Farms, Food and Fun at the State Fair


Photos by Ryan Freitas and Jill Adler

Ryan can be a drag sometimes. Just because I didn’t grow up in Oklahoma, swinging to country, milking cows, dating my cousins and cruising Wallyworld, doesn’t mean I can’t love a good ol’ state fair. Maybe my affinity for fairs comes from being deprived as a child.

In Cali, the Los Angeles County Fair was so far from my home that we probably would have had to get a hotel or something. Or maybe my parents were ‘above’ the riffraff. Whatever the reason, my first state fair experience was here in Utah. Too bad Ryan couldn’t get past himself to take it all in- the fried food, the as-seen-on-TV demonstrations, the rickety rides that defy death, the carny games, 4H kids and gigantic pigs. I loved Charlotte’s Web, and I love the Utah State Fair.

Our fair is steeped in history and tradition. The Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society organized the first fair in 1856; less than 10 years after the first Mormons settled in the Salt Lake Valley. It was called the “Deseret Fair” back then and was held downtown, across from where they would build the LDS Temple. It was a way for the locals to see what was new in farming and manufacturing because they were so isolated out West. Farm products and handicrafts were on display, with cash or ‘diplomas’ awarded for things like “best cow” and “good penmanship”. Brigham Young himself won first prize for “best celery exhibit”. There was a huge connection between Church and fair when the fair first began. Today, not so much.

Ryan griped from the moment he stepped onto the dirt off of 1000 West and 200 North. The temperature was hot but the beers were cold and he grabbed one before you could say funnel cake.

Unlike this weekend’s Health Fair at the U of U, there were plenty of ways to get out of the heat at the fair. You could walk among the barnyard animals in the warehouses, and stock rooms…

Check out the science exhibits, blue ribbon cakes, breads, embroideries and costumes in the perimeter buildings….

Or you could inch down the aisles of jewelry, gadgets, gizmos and floor cleaners in stop-and-go foot traffic the way you shop Ikea on a Saturday afternoon. And no fair experience is complete without getting bamboozled by a slick-talking snake charmer who convinces you that you’d be spending a lot more for a lot less someplace else. “Of course you can find it less at places like Amazon,” said the silver-tongued distributer. “But you won’t get the lifetime warranty.” Since when? Unless you buy a refurbished unit, the warranty comes with the product no matter where you get it from.

One year it was the ShamWow. This year it was the Jose Eber Curling Iron. How could we resist after the stylist turned Sage into our very own Shirley Temple? “For You, I make you a deal,” he says. “$79 but don’t tell anyone. It’s $159 retail.” We had two smartphones between us and did we think to use them to verify this claim? Hell no. They were so nice to us, he couldn’t be lying. Guess what? sells the thing for …$45! Yes, folks, we were robbed. I figure that we paid $45 for the iron, $10 for the HerStyle cream and $35 for the curls. That way my yardsaling ego won’t implode.

One thing you KNOW will cost more than it should are the rides and games. $20, 20 balls, one goldfish.

There are kiddie rides for $2 each or rides for bigger kids for $4. I’d do the ‘Zipper’ all day long if I could. Even Sage raved about it.

Make sure you eat AFTER you ride the rides. I watched one girl puke all over the grass after the Scrambler but thought better of snapping her picture.

There are more food booths and trailers than there are exhibits at the Fair. The “Deep Fry Guy” has been wheeling himself out to the Fair since 2005; dunking everything from PB&Js to Oreos and Jell-O into his fryer. But he’s not the only one capitalizing on American obesity. Mini donuts, onion blossoms, French fries, Twinkies. Nothing can escape the oil basket.

Ryan and I were able to eat ‘healthy’ at the steak and chicken sandwich barbecue place but Sage begged for a corndog.

As the sun set, we caught the tail end of the high dive before wandering over to the Grandstand for the Jars of Clay concert. Most of the shows start at 7:30 p.m. and are free with your gate admission.

Tonight, however, is one exception. Tickets for teen popstar Victoria Justice are $27. No thanks. I’ll wait for the free Blues Travelers show on Wednesday night. FYI- Lonestar is Tuesday and tickets are $25; Comedian/impressionist Frank Caliendo is Thursday; tickets are $27. On Friday, the Texaco Country Showdown, featuring Eric Paslay, is free as well as Fiesta Mexicana on Saturday. Sunday’s demolition derby is $10.

Ryan still wasn’t sold on the Fair by the end of the night but who cares? Sage and I had a blast. The event may not be for everyone but if you have a thing for carnivals, crowds and Utah culture, don’t miss it.

The Utah State Fair runs through next Sunday. Tickets are $10 at the gate with parking $6 but there are discounts available.


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