Food and Fun at the 112th State Fair of Louisiana
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Running from October 25th to November 11th, the State Fair of Louisiana celebrated its 112th year with a wide range of foodie treats – fair food with super powers – as well as offering a wide range of discounts and free entry to attendees.
Located in Shreveport, La., fair general manager and president Chris Giordano touted weekday specials and discounts during its 15-day run. General gate admission was $12, but attendees entering Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. experienced free entry.
Carnival rides provided by Crabtree Amusement were available with unlimited armbands priced at $35; but the fair also offered a deal of gate admission plus armband for $47 for a single day. Also available: a FunPass at $100, which allowed unlimited rides and fair attendance for the full 15 days of the fair's run.
Other fair discounts included $2 Thursdays, with $2 parking, gate entry, and per-ride cost; two discount Wednesdays and Louisiana Election Day, a Tuesday, with admission lowered to $5 and ride armbands $20. Prior to fair opening, a Seniors Day at the end of October gave seniors a chance to view midway performers, enjoy live music, play games, and win door prizes.
Agriculture, history, and food were among the focuses of the fair, according to Giordano. “Our goal always is to provide a good family-friendly, fun event for the community,” he relates.
On Crabtree Amusement's midway, there were a large number of rides and carnival attractions this year, a spread that the company describes as the largest in the state. Rides included two new attractions that were big hits: the three-story, large-scale New York New York Funhouse owned by Fair Ride Entertainment; and the Huss Flipper, another independent attraction owned by SJ Entertainment. The Haunted Mansion, two carousels, and the Twister all proved popular with family riders; little kids took to the wet boats, jumping motorcycles, and clever Granny Bugs ride.
But perhaps food was the most thrilling attraction of all, with options including donut burgers and fried watermelon. The I'll Fry Away food truck, a new addition to the food offerings, served up extremely popular waffle fries. Among the selection of fries was the “Drain the Swamp” with crawfish and andouille sausage, celery, green onions and a creamy cheese sauce topping the crispy fries. That's a full Louisiana meal right there, according to the concession.
At Winkle Concessions, bacon-wrapped chicken on a stick was another popular item; while at local purveyor Ragin' Cajun Louisiana, the massive Kajun Cowboy Burger included brisket, more bacon, BBQ sauce and slaw. Dessert? That would be the fried bread pudding at Ms. Piggy Catering's Cajun Station & More. But there were also Rocky Mountain oysters, deep-fried Oreos, and even cricket pizza. To taste a variety of items, the fair organized their first Fair Food Crawl. Held on two Thursday evenings, a $20 ticket included fair admission, food samples, and a bottle of water for each attendee. The event was hosted by Louisiana State Fair Board vice president Liz Swaine, who put the tour together along with the fair's Exhibits & Concessions Manager Robb Brazzel, who described the event as offering a mix of “bugs, bacon, sugar and savory” from an “unpredictable” array of food.
Also new this year in the food-related category: a tamale making contest. That event as well as other cook-offs such as Mexican Beef Dish, Beef Appetizer, and Pecan Cookery, were all free of charge after entering the fair.
Visits to zoo and livestock barns for a close-up look at the animals at the fair were another popular aspect of the fair, as were events as diverse as a lumberjack contest that included log rolling, The Sea Lion Splash Show featured the cute creatures performing daily, and free concerts offered music from groups such as the Navy Pride Band, and T- Broussard & The Zydeco Steppers. Roving street performers included Dallas The Fire Guy, The Clown of Many Faces, Nick The Escape Artist, and Rock-It-Robot.
Giordano also noted a new interactive fair attraction that was located away from the fairgrounds itself. Held at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Pinball: An American Game Experience appealed to pinball wizards of all ages, and was described as a “free exhibit with free pinball machine play featuring pinball machines from the 1930s through the 1990s.”
The fair was founded in 1906, by Shreveport community leaders seeking to develop agriculture and industry in the region. Interestingly, the fair has no ties to the city or state, but rather is held by a private, not-for-profit organization.
The fair's agricultural focus continues to this day with the The LSU AgCenter showcasing interactive exhibits of plant and animal production, from farm to table while learning more about nutrition, health and safety. The exhibition hosted students grades 3 to 6 during four school tour days in early November.
The fair also served as a home for group competitions for 4H and others with livestock and agricultural products, a 4-H Talent Contest, State Fair Cheer and Dance Championships, the 17th annual Antique Tractor Pull and Show, and one of the most popular fair events, the State Fair Car Show. As a separately ticketed event, the Louisiana Rodeo Cowboys Association Finals Rodeo at Hirsch Coliseum was also a strong draw.
All in all, at over a hundred years old, the fair is still drawing crowds; while actual attendance figures have yet to be released, not even rainy weather diminished enthusiasm for the late fall event.