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.