Sunday, November 22, 2015


Tiny & Mary take Texas (or at least the State Fair of Texas)!!!

I'm not sure if it is embarrassing to admit, but State Fair (1945) is one of my favorite movies.  Furthermore, it is far and away my favorite Rogers & Hammerstein musical.  Don't get me wrong; I think Dick and Oscar wrote some of the 20th Century's greatest love songs (see: "Something Good") but somehow their works, bogged down by far too many a dreary dream ballet for my liking, are overwrought and ultimately depressing.  State Fair, unique in its purely-cinematic origins, is a masterpiece of mid-'40s optimism.  The joyful whirl of dirndl dresses and "rousing, cornfed ditties," encourages my perennial delusion that this is what all fairs will be like.  Not so much.

State Fair (1945)

Remade in 1962 with an unlikely roster including Alice Faye, Ann-Margaret, Bobby Darin, and Pat Boone, State Fair's geography changed dramatically from the corn fields of Iowa to the wide, open prairies of Texas.  Filmed on location, State Fair (1962) made the most of the enormous fairgrounds.  

"Isn't It Kinda Fun?" - Ann-Margaret in State Fair (1962)

My birthday trip to Texas resulted in a self-guided tour of those very fairgrounds that was more than "kinda fun;" it was the highlight of our day in Dallas.  The only things "kinda fun" about the 1962 movie reboot are Ann-Maragret at the height of her powers and matching the fairgrounds captured in our photos to the images presented in the film.

State Fair of Texas, 1962

State Fair of Texas, 2015

Opened in 1936 for the centennial celebration of Texas statehood, Fair Park is a marvel of Art Deco architecture.  Open to the public year-round, the sprawling fair grounds define the phrase, "They just don't make them like they used to."  To ensure that we were able to see everything, we rented bikes that we thought would allow us to cover more ground.

It was our lucky day as there were only two functioning bicycles left in the bike rack!
Mine, of course, was cursed with gear issues and left me pedaling triple duty...

The main entrance into the State Fair of Texas was appropriately large but slightly unprepossessing, with only a solitary statue honoring the dedicated men and women who designed and built the fair.

"To perpetuate the memory of the builders of the State Fair of Texas."

Just past this garden, however, an entire world of stately beauty is revealed.  Flanked by a pair of pegasus (pegasi? pegasuses?), an almost endless reflecting pool becomes the centerpiece to a grand concourse of exhibition halls and pavilions.  In front of each porticoed hall towers a powerful statue representing Texas' famous six flags (Spain, Mexico, France, The Confederacy, The Republic of Texas, and The United States).

State Fair (1962)

The fountains weren't operating but that didn't diminish the majesty of Fair Park's main esplanade.

Many of the exhibition halls are adorned with larger-than-life murals.

Mary said that this is how she pictures her romantic life - a blonde angel swooping
down to rescue some poor guy from the endless miseries of bachelorhood. 

State Fair (1962)

It is our understanding that the fairgrounds suffered from some questionable "make-
unders" over the years.  Thankfully, everything has been restored to full, glorious color. 

State Fair (1962)

This is not the same statue as the one pictured above, but you get the idea.

Mary wondered why this particular statue wasn't included in the final cut of State Fair.
I could only think of a couple reasons...

State Fair (1962)

The Hall of State is not featured prominently in the film but you can clearly make out
the golden god in front of the building...and just past him you can see that Tejas warrior statue.

One of the pavilions was left open so we took the opportunity to do some exploring.
It was quite dark inside and nothing was going on but we did get the chance to marvel 
at the Art Deco motifs that continued on inside the buildings. 

State Fair (1962)

As much as we loved the State Fair of Texas, it was certainly not without its disappointments.
A chairlift/gondola ride might be fun but it is no substitution for the long-gone '50s-era monorail!

State Fair (1962)

And don't get me started on Big Tex!!!  I was more than a little miffed to learn that
Big Tex is only on site when the fair is running.  But I was quickly distracted by this
shiny, gold, skyscraper (the base of which can be seen next to Big Tex in the above
still from the film). 

State Fair (1962)

As the world's largest carnival barker, Big Tex beckons fairgoers into the midway.  I
had to settle for "Big Mare" or "Midway Mary" as she's known around the fairgrounds...
Even still, I was thrilled to see the same neon-clad midway arch that is featured in the movie! 

The original star of the midway was the Triple Racing 
Roller Coaster, seen in this footage from 1936.

Fair Park extends far beyond the grandeur of the exhibition halls and the thrills of the midway.  Home to museums, an aquarium, and a manmade lake, one could happily spend an entire day roaming the grounds - even without the promise of caveman-sized turkey legs, deep-fried Oreos, and milk-chocolate bacon on a stick.

In the forecourt of the aquarium sits an incredible seahorse water feature.
I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned it here, but I am fascinated by
seahorses and love seeing them represented in art and architecture.

This fella was loitering outside the Natural History Museum.

Creating a fairyland atmosphere, one section of the lagoon features a beautiful, interactive
sculpture garden, where serpentine footpaths meander through the water and around the trees.

The joke's on you, Texas.  This troll is on top of the bridge!!!

A fair full of people might have lent some vitality and atmosphere to our visit but Mary and I agreed that that we preferred having the entire park to ourselves.  It is a treat to experience the art and architecture without shoving past hordes of hungry fair folk (oddly enough, one of the few people that we did see was someone with whom Mary is acquainted from Southern California; we met him as we entered a warehouse sale that was being held on the fairgrounds - Mary has a friends in every airline hub).

A panoramic view of the wonderfully-desolate State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas did much to restore my faith in the possibility of fairs.  If you ever find yourself deep in the heart of Texas, it is a most worthwhile use of your time.  And as everyone in Texas is a Texan, even a couple of no good city slickers, we feel perfectly comfortable declaring that "Our state fair is a great state fair!"  Don't miss it!  Don't even be late!

"Our State Fair is a Great State Fair" - State Fair (1962)

State Fair of Texas
3921 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Dallas, TX


Mr. Tiny


  1. wow what beautiful fairgrounds! the tennessee state fairgrounds are just a bunch of boring square buildings and the drag race track! Texas puts us to shame! (and for a second i thought you meant the fair went on year round! that would be impressive)

    1. We live very close to our local fairgrounds and they are nothing to write home about. There are events going on year-round at both our fair and the State Fair of Texas but I can't imagine wandering our fairgrounds and making such liberal use of the camera. The Texas State Fair runs for about one month in September/October, but Fair Park is open all year for all y'alls (when in Texas) enjoyment. Hahaha!!!

  2. Woah! I've lived in TX my whole life and never been to the fair because I thought it was only about fried food and rodeo stuff! I had no idea that all that original architecture is still there! And the original Big Tex actually burned down a couple of years ago during the fair; it was big news statewide. ;)

    1. It made the news here too. I was told they rebuilt him but he's only out when the fair is on. You should definitely check it out. I don't think I would ever go to the actual fair but if I was ever back in Dallas, the fairgrounds would be at the top of my list. It's awesome!