A Beginner’s Guide to State Fairs
As I mentioned yesterday, I went to The Eastern States Exposition, or “The Big E” as it is familiarly known. It was actually my first time I had ever gone to The Big E, and from that experience, I made a few observations (and picked up some tips from others) to make it through the fair. While my observations are specific to The Big E, I don’t see why they could not be applied to any state fair.
First and foremost, you should go with other people. Whether you go as a couple with a date or significant other (husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.), family or with a group of friends, the experience is much more enjoyable than it would be alone. In my case, I played the good son and went with my parents who had not gone for quite some time themselves. I would imagine that it would be more fun if you went with friends or significant others who could push you into trying something new and different. In the case of The Big E, there were a number of exhibits and rides that would be quite fun for children.
You should also bring money as well. Parking and admission to the fair could run close to $25 (general admission for one $15, parking $10), though deals can most likely be found. In the case of The Big E, there is a lower admission price for after 5 pm. But, admission and parking will not be your only expense. There will also be food, whether that me snacks or actual meals, admission prices for some exhibits, and products to buy along the way. In the case of my visit to The Big E, we sprung for a souvenir program for three bucks, which offered not only a list of the exhibitors, but a map of the fair grounds as well as coupons for many of the food vendors.
Speaking of food, you should also be prepared to eat and to not eat healthy. Since The Big E covers all New England states, there are foods from throughout the northeast, from Maine baked potatoes to Vermont’s Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream to seafood from Rhode Island. And this is just in the individual state houses. Throughout the venue, there are smaller locations, some locally run, some run by pros, and nearly all carrying typical carnival fair. I myself caved in and bought a batch of fried Oreos, and a corn dog, and a coconut ice cream cone, and a baked potato with cheese, bacon and pulled pork. Somehow I managed to resist the apple fritters, the fried Kool-Aid, fried jelly beans, apple crisps, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, smoked turkey legs, funnel cakes, fried doughs, cream puffs and eclairs (The Big E is known for the last two), not to mention the one place in the Connecticut house that offered chocolate covered bacon. Even the vegetables were fried. While, yes, healthier options are available, that is not the fun of going to the fair. The fun is going to actually try the fried Oreos, knowing that you will most likely never eat them again (or in my case, not eat them again for at least 4 years, if not more).
Of course, even if you somehow manage to avoid pigging out as you go through the fair, you will most likely still nibble your way through the fair. There are a lot of place that sell food and offer samples to help with the sales. I saw samples of dips, ice cream, cheese and jerky available. All of these are offered with the idea that a sample will lead to a sale.
Which brings us to the one item you will want to bring with you: a bag. In my case, we brought two bags with us, both of which could be folded up fairly small for easy carrying. While we did not buy a whole heck of a lot at the fair, we did manage to fill up one of these two bags with freebies (pens, key chains, decks of cards and sunscreen from Mohegan Sun), tourists pamphlets from the represented states, the few purchases we made (a box of dog treats), and one sweatshirt (not purchased, but brought with us when we thought it would be a bit chilly). In this case, there were a number of local venders offering various items for sale. A lot of it was food, but there were crafts, jewelry, trinkets, and other goods as well. All of that if a lot easier to carry with a bag.
The most important thing to do, above everything I mentioned, is to have fun. In most cases, these fairs come around only once a year, so you will only have a short time to enjoy yourself. So, it is vitally important to have fun. Even if you eat nothing or don’t buy anything, you will have a great time at the fair as long as you have fun.