State fairs have been a cornerstone of summertime travel in the United States since the 19th century. In 1810, Elkanah Watson, who was a retired business man and New England farmer staged a local cattle show to generate interest in his cattle and the products that were being cultivated by a few local friends. Due to the popularity of the event, Watson launched the first state fair the following year. Over the last two-plus centuries, that premise spread across the United States and state fairs started popping up from coast to coast. What started out as a cattle show turned into a full-blown experience that revolved around local foods, rides and other attractions that have become an ear mark of summertime travel in the US.
The summer of 2020 was largely upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel restrictions left many of us unable to head to our planned vacation destinations, there was another summertime staple that millions of Americans missed out on: state fairs. Every year, millions of Americans and international travelers converge on certain states to take part in a tradition that has been around since the 19th century. With stay-at-home orders in place and social distancing becoming our new normal, it simply wasn’t possible to enjoy state fairs last year. However, with restrictions being lifted, state fairs are back for the summer of 2021.Read More »
The Arizona State Fair
Every year, millions of people head to Arizona to check out their state fair. In fact, it’s one of the most-visited fairs in the country, bringing in just north of a million people every year. That puts the Arizona State Fair in the top five as far as attendance goes every year. With more than 100 different food booths on hand and approximately 75 rides to enjoy, there is plenty to do when you’re not enjoying the live entertainment. Some of the biggest names in music (from all genres) take part in various stages that are set up around the fairgrounds with bigger names performing on the center stage every night. Acts this year range from Pat Benatar to rapper, Lil Pimp, so there is certainly something for everyone.
The Kentucky State Fair
Kentucky is widely known for its commitment to horse racing and bourbon, which is an excellent combination when you’re looking for an enjoyable state fair experience. The fair, which is in Louisville every year provides a variety of horseshows and other agricultural experiences that allow guests to get a better understanding of what makes The Bluegrass State so special. The food booths that are found all over the fairgrounds provide a great variety of southern food. For 10 days in August every year, hundreds of thousands of people converge on Louisville to enjoy live music, good food and some fine bourbon. This year’s musical lineup provides a mix of traditional country with The Oak Ridge Boys and modern country as Colt Ford takes the stage. There is also a Gospel Music celebration being hosted by Cory Asbury, Jordan Smith and We The Kingdom.
The Washington State Fair
For years, the state fair in Washington State was an event that was mostly attended by residents of the Pacific Northwest. However, over the last couple decades, it has grown to one of the most popular state fairs in the country, hosting more than one million guests every year. Washington’s state fair has managed to grow exponentially while still staying true to the agricultural history that it was initially based on, offering a variety of food booths that offer locally grown products. This year’s concert lineup boasts some of the biggest names in music today including Carrie Underwood and Old Dominion. Other acts appearing include Styx and REO Speedwagon. If you’re looking for a fair to attend in September, make plans to head to Washington.
The Great New York State Fair
The Great New York State Fair, hosted in Syracuse, New York, is one of the oldest and most popular state fairs in the country. It’s also much longer than some of the other options on our list, lasting for more than two weeks every year. This year’s fair will start on August 20 and won’t end until the evening of September 6. While most state fairs have food booths, New York’s state fair includes a food truck competition that provides some of the best food options anywhere in the country along with a variety of rides and other interactive attractions. If you attend state fairs to enjoy concerts, there is a huge variety of options for you at the Great New York State Fair this year, including a Journey tribute band, the Oak Ridge Boys, LoCash, Three Dog Night and many more.
The Wisconsin State Fair
If you’ve ever wondered how many different ways there are to serve cheese, you owe yourself a trip to the Wisconsin State Fair. Every year for 11 days in August, a variety of food booths and carnival rides take over the fairgrounds. There are also live agricultural shows that take place during the event, which are a great experience for those who are interested in farming. The concerts scheduled to take place at this year’s festival cover every genre imaginable. Billy Idol is scheduled to appear, as are The Brothers Osborne, Casting Crowns and a wide variety of other artists. If you’ve never enjoyed a Wisconsin fried cheese curd, you owe yourself a trip to the Wisconsin State Fair this year.
The Big E
Many years ago, some of the smaller New England states got together to host a joint state fair and The Big E was born. This state fair, which represents Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont is one of the largest fairs in the nation. Part of what makes The Big E so special is that there is a huge number of food booths that offer local food options from every state represented. That alone makes this fair one of the most enjoyable options. It’s also a very long state fair, as this year’s festivities will kick off on September 16 before culminating on October 3. They haven’t released a lot of musical artists scheduled to appear yet, but we do know that Machine Gun Kelly, Foghat and Modern English are on the bill.
State Fair of Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas, including their annual state fair. With an annual attendance north of two million people, the State Fair of Texas is one of the most attended fairs in the country. The fair opens every year with a huge parade that makes its way through Dallas. The festivities only get bigger from there, including the annual college football game between the University of Texas and Oklahoma University. It’s worth noting that the State Fair of Texas is also the only state fair that offers a full auto show every year. With concerts, college football, a parade and an auto show, it’s no wonder that this fair takes 24 days every year. This year’s festivities kick off on September 24 and end on October 17.
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