Thursday, October 2, 2014

Expo Deco

The Texas State Fair

As a kid my family loved to go to fairs; county fairs, worlds fairs and state fairs. If, while driving around the country on our summer vacations, we'd come across a fair, there was a pretty good chance we'd make an unscheduled stop.

And stopping always paid off. We'd enjoy seeing kids all jazzed up with their 4H activities and exploring exhibit halls showcasing amateur arts and crafts. We'd enjoy local foods whether it was a good brat, fried chicken or whatever deep fried delicacy they were proffering.

To me, fairs are simply unfiltered Americana. They are color and light and midway screams all enjoyed with a hint of fresh horse / cow manure in the air.

Does life get any better than that?

He's Huge and He Talks Slowwww
Big Tex  Officially Welcomes 3,000,000 Annual Visitors to the Texas State Fair

Growing up in California I particularly loved California's old state fair in Sacramento. We returned to the capital city every fall. I loved walking those fairgrounds filled with huge shady trees. We'd  explore every one of its ancient brick and steel exhibition halls. There was even one esplanade that featured life-size photos of every Miss California since time began.

Then our first Hollywood governor decided we needed a year round "Expo" and built a treeless concrete nightmare and christened it Cal Expo. It was a place more appropriate for a rally of the Third Reich than a fair. And those old lovely state fairgrounds dissolved into a bunch of anonymous state office buildings and vacant lots.

But I digress.

This week while visiting Dallas I had the good fortune to spend an evening with old friends at the Texas State Fair.

The Texas Star Ferris Wheel

It had been more than a decade since my last visit to this fair, and I am delighted to report it is still (maybe more?) wonderful.

We visited on Dr. Pepper day, so we got in for half price by turning over one empty can each!

And, although this fair draws 3,000,000+ visitors a year, the same vivacious lady that welcomed us in through the turnstiles recognized us on the way out and bid us a warm "good night y'all". Everyone, rich or poor, is just the same at the fair.

So what is so special about this fair? First off, it is really big and it is really old.

It dates back to 1886, and over the decades it has overcome financial problems, catastrophic fires and closures during global wars.

Since 1929 the annual Oklahoma vs. Texas football game has been conducted during the fair. And, starting in 1930 they have all been played in the Cotton Bowl (which has been expanded from its original 46,000 seats in 1930 to today's capacity of 75,000).

Fair Parks Cotton Bowl Stadium

While I've not fact checked it...I suspect this is the only state fair that has also hosted a worlds fair.

In 1934, just two years after the spectacular Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago, Fair Park was selected to host the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition. For two years the fair site was completely transformed by Dallas architect George Dahl and Philadelphia's Paul Cret.

The Archer on the World's Fair's Texas Pavilion 

George Dahl was a prominent Harvard educated Dallas architect who built a national practice that designed numerous commercial and civic buildings from 1927 until 1970.

The Former US Pavilion 
(Now the Food Court)

Paul Cret was well known in Texas due to his role master planning the University of Texas and consulting on the design of Austin's iconic UT tower. Cret, a graduate of Paris' Ecole des Beaux Arts, designed the Eccles Federal Reserve Building in Washington DC and assisted in the design of Cincinnati's exquisite deco Union Terminal. Cret designed the Burlington Northern's celebrated streamliner; the Pioneer Zephyr and the Santa Fe's spectacular Super Chief. He won the AIA Gold Medal in 1938.

One of Four Cameo Reliefs 
In Front of the Centennial Building
Facing the Esplanade Fountain. 

In 1946 Neil and Carl Fletcher introduce the Corny Dog to Dallas fairgoers. And, in 1952 the fair debuted Big Tex. The year Roadboy was born 1956 Elvis performed at the fair. and in 1985 the worlds tallest ferris wheel (The Texas Star) was opened.



In 2012 the fair celebrated 125 years and Big Tex turned 60. Then, on the last day of the fair Big Tex caught fire and burned to the ground.

A Mural to Agriculture

Only one year later the 2013 season welcomed a new Big Tex.

A Bronze Costing in and Entry Door Casting 

We strolled, I ate a piping hot corny dog and Frito pie accompanied by an ice cold local pale ale.

Four hours (and about 50 years) of my life pleasantly melted away on a summer night this week at the State Fair of Texas.

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

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