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Faux fair fun: Here’s how to enjoy State Fair traditions from home this year

Virtual cooking classes, tastings, contests and games — all Big Tex-approved — offer would-be fairgoers the next best thing.

When the State Fair of Texas announced its cancellation in July, many Texans were devastated. What would fall in Dallas be without the festivities we know and love? Thankfully, State Fair traditions haven’t vanished completely this season. From Sept. 25 through Oct. 18, a Fair Park drive-through offers visitors the chance to take pictures with Big Tex and enjoy fair foods. And now officials have added another fairlike layer to this year’s modified festivities: State Fair of Texas From Home.

It’s a collection of online events, videos and activities aimed at bringing traditional fair elements straight to would-be fairgoers without asking them to go anywhere.

Here are some highlights.

Big Tex Cooking School is a four-part video series taught by the cooks who made fair items famous.
Big Tex Cooking School is a four-part video series taught by the cooks who made fair items famous.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Big Tex Cooking School

Although gorging ourselves on fried goodies from Fair Park food stalls isn’t an option this year, making iconic fair foods on our own is a creative alternative.

Big Tex Cooking School is a four-part video series taught by the cooks who made fair items famous.
Big Tex Cooking School is a four-part video series taught by the cooks who made fair items famous.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Big Tex Cooking School is a four-part video series taught by the cooks who made fair items famous. Learn to make funnel cakes with Tom Grace (episode one, available now) and fried PB&J and fried pizza with Abel Gonzales (episode two, available Sept. 28). Then master fried Reese’s and the fried bacon burger dog slider on a stick with Juan and Brent Reaves (episode three, available Oct. 5) before moving on to fried Cuban rolls and fried Pop-Tarts with Isaac Rousso (episode four, available Oct. 12).

Fair officials have partnered with Texas wine experts to offer a series of virtual tastings.
Fair officials have partnered with Texas wine experts to offer a series of virtual tastings.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Taste of Texas

Typically, the fair features a wine garden with various tasting stations. This year, fair officials have partnered with Texas wine experts to offer a series of virtual tastings.

Wine tastings will include discussions with winemakers about the Texas wine industry. These events are free. Though a limited number of mixed cases will be available for purchase and delivery, participants who’d rather skip buying the wine are still welcome to attend. Registration opened Sept. 21, with four tastings scheduled on Wednesdays beginning Sept. 30.

The fair has partnered with Scardello Artisan Cheese to offer two tastings of Texas cheeses.
The fair has partnered with Scardello Artisan Cheese to offer two tastings of Texas cheeses.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Additionally, the fair has partnered with Scardello Artisan Cheese to offer two tastings of Texas cheeses. Attendees can sign up online for the $30 class and then pick up the cheese and accompaniments at Scardello Dallas, 3511 Oak Lawn Ave., on the day of the class. Classes will be held on Facebook at 6 p.m. on Oct. 8 and 15.

The Big Tex Online Shopping Guide showcases nearly 50 vendors across categories including apparel, gadgets, decor and home that normally would be stationed around the fairgrounds.
The Big Tex Online Shopping Guide showcases nearly 50 vendors across categories including apparel, gadgets, decor and home that normally would be stationed around the fairgrounds.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

The fair online

These additional fair activities are making a virtual shift, from the auto show to the shopping vendors and even, to a degree, the Texas Star.

The Online Texas Auto Show will begin Sept. 25 and aims to show all the new cars we’d usually see in person.

The Big Tex Online Shopping Guide showcases nearly 50 vendors across categories including apparel, gadgets, decor and home that normally would be stationed around the fairgrounds. Many listings include special discounts or offers for shoppers.

A virtual tour allows e-attendees to discover the Big Tex Urban Farms initiative run out of the Errol McKoy Greenhouse. With its mobile agriculture and hydroponic systems within Fair Park, Big Tex Urban Farms grows leafy greens, veggies, herbs and other produce to be donated to communities in need. The virtual tour teaches viewers about the operations and how they can do something similar at home.

Winners of the fair’s 2020 arts and crafts contests will be announced Sept. 25, and a tour of the winning creations will be available online and on the State Fair of Texas YouTube channel.

Miss the feeling of being high in the sky, overlooking the fairgrounds? The fair offers virtual rides on the Texas Star Ferris wheel, or you can try the Top o' Texas Tower, which lets viewers see the Dallas skyline from 500 feet up.

Even the Big Tex Job Fair is also going virtual. The event will be held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24-25 in as part of a partnership between the State Fair of Texas, Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, Goodwill Industries of Dallas, Inc. and the Communities Foundation of Texas. Additionally, virtual trainings will be offered by Goodwill, and the fair will host a Virtual Resource Day on Sept. 23 where virtual attendees can get resume tips, interview skills training, mock interviews and more.

Little Lone Stars will be able to celebrate the fair from home this year with some special activities.
Little Lone Stars will be able to celebrate the fair from home this year with some special activities.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Kids' activities

Little Lone Stars will be able to celebrate the fair from home this year with some special activities.

Three Create Your Own Fair Kits, soon to debut on the Fair From Home website, will include everything needed to host a creative arts or livestock contest (featuring stuffed animals or family pets) and enjoy midway fun from home.

Little Lone Stars Activity Packets, which debuted earlier in the summer, let little ones have a hand at favorite fair activities through coloring pages, puzzles and more.

Digital puzzles, customizable to accommodate varying skill levels, feature State Fair-themed artwork from 2015 to 2020 and are intended to send puzzlers down memory lane.
Digital puzzles, customizable to accommodate varying skill levels, feature State Fair-themed artwork from 2015 to 2020 and are intended to send puzzlers down memory lane.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Finally, digital puzzles, customizable to accommodate varying skill levels, feature State Fair-themed artwork from 2015 to 2020 and are intended to send puzzlers down memory lane.

In addition to seven previously announced virtual contests, fair officials have added a new virtual photo contest.
In addition to seven previously announced virtual contests, fair officials have added a new virtual photo contest. (State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Virtual State Fair contests

In addition to the seven previously announced virtual contests, fair officials have added a new virtual photo contest.

Participants can submit photos in multiple categories, and State Fair fans will vote on their favorites. The contest will run through Oct. 4, with voting taking place Oct. 5-18. Winners will be announced Oct. 23.

Cooking contests include cake and cookie decorating, as well as mini butter sculptures.
Cooking contests include cake and cookie decorating, as well as mini butter sculptures.(State Fair of Texas / Courtesy photo)

Four arts and crafts contests and three cooking contests were announced in August. Arts contests include face masks, nail art, sidewalk chalk art and themed decorated mantle or shelf. Cooking contests include cake and cookie decorating, as well as mini butter sculptures. Participants can submit photos for these entries through Oct. 4, with winners announced Oct. 9.

The water show at the Esplanade at Fair Park is seen in a past year of the State Fair of Texas.
The water show at the Esplanade at Fair Park is seen in a past year of the State Fair of Texas.(Brittany Sowacke / Staff Photographer)

Learn the history of Fair Park

Dallas' Fair Park has been the home of the State Fair of Texas since 1886. Would-be fairgoers are invited to dive into the history and architecture of Fair Park with architect, planner and preservationist Willis Winters through the History of Fair Park video series.

Additionally, the Dallas Historical Society, housed in the Hall of State, will offer a virtual exhibit titled “Women’s Suffrage in Texas,” and Texas Discovery Gardens is offering an online video series called Digital Garden, giving folks the chance to take a virtual tour and learn about the butterflies and bugs that call the gardens home.

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