarks remain. The Zipper, that death trap of a Ferris wheel with free-flipping cars, is still around for us to marvel at. You can still buy not just a corn dog, but a “super” corn dog. Livestock continue to represent in a major way. This year, some 10,000 animals will be on display, including a white Bengal tiger, pigs racing for an Oreo cookie and, in the exotic petting zoo, a kangaroo and a zebra.
More need-to-knows: Concerts, as always, are free with fair admission. On Friday, Oct. 11, country singer Rodney Atkins kicks things off at 7:30 p.m. The following night, Saturday, Oct. 12, American Idol favorite, Bo Bice, offers up his brand of Southern rock at 8 p.m. There's more country on Sunday, Oct. 12, with James Otto at 7:30 pm. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, rowdy country act LoCash Cowboys per-forms. For all the boomers, classic rockers Three Dog Night play hits like “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” and “Joy to the World” at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17. All take place on the fair's main stage.
As one of the last stops in the pro-rodeo circuit, the state fair rodeo should offer an extra bit of grit as riders try to hang on long enough to qualify for the national finals.
Shows run 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 through Oct. 18, with one matinee performance at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
As always, there are a jillion different ticket promotions running throughout the fair. Take special note of Fifty-Cent Friday, where patrons can purchase a 50-cent token for gate admission at Harvest Foods good for opening day Friday. Also, back again from last year, fairgoers can purchase, for $17, an advance ride card at any Harvest Foods, Affiliated Foods or Budget Saver that's redeemable for a one-day unlimited-ride armband.
For those who don't want to fight the traffic, there will be a round-trip shuttle bus on Saturdays and Sundays from War Memorial Stadium. Tickets are $2; children under six ride for free.
For further lowdown on promotions and a schedule of events, visit www.arkansasstatefair.com.
Also, Red Octopus at the Public Theater, Alcee Chriss III at First Presbyterian Church, Harvestfest in Hillcrest, the Arkansas Times Hog Roast, Wildflower Revue at South on Main and Made By Few in Bentonville.