Funnel Cakes, Ferris Wheels and Tractor Pulls – Oh My!!
By April Mercer
Each September on the eastern border of our sweet city, we Abilenians have the opportunity to experience a sensory overload when the West Texas Fair & Rodeo comes to town. Nostalgic family fun awaits as the carnival midway quickly appears, bringing with it decadent offerings of food, unique exhibits, and exciting rides galore. I have long felt a special connection to the fair, as it provided for a perfect first date for my husband and me. Back on that Saturday in 1994, the lemonade was just as sweet and the midway was just as bright.
Last year alone, the West Texas Fair & Rodeo boasted almost 120,000 guests, and its history in Abilene dates back to 1899. Rochelle Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of the Taylor County Expo Center, is proud to help provide Abilene with this historic venue for making memories. If you’ve ever had the fair sneak up on you and feel overwhelmed finding the best time to go or deciding how to spend your time when you arrive, let this be your guide to planning ahead, spotting the best deals, and taking in all the fair has to offer.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR:
The fair will open for the public on Friday, Sept. 7, with Sneak-a Peek on Thursday, Sept. 6. Carnival rides, delicious foods, animal exhibits, and locally judged creative artistry will be available through Saturday, Sept. 15. On weekdays, the gate will be open 2:30-11 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, fair goers can spend the whole day enjoying all the attractions – 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Those wanting to enter their creative talents are encouraged to register photography, painting, canning, baking, quilting, or other original pieces by Sept. 4. Patrons who love the tractor pulls will want to visit on Sept. 7-8.
BRING YOUR APPETITE:
What’s your favorite fair food? Abilenians are passionate about their favorites. A quick, unscientific poll reveals Aggie Fries as a clear winner, but love for funnel cakes, corn dogs, and local barbecue and Mexican food abounds. Patrons won’t be disappointed by the culinary offerings at the fair this year. Local venders including Mama Sally’s, Betty Rose’s, Mi Ranchito, Steak Express, and of course, Aggie Fries, will line the fair’s walkway. Certain food kiosks travel from city to city with the carnival rides, providing the traditional ice cream, pizza, cotton candy, corn dogs and funnel cakes that fair attendees have come to expect.
Carnival Americana, a family-owned operation based out of Ft. Worth, supplies The West Texas Fair & Rodeo with its carnival midway. The selection of rides and games is ever-changing so that fair goers can be enticed by new adventures. Thirty five different rides are guaranteed to thrill ticket-holders. More than half of the rides can be enjoyed by very young children, while 15 of the attractions will be glowing, twirling, spinning, hair-raising adventures. For the less adventurous in spirit, carnival games will provide countless opportunities to win prizes and treats, as well as make memories.
IN THE BUILDINGS:
More than 70 vendors, both commercial and independent, from around the state will line the halls of the display buildings with samples to share and wares to sell. Across the way from those display buildings is the new livestock barn. The livestock show attracts participants from around the state and serves as one of the first fairs for the livestock show season. Excitement will be high as participants get to explore the new state-of-the-art facilities for this livestock show. Though there is some construction, there will be no change regarding parking for patrons.
Gate admission is $4 for students but adult prices vary: $8 on Sept. 7, 11-14; $11 on Sept 8, 9, 15. Individual ride tickets can be purchased daily for $1 each or a $30 arm band for unlimited rides. There’s also an $80 season ticket option that includes unlimited gate admission to the fair and to the rodeo for the entire season. If you’re looking for a discount, consider these special days and offers:
- 6 Sneak-A-Peek – FREE gate admission, $25 arm band for unlimited riding
- 10 — $1 gate admission
- 11 – $2 per ride night
- 13 CANtastic – bring six empty soda cans as gate admission
Also note that 40,000 students in Abilene and surrounding area schools will be given student tickets for free admission. Those tickets are valid Sept 8, 9, 10 or 11.