Bringing the Community Together: Fair executives say the event is more than concerts and food

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Take all the fried food imaginable, fruit-carving competitions, sock monkey displays and a guest performance by Pitbull and what happens?

The Arizona State Fair.

The fair returns for its 134th year and through October 28, it will feature food and ride favorites, and a new selection of entertainment. Among the acts performing are Big & Rich, Casting Crowns and Pitbull.

Assistant Executive Director Jen Yee says the fair is a great opportunity to save money on events that would otherwise cost more.

“You can buy an up-close seat for half the price you would at a stadium, or you could see the entertainment for free with your fair admission ticket,” Yee says.

There will also be outdoor tribute bands performing every night, giving ode to artists such as AC/DC, Kiss and Lorde.

Music isn’t the only aspect of the fair bringing something new to the table. Attendees can see the King Tut and the Egyptian Treasures exhibit, which will feature museum-quality replicas of Egyptian artifacts at a low price.

Entry to the exhibit will cost $5 extra, but Yee says it is being shown at other places for prices up to $30. “Every year, we try to bring museum-type exhibits to the fair because we want people to be able to go and see them at an affordable price,” she says. Guests can also look forward to seeing what is on display throughout the grounds.

“One of the cool things about competitive entries is that it is new every year in respect to new things on display,” says Karen Searle, the director of competitive entries. “It’s never the same twice.”

While the traditional pie-eating and livestock contests will continue to be crowd favorites, others will premiere, like a fruit-carving competition and a recycled material competition that challenges contestants to create artwork in the style of the TV show Chopped.

The fair has tried to include activities and contests for everyone, especially the youth.

“Things our grandparents did, most of the kids today aren’t doing,” Searle says. “So, we’ve introduced new things.” Options like yearbook competitions and phone photography contests have maintained the festivalgoers’ wide age range, making the fair an event everyone can attend and participate in.

Searle says the fair is a great way for the community to come together and showcase its individual talents.

“It’s a great representation of our state,” Searle says. “It is something fun, interesting and unique to watch.” Yee says that although the list price for entry to the fair is $10, there are ways for guests to save money.

Among these deals are “We Care Wednesdays,” when people can bring five cans of food in exchange for free admission, and “Free Fry’s Fridays,” when Fry’s customers can bring their receipt showing purchases of more than $50 and get two free admission tickets.

Foodies can save money on treats with “The Taste of the Fair” package, which allows them to try smaller portions for $2.

As usual, animals play a large part in the fair. Searle says just in the first weekend, they are expecting to have more than 600 sheep coming from places as far as Minnesota. Different livestock will be featured every weekend.

“If you came to the fair every Saturday, you’d see a different animal each time,” Searle says. “There is something for everyone.”

However, out of all the excitement, the most important and defining aspect of the fair, Yee says, is the sense of community it brings: “You can come down here and see your neighbor’s photography, or your child’s artwork or somebody’s quilt. It really brings out the feeling of community.”

Arizona State Fair, 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix, 602.252.6771, azstatefair.com, noon to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, $10 general admission.

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