On Tuesday, Sept. 17, just five days after the Oklahoma State Fair opened this year, Building 429, a popular, contemporary Christian band, was ready to take the stage, when a violent micro burst darted from the skies and wreaked havoc on the stage and the arena at the state fair grounds.
Thankfully, there were only a couple of minor injuries to humans, but the band's equipment was destroyed by this weather phenomenon that involves a swift downburst of air swirling to the ground with winds that can travel up to 100 miles per hour, covering a small area and can last from five to fifteen minutes.
The band's performance had to be cancelled. There was even some minor damage to the equipment on the midway, said Frank Zaitshik, owner of Wade Shows, the company that provides the midway for the Oklahoma State Fair.
Several days after the Oklahoma State Fair ended, Zaitshik was on the road, headed toward his next event. But, he said, he felt grateful that none of his employees were injured during the bad weather and he was glad they were able to get the damaged equipment repaired and back in action in time to help entertain the approximately 900,000 people who attended the Oklahoma State Fair this year.
"Nobody got hurt; the equipment was back up in a short while," he said. "The Oklahoma State Fair is one of the best fairs in the United States, and it continues to get better every year."
There was no significant increase in attendance over last year, said Scott Munz, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Oklahoma State Fair, Inc., the non-profit organization that has operated the fair for more than a century.
The lack of increased attendance numbers didn't seem to impact the carnival, said Zaitshik.
"We had 72 rides," he said. "Our advance ticket sales grew this year by about 20 percent. Onsite sales grew by 1 percent, and that's good. We added a second roller coaster this year. Everybody loved that. And we had our new Zamperla Surf's Up, another popular ride. It was a great fair, another great year."
The advanced ticket sales at the carnival likely grew thanks to a wristband sale offered by Walgreen's, said Munz. "The Corner Box Office Program did well," he said. "This is the second year we've used it. The program sells advance ride tickets."
The carnival also offered special prices on certain days, and, for the added admission price of one Dr. Pepper can for one day, those attending got an $8 discount on the price of their ride wristband.
The admission price for the fair this year was $9 for adults and $5 for children from 6 to 11. On Opening Day, Sept. 12, the fair offered a price of $2. The 16th of September was School Kids Day, and students were admitted free. On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Super Saver Day admission was $3 and members of the military and their spouses, with military ID, were allowed in for free.
Sept. 18 was Senior Citizen Day and, with proof of age where each end of the fairgrounds. Premium parking was $5 per vehicle.
There was plenty of information out about the fair. The fair spent "upwards of $500,000" advertising about the fair, said Munz. He declined to disclose the exact amount spent.
"We advertised across all mediums," he said. "Radio, television, print and social media. We used our website quite aggressively."
During the first few days of the fair, the weather was unseasonably hot, said Munz. The temperatures hovered between 90 and 95 degrees during the day. "Finally, a cold front was predicted," he said, chuckling. "It came in and lasted for about four hours."
Several shows were delayed between an hour and an hour and a half because of weather concerns like lightning or thunderstorms. The last two and a-half days of the fair were finally pleasant, with temperatures in the mid-eighties, he said. And the last two days of the fair, on Saturday and Sunday, it was sunny with clear blue skies.
That pleasant fair weather at the fair finally brought the crowds out to try all of the new attractions, including the food.
"If it was fried or it had bacon, we had it," Munz said.
There was the Bacon Bloody Mary, made with 3.2 beer, the bacon explosion sandwich, with bacon, sausage and barbeque sauce. Also on the menu was the bacon wrapped caramel apple and the bacon wrapped corn dog.
There was barbeque, hot dogs and cheesy bacon bombs, made with pepper jack cheese, covered in a light biscuit dough and wrapped in bacon.
If you were looking for something different, you could have tried the Cinna Burger, a cinnamon roll split in half with a burger and all the trimmings in the middle. There was also the crawfish enchilada, deep-fried artichoke, deep-fried B-B-Q-Gater on a stick. If deep-fried was your one true longing, there was deep-fried butter on a stick, deep-fried Philly Cheese Steak, deep-fried pork fritters, deep-fried ribs, even deep-fried watermelon, served with a marshmallow cream dipping sauce.
How about a giant cream puff filled with chocolate and topped with bacon? Or simply frozen, chocolate-covered, deep-fried bacon?
And if eating your way through the fair wasn't enough, the entertainment kept fair-goers busy. All of the shows were free with gate admission.
The Oklahoma State fair for the last several years has started with a Disney show, said Munz. This year, it was eleven solid nights of Disney on Ice.
Also popular was the Eli Young show, which nearly sold out. There was also Richard Hight, a master speed painter. A Swamp Gator show also delighted crowds.
"I guess ducks and gators are the trend right now, and we had the gators," said Munz. And the fair had its own School of Rock, based at the University of Central Oklahoma and presented on the party stage.
"Now, we have to move along to 2014," said Munz. "Overall, this was a good year." The 2014 Oklahoma State Fair will be held from Sept. 11 through Sept. 21.