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State Fair Starts Friday: Big Tex Returns And Ostriches Will Race

The State Fair of Texas opens Friday.   This year’s theme is “The One & Only” and the star will be Big Tex, making a return after catching fire last year.

A record opening day expected.

The Fair’s Mitchell Glieber anticipates a huge crowd to welcome Big Tex back at a ceremony Friday at 2pm.

“We are going to set a television screen up down International Boulevard that will be carrying a live feed of the ceremony so that people, if it is a very crowded situation, will be able to view it from a distance down the street.” Glieber told the annual Fair preview news conference.

In the meantime, Big Tex is hiding in a tent nearby.

What about traffic and parking?

Deputy Chief Malik Aziz says drivers headed to the State Fair can tune to 1650 AM for traffic and parking information.

“At least 80 percent of the parking at the State Fair is located off Fitzhugh. So, you can enter on South Barry from I-30, or Haskell or Scyene Road,” Aziz said. “It’s the best entrance to the State Fair to get you in here so you can immediately start having fun. Trams will be provided.”

And Chief Aziz says the Fair Park and surrounding neighborhood will see plenty of police presence and security.

Ride safety gets high priority.

Rusty Fitzgerald is in charge of Fair operations.  He says after the tragic roller coaster accident at Six Flags earlier this year, safety is top of mind.

“Currently we have 74 rides set up on the Midway,” Fitzgerald said.  “We meet and exceed all state and national requirements for ride inspection.  We have five inspectors on the property inspecting the rides as they go up. During the Fair, they have their morning safety checks.  After then my inspectors go out and double check them.  All during the Fair they’re here every day.  They don’t leave.”

New on the Midway, the 500-foot Top O Texas Tower.  It debuted during the Midway’s Summer Adventures. This will be its first year for fairgoers.  And this year, there’s a Kid’s Pedal Tractor Pull.

Cotton Bowl is dressed up and ready.

In January, the city of Dallas began $25 million in upgrades to the historic Cotton Bowl.  Park and Recreation director Willis Winters says they include life-size banners in the concourses showcasing each of the 21 Heisman Trophy winners who played in the Cotton Bowl, including Doak Walker, Roger Staubach, and Sam Bradford.

“Highlighting the renovations are a new facade around each end zone, where we added the upper decks several years ago,” Winters said. “We’ve put in a spectacular and contemporary façade. Renovations also include festive concourses, upscale club seating - about 330 seats, and two levels of modern hospitality areas and lounges.”  

The Cotton Bowl hosts three games this year.

Saturday, Sept 28: Louisiana Tech and Army

Saturday, Oct 5: Prairie View and Grambling

Saturday, Oct 12: Texas-OU

New, Neat Stuff

The butter sculpture this year is dedicated to Big Tex.  The goal is to snag a Guinness World Record as the world's largest butter sculpture. The annual Hall of State exhibit is also dedicated to the State Fair icon:  The Life and Times of Big Tex.  

There’s a new Main Stage Sports Bar: nine indoor big screen TV’s, food and drinks. And you can get into the act with a new, Texas size Sing-A-Long Karaoke stage.  It has 16 microphones. 

And … Ostrich Races.  Two dozen have arrived and are training for daily races in the Pan Am Arena. They'll race three-at-a-time, ridden by jockeys weighing 100 to 130 pounds. The ostriches stand seven feet tall and weigh-in at 350-400 pounds. 


General Admission: $17; Seniors $13; Children 3 yrs to 48” tall $13

*Children under two are free.  Seniors (60+) are free on Thursdays.

Parking: $15

Hours: 10sam-10pm

Livestock Entries: 10,000

Creative Arts entries: 5,000

Midway: 74 rides

Fair Dates: September 27-October 20

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.