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Utah State Fair Dreamed Big in 2023
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Located in Salt Lake City, the Utah State Fair had an exciting 11 day run from September 7 through 17th, with the theme of “Dreammakers Where Dreams Come Alive.”

Billed as the largest single annual event in the state, while the fair itself was packed with exhibitions, animals, and fun food, the fair's Days of 47′ Arena was the home for musical acts such as the Steve Miller Band, with tickets priced at $55-85; the “'80s Rock Invasion,” with Ratt's Stephen Pearcy, Great White, Slaughter, Quiet Riot and Vixen, priced at $35-100-; country singer Lee Brice, with tickets at $40-75; and rappers Yung Gravy and bbno$, ticketed at $40-75 as well. Fair admission was not included with the cost of musical performance tickets.

The fair is also known for its PRCA rodeo, an event that's one of the top competitive rodeos in the state, and ran as a three-day event Friday-Sunday during the fair's opening weekend. The rodeo experienced a small controversy over some calf roping at the rodeo, with fair officials responding to concerns over animal cruelty with “The Utah's Own Rodeo takes the health and welfare of livestock at our event very seriously.” A fallen calf was reportedly examined by a veterinarian and pronounced healthy.

Along with the pro rodeo, Mutton Bustin' was another popular event, the little kids equivalent of rough riding, sheep-style,  also ran over the fair's first weekend. On the fair's Thursday opening night, the arena was the location of a competition between large draft horse teams in a Horse Pull designed to see which team could pull the largest load. Fair admission was included with all these events; the PRCA Rodeo tickets ranged from $18-28 for adults and from $10 to $20 for kids.

On the fair's final Saturday, thrills were zoomed around the arena with the “Day of Wreckoning” Demolition Derby. Tickets for that event ran between $25 - $35, and the event included fair admission. Fair admission was also included with the closing event on Sunday the 17th, the Monsters are Real Monster Truck Tour event.

Along with the behemoth musical acts, fairgoers could experience some mammoth livestock exhibits, including Brutus, a 1,300-pound 6-year-old hog.

Free entertainment on the fairgrounds included the swift goats of Woody's Barnyard Racers, the Bubble You Bubble Tower, the Rainforest Adventure from Minotaur Mazes, the Sunflower Pedal Ranch with animal themed wheelies for kids to ride among the hay bales, and a mobile dairy classroom. The Gazebo Stage featured magician Adam the Great and comedy hypnotist Tyzen, among others.  At the South Plaza stage, local musical acts held forth, while roaming entertainment included the Unicycling Unicorn, the roving Boom! Drummers, and a variety of additional magicians and clowns.

Among other popular attractions at the fair this year were the Utah Farm Bureau's Barnyard Friends featuring baby farm animals and info on their daily feeding and other care from chicks to lambs and piglets. Managed by the Utah FFA Chapters state-wide, the interactive Little Hands on the Farm exhibition allowed kids ages 2 to 10 to participate in experiencing agriculture from farm to grocery store. 

Buttery delight “spread” far at the fair with The Butter Cow, an iconic part of the Utah State Fair since 1989. The fun but also dairy-educational exhibit was created by two artists, Debbie Brown and Matt McNaughtan. It weighed a moo-mouth amount, using between 600 and 800 pounds of butter.

Competitive exhibits were plentiful this year, from creative arts to home arts, photography, floriculture and fine arts to 4-H and FFA Ag exhibits.

And of course, what would a fair be without fair food. Utah State Fair upped the ante on treats with the “Fair Food Fight”, which culminated over the fair's first weekend with votes for winners in Sweet and Savory categories. Winners could display their signs and trophies at their booths for the run of the fair.

In the sweets category, while chocolate chip cookies from Bucket O Cookies, mini donuts from Rocky Mountain Donuts and fruit floats all sounded delicious, the winner was Frezas Con Crème – strawberries and crème, from Jugas Y Tortas. In the savory category there was pulled pork grilled cheese from Just Cheezen, Sope from prime Corn, and BBQ Chicken Bacon Mac from The Mac Shack to tempt tasters. The winner, however, was White Concessions with their Idaho Indian Tacos. Separate from the contest, the fair also offered food fair deals, discounted pricing such as a corn dog and a drink for $10, nachos and a drink for $9, and mini Dippin' Dots for $5.

Dairy – if you couldn't tell from the Butter Cow exhibit – is a big part of Utah's agriculture, and results in an annual sweet treat for fairgoers since 1988.  This year was no exception with daily trivia, a DJ, eating contests, and dairy farmers offering local ice cream to fairgoers. The event ran on September 11th this year.

As the fair entered its final weekend, the state AG food offerings took a beefier turn. On Friday the 15th, the annual Beef Feast was served up, with grill masters cooking beef tenderloin steak sandwiches along with chips for a lunchtime feast of $10. The event began at 11 a.m. and kept on grilling until all the food was devoured. The event was sponsored, as always, by the Utah Beef Council.

As to the fair's carnival, provided by The Mighty Thomas Carnival . Popular rides included the bumper cars, Century Wheel, and for younger kids, gently swinging Samba Balloons. The Mighty Thomas Carnival began in South Dakota in 1928, and is currently headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Fair CEO Larry Mullenax has been executive director of 65-acre Utah State Fairpark for 7 years and is seeing the fruits of his labor to bring younger attendees to the event, modernizing the fairgrounds and offering a broad mix of attractions from the traditional fair foods and fun to concerts and dirt events. Attendance this year continued to increase, and while no official tally was available at press time, numbers should reach a projected 300,000. The fair celebrated its 168th year according to fair officials.

Onsite ticket pricing for the fair was $12 for adults ages 13-61; $8 for seniors and youth, with kids 5 and under admitted free. On the fair's opening day, pricing was just $7 for all;  kids 5 and under were free. Carnival wristbands for unlimited rides were available for $35.

Kids who read 10 books and filled out the fair's form received free admission any day of the fair, a free drink, a free carnival ride from Thomas Carnival, and one free ride on the Giant Yellow slide.

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