LOCAL ECONOMIC SNAPSHOT | THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS
The fairest attraction
By BILL BOWEN
Special Contributor [email protected]
The Texas State Fair is one of the nation’s largest attractions, drawing more than 2 million attendees a year and pouring money into local hotels, restaurants and small retailers.
The Texas State Fair has topped the chart for years but was No. 2 in 2009 when a very rainy run put Houston’s Livestock Show & Rodeo on top. The Minnesota State Fair actually has greater average daily attendance but doesn’t run as long. ■ 2010 attendance State Fair of Texas (Dallas) Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Minnesota State Fair (St. Paul) Los Angeles County Fair (Pomona, Calif.) San Antonio Livestock Show & Exposition ■ 2011 attendance 2.62 million 2.48 million 2.14 million 2.26 million 1.78 million 1.77 million 1.37 million 1.49 million 1.35 million 1.44 million
Texas State Fair growth
Aided by the region’s growing population and an emphasis on family attractions, such as the Birds of the World Exhibit and dog and puppet shows, attendance has steadily gained in recent years.
(In millions) 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0
Dallas Historical Society
Big Tex made his State Fair debut in 1952.
2006 2007 * Rains hurt attendance
State Fair managers say that coupon sales for food, rides and other amusements are their best guide of a season’s success.
$40 $30 $20 $10 0 ’01 ’02 ’03 ’04 ’05 ’06 ’07 ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11
By the numbers (Estimates for 2012) 200
Fletcher’s Corny Dogs sold
fried peanut butter sandwiches sold
stuffed animals and other prizes awarded
deep-fried pineapple upside-down cakes consumed
A century of exposition and amusements
A few of the milestones of the State Fair of Texas since its inauguration in 1886, during the administration of Grover Cleveland.
1904: The first auto show is held. 1930: Construction of the Cotton Bowl begins. 1985: Texas Star starts spinning.
1886: The first fair draws 100,000 attendees.
1916: The hamburger is introduced.
1952: 1960: The Dallas 1932: The first Texas-Oklahoma Big Tex Cowboys play their arrives. first season in the game is held. Cotton Bowl.
2013: Amazement Park and Top of Texas Tower are set to open.
1956: Elvis performs.
1918: Fair season is canceled as the Army requisitions the park for air training
1979: A tragic Sky Ride accident occurs on the fair’s last day.
1997: Big Tex gets a new steel frame.
SOURCES: State Fair of Texas; Carnival Warehouse, a trade publication; State Fair of Texas Archives; Dallas Municipal Archives; Dallas Morning News photo archives
The bottom line
“The goal is to remain relevant: the family programming, such as the World of Birds; the food competitions that have added fried Coke and the fried bacon cinnamon roll; and the addition of two light rail stations.” “The State Fair of Texas, including the two football games, is the biggest single tourism event held on an annual basis in Dallas. It is a signature event for the city of Dallas and has been for a long time. Because of it, there are a lot of people who make this a part of their annual vacationland.” Philip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau “The State Fair of Texas has remained a draw for decades, by offering something for almost everybody, from livestock exhibitions, to amusement rides, to the auto show.”
Errol McKoy, president and chief executive of the State Fair of Texas
Bill Bowen, special contributor, The Dallas Morning News