Fair thee well 

The Arkansas State Fair jumps into gear.


Ah, the fair. Where else can you commune with such a broad swath of humanity? Where else can you enjoy a full meal of meats on sticks while admiring prize specimens of what, perhaps someday, will become someone else's meat on a stick? Where else will you find rides named Pharaoh's Fury, Gravity Storm, Starship 2000, Moby Dick, Rio Grande, Truckin' USA, the Inverter, Dragon Wagon, Hi Roller, Wave Swinger, Wacky Worm, Cobra, Glass House, Monkey Maze, Zendar, Kaos, the Zipper (!) and — new for this year — Iceberg Challenge, Star Trooper, Kite Flyer, Quad Runner, Circus Train, Landslide and Quazar? Where else, if meat on a stick isn't your thing, can you have a “real” Australian meat pie or fried chicken, fried cheese, shrimp fried rice, home fried taters, curly fries, fried pickles and fried Twinkies?

Nowhere else but the Arkansas State Fair, that great autumnal tradition that always manages to slide through when it's still sticky hot. Over 10 days, from Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 21, an expected 433,000 precious souls will march through its 10-acre midway. In addition to all the previously referenced eating and riding, patrons will also have the chance to people-gawk, livestock-gawk, see the winners of contests like the Canola Oil “Fry it for the Fair” Contest, take in the rodeo, see free concerts and check out dozens of exhibits.

Here, fair reader, are several need-to-knows to help you navigate the overwhelming amount of fun: Concerts, as always, are free with fair admission. On Friday, Oct. 12, popular tribute bands KISS Army (KISS) and Satisfaction (the Rolling Stones) kick things off at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively. On Saturday, Oct. 13, “American Idol” favorite Kellie Pickler performs at 8 p.m. Charlie Daniels may have grown rotund, but he'll play a mean fiddle with his band at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14. Eighties arena rock kings R.E.O. Speedwagon take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, and because everyone loves the King, the Ultimate Tribute to Elvis performs two shows on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. All of these featured concerts take place on the Wendy's Main Stage.

The rodeo, where broncs will buck and bulls will bully and we city folk will get to eye real cowboys and cowgirls, will give only four performances, so plan accordingly. Shows run 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 through Oct. 20, with one matinee performance at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

More fun for city slickers: Somewhere around 10,000 animals will be on exhibit. If sedentary pigs and finely groomed sheep grow tiresome, there's also an exotic petting zoo; “Jump,” a trick-dog show; pig races (with the porkers vying for an Oreo cookie at the finish line); a gator show; and live sharks in a 5,000-gallon tank.

As always, there are a gazillion 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, for the first time ever, fairgoers can purchase an advance purchase ride card at any Harvest Foods, Affiliated Foods or Budget Saver that's redeemable for a one-day unlimited ride arm band.

For the lowdown on promotions and a schedule of events, visit www.arkansasstatefair.com.

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