It's the beginning of State Fair season, with more than 20 fairs taking across the U.S. this summer, with more extending into the fall. For families it's an escape from the rigors of city life and a chance to go country, even if only for a day or two. Combining animals, agriculture, live music, carnival rides, and lots of food, it's not only a breath of fresh air but an inexpensive getaway. Just remember to bring lots of sunscreen, hats, and comfy walking shoes for the whole family.
Ohio State Fair
July 29-August 9
Held at the Ohio Expo Center just north of downtown Columbus, the Ohio State Fair is jam-packed with family entertainment, activities and diversions. From agriculture to academics, creative arts to sports there is plethora of stuff to see and do. Watch competitions in boxing, music, fine arts, cheer-leading, martial arts, spelling, cooking, jump rope, and livestock. There is live music daily; some free and other are ticketed. Most music events are priced around $25 per ticket, but the full range is $10 to $75. The live music lineup includes Kelly Clarkson; Alice Cooper; Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell; Foreigner; David Cook; and Rascal Flatts. Gate admission is $10 for adults (ages 13 to 59), $8 for kids (ages five to 12) and seniors and children under five are free. Special carnival ride-all-day wristbands are available for $20. Save on gate admission prices with $6 tickets available through August 10 at AAA locations with AAA membership and Ticketmaster outlets. Purchase ride-all-day wristband vouchers for $17 through Ticketmaster outlets through July 28 only.
Maine State Fair
July 31- August 9
This year marks the 160th anniversary of Maine's State Fair, also known as the Bangor State Fair. You'll pay only to $10 and receive admission to the fair, all events, exhibits, and shows plus unlimited carnival rides. The Fair is open from 10am-10pm on weekends and from 2pm on weekdays. Highlights include daily duck races, frisbee dog shows, motorcycle high-wire riding, and arm wrestling, but most children will feel that the farm animals are the true stars of the show. There will also be daily performances of country music from the 1930s and 40s and enough carnival rides and tasty treats to keep the kids happy for hours on end.
New Jersey State Fair
July 31-August 9
Located in Augusta, New Jersey, just 60 miles from New York City, the Jersey Fair is a calendar highlight. Their extensive family entertainment area features a petting zoo, elephant rides, swimming pig races, and sand sculptures. There are displays of environmental initiatives (from solar cars to recycling), a video game station (kids can enter a Guitar Hero tournament), a chainsaw artist, a baby animal nursery, performing arts, and a "Kountry K-9 dog agility show." Although carnival rides cost extra, there are dozens of free things, like cow milking, craft demonstrations, beekeepers' talks, a butterfly tent, acrobatic shows, and animal story time. Regular admission (at the gate) for kids aged six to 12 is $5, adults pay $11 and seniors $9. Advance ticket sales are $4 and $9 respectively (no advance discount for seniors). A Mega Pass which includes admission and rides good any day (must be purchased before July 30) is $20 for kids and $25 for adults. Children five and under are admitted free.
West Virginia State Fair
There will be animals in abundance for your kids to pet, stare at, and be amazed by at the West Virginia State Fair in Fairlea, a 90-minute drive from either Roanoke, VA or Charleston, WV. In addition to the animal competitions, there will also be an abundance of country style demonstrations from cooking to gardening plus a chance for kids to actively participate in a series of specially designed kids' workshops and youth center exhibits. There's plenty of live music with free bands and ticketed concerts with prices ranging from $20 to $34, including Fair admission. Headline acts include Kenny Rogers, a High School Musical show, The Temptations and Styx. Gate prices for adults 13 and over are $10 and $7 for kids aged six to 12 (under six is free). Advance tickets are $7 and $5 and a Mega Pass (to be purchased by August 10) is $25. Visit the fair after 5pm from August 16 to August 20 and pay only $5 adults or children.
Kentucky State Fair
For 16 hours a day for 11 consecutive days, the Bluegrass state does it in style at their annual fair in Louisville. Entertaining family events include a variety of horse shows, the Rooster crowing contest, a student storytelling competition, gospel singing, cooking competitions, and my personal favorite -- the ugly lamp contest. Some big names, like The Wallflowers, The Commodores and Peter Frampton are scheduled to perform in a series of free concerts. Paid concerts (with tickets ranging in price from $47 to $67 including Fair entry) include Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Journey, Heart and Keith Urban. General admission to the Fair is $6 for advance tickets or $8 at the gate for adults, $2 advance or $4 at the gate for children aged three to 12, and those aged two years and under are admitted free.
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