Monday, October 3, 2011

Totally Texas -- State forecast: Sunny and Fair

State Fair of Texas

Fair Park, 1121 First Avenue, Dallas


It was the opening weekend of the 2011 State Fair of Texas, and the question at the forefront of all inquiring minds was: what, in the name of sanity, is fried bubblegum?

Okay, maybe it was the question at the forefront of my mind. And despite a momentary flinching, I persevered to find an answer. Of all the concession booths in all the fairs in Texas, I had to walk into the only one that offers it. Actually, I had to consult page 12 of the free guide book available at information booths in the fair to locate it. It was site number four on the Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists’ map, near Gateway Plaza. I was headed for Gateway Plaza anyway, to see Cirque Shanghai, whose Chinese acrobats, from the looks of them, seldom consume fried foods. Much less fried bubblegum.

It didn’t look the way I thought it would. Fair foods seldom do. Okay, they’re often encased in fried dough. But it seemed so innocent and cookie-like, I forgot all the advice I ever heard about not swallowing your gum. Beneath the sopapilla-like dough was a center of pink goo that smelled and tasted like the Double-Bubble of my childhood. And then, quicker than a pig race, it slid down my throat and was gone.

It might be fair to say it was more fun to eat than yummy. And at nine coupons ($4.50 in real money), a little pricey. But that buys you three gobs. Share with friends.

One other epiphany: it’s been a few years since I went to the Fair, before DART’s Greenline trains stopped at the front gate. For somebody brought up on a culture of parking in people’s front yards or walking what seemed like miles to get from public parking to the fair, this was a revelation. Despite previous problems with the relatively new Fair Park Station, this year’s transportation was a dream.

A few words of warning. If you buy the Fair entry/DART combo at Kroger’s, you may have to prompt the clerk to give you the $17 package (which would otherwise be $16 for a Fair ticket and $4 for a DART day pass). And if you change trains downtown, as I did, you need to look for those labeled “Greenline, Buckner Station” to get to the fair. Some trains are labelled “Fair”. Some aren’t. Ignore anything labelled “Special.” When you leave the fairgrounds, look for “N. Carrolton” trains to get back to downtown. And follow the advice of DART employees to move to the front of the stop. Front of the train cars were virtually empty, while those close to the gates were packed.

After several hours of pounding the fairgrounds, there was one other attraction I had to sample -- a foot massage chair. It was only a quarter (half a coupon in Fair money), but I’d give it a thumbs down. Maybe that should be a toes down. Save your money for the fried bubblegum.

The State Fair continues through October 23. Check for daily information.

Other ongoing attractions in North Texas:

-- Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas Arboretum, 8617 Garland Rd., Dallas. Through November 29. See

-- Animatronic dinosaurs at the Heard Natural Science Museum, 1 Nature Place, McKinney. Through January 29, 2012. See

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