An aerial view of the State Fair of Texas

An aerial view of the 1966 State Fair of Texas


The 2015 State Fair of Texas has been up and running for a full 6 days now, and hopes are high to beat the record-breaking numbers it saw last year. A welcome reprieve from the hot lines at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, families are excited for the cool weather of this autumn attraction. Students in Fort Worth ISD even get a day off with a free ticket to the fair. Other cool things this year include a Smoky Bacon Margarita, Deep Fried Alligator’s Egg Nest, an auto show, and a chili and BBQ cookoff. There’s little excuse to miss this Texas tradition, even bad weather. This news clip from the KXAS/NBC-5 News Collection shows 1967 fair-goers enjoying the festivities, despite a torrent of rain and the parade getting cancelled.

What else is cool about the State Fair of Texas?

    • It’s old. The Fair traces itself all the way back to 1886, when a grand Fourth of July celebration was held at a newly purchased, 80-acre exhibition site in East Dallas. It was called the State Fair of Dallas, and attracted 100,000 visitors during its first year.
    • Celebrities, of a historical nature, have visited the Fair. Among them are Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Booker T. Washington, Vice-President Richard Nixon, President William Taft, President Franklin Roosevelt, and King Olav V of Norway. Elvis Presley also made a big splash in 1956 with his appearance at the Cotton Bowl, as can be seen by this news script from the KXAS/NBC-5 News Collection. (Any piece of literature that begins with the line, “Elvis, Elvis, where’s the Pelvis?” deserves a look!)
    • Military use. Camp Dick, an aviation boot camp, was established in 1918, effectively cancelling that year’s fair. The military again leased buildings in Fair Park for military purposes during the Second World War, leaving Texas without its fair from 1942 to 1946
    • Corny dogs. Though we can’t thank Neil and Carl Fletcher for inventing them, they started
      Patrons wait to ride the Ferris wheel at the State Fair

      Patrons wait to ride the Skydiver ride at the State Fair, 1966

      marketing them as a fast food product at Fair Park in 1946–a delicious beginning to the Fair’s love affair with all things fried (even Coca Cola, which was first fried up in 2006)!

    • The Ferris Wheel. Known as the Texas Star, this is certainly a crowd favorite. It can entertain 264 passengers at a time, and was the largest Ferris Wheel in North America from 1985 until 2013, when it was outdone by Mexico’s Star of Puebla.
    • The Cotton Bowl. Construction on the Cotton Bowl began in 1936 to replace a wooden stadium already in place at Fair Park. Seating was later added to the Cotton Bowl twice to support the infamous annual football rivalry between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. In 1960, the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Texans played their first seasons here.
    • Big Tex. A renovated giant Santa Claus from the city of Kerens, Big Tex has welcomed visitors to the State Fair since 1952. He has endured many makeovers, including moving to a completely new body in 2012, after the original burst into flames. He was 60 years old.
Handlers and their calves wait for judging at the State Fair

Handlers and their calves wait for judging at the 1966 State Fair

Texans have enjoyed the State Fair in Dallas, and all the cool things that come with the Fair, for over a century. The Fair has served the city and the rest of the state well for just as long. Operating as a non-profit, the Fair gives back to citizens by supporting agriculture, offering student scholarships, and working to keep Texas beautiful. The photographs in this post are all from the Texas Metro Magazine collection, which contains advertisements, articles, photographs, and correspondence about the booming economy and exciting culture of the Southwest Metroplex.


-by Alexandra Traxinger Schütz

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