Closing the gates on the 2021 State Fair of Texas embodies an even greater meaning than years past. After more than 700 days without the State Fair of Texas, the opportunity to come together safely again this year was the celebratory reunion we all longed for, and finally rejoiced in for 24 fun-filled Fair days. In the State Fair’s 135th year, themed, “Howdy, Folks!,” fairgoers from all walks of life returned to the annual event to celebrate their favorite Fair traditions and create new memories with their loved ones. The 2021 State Fair of Texas welcomed more than 2.2 million people through the gates.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Fair aims to support the community, both locally and statewide. The net proceeds from the Fair are used to preserve and improve Fair Park; underwrite museums, community initiatives, and scholarship programs to support students throughout the Lone Star State pursuing higher education; and help improve State Fair operations. The annual State Fair of Texas serves as the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year – a successful 24-day run for the Fair means more support for Fair Park and the surrounding community.
“We are incredibly grateful that we played a part in reuniting friends and families for the time-honored tradition of the State Fair,” said Mitchell Glieber, State Fair of Texas president. “We’d also like to extend a hearty thank you to everyone who came out to enjoy the 2021 exhibition – your support helped us bring back thousands of job opportunities for the North Texas community, it provided our vendors with the income they rely on to keep their small businesses flourishing for years to come, in addition will allow the State Fair to continue fulfilling its nonprofit, mission-related initiatives.”
The State Fair of Texas is a collection of small businesses, from more than 80 food and beverage concessionaires, to nearly 50 ride and game owners, to more than 100 exhibitors – these businesses are the heart of the State Fair. They each bring diverse and unique qualities to the event that our fairgoers have come to love and expect year after year. In addition to being pillars of our organization, each year these businesses rely on the income they make at the annual State Fair of Texas. With the cancellation of the 2020 Fair, it was inevitable that our vendor family was faced with financial adversities, but despite those hardships, our vendors returned stronger than ever to help us put on a safe and successful State Fair of Texas this year.
“This Fair has meant so much to us this year,” said Brent and Juan Reaves, owners of Smokey John’s BBQ. “Having no Fair last year cut the jobs of so many of our seasonal team members. It hurt them to lose those resources and because of that it hurt us as well. The return of the Fair not only means more opportunities for us but also for our team. Our business can’t survive without them – because of that we are so grateful to have had the 2021 Fair.”
“New Kastl Events has been privileged to be contracted as a games vendor at the State Fair of Texas for 14 years,” said Misti Kastl, New Kastl Events Owner. “Honestly just the opportunity to open after the year we had in 2020 means the world – and to have such an incredible 2021 Fair means even more than ever, not only for our company but to our family and the families of those who we employ.”
“We are very pleased to be back to normal,” said Mary Talley, owner of Sky Spectacle, State Fair Spectacular, Talley Amusements, and the iconic Texas Star Ferris wheel. “The comeback is always stronger than the setback, and our return to the State Fair of Texas is no exception.”
“The Texas Department of Agriculture is proud it could be a part of helping businesses of Texas get back to selling their products after a tough 18 months of event cancellations and supply chain issues,” said Sid Miller, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture. “The GO TEXAN Pavilion highlights Texas companies and ag industry partners to fairgoers and the past 24 days have flown by with thousands of people coming through the Pavilion and purchasing Texas made products. If you missed us this year shop us online at shop.gotexan.org, but don’t worry we’ll be back again next year!”
Serving as our largest fundraiser of the year, the 2021 State Fair of Texas proved to make a difference in more ways than we can count. Below are just a few of the noteworthy successes from this year’s exhibition:
- The State Fair welcomed more than 2.2 million fairgoers through the gates.
- More than 50,000 people enjoyed the return of 10 performances of the State Fair of Texas Rodeo presented by United Ag & Turf in the historic Woodbridge Home Solutions Coliseum – the home of the Original National Finals Rodeo.
- More than 1,000 COVID-19 shots were administered to fairgoers by Dallas County Health Department.
- More than 300 folks volunteered supporting the Feed the Need promotion raising nearly 200,000 pounds of canned food items at the State Fair gates, which equates to more than 236,000 meals for the North Texas Food Bank to serve the community with this fall.
- More than 50,000 first responders and their families visited the Fair over 24 days, utilizing the special discount offer in gratitude of their service.
- More than 21,000 members of the military and their families visited the Fair over 24 days, utilizing the special discount offer in gratitude of their service.
- Approximately 520,000 Fletcher’s Corny Dogs were sold during the 24-day run of the State Fair of Texas.
- Nearly 1.84 million free admission tickets were given to students throughout North Texas. In addition, more than 270,000 teachers received a voucher for free admission.
- Community members got crafty with nearly 10,000 entries in the Fair’s Creative Arts competitions. More than 5,200 folks took home ribbons celebrating their creativity this year.
- During the second year of the Lone Star Music Series, more than 75 Texas music artists performed throughout the grounds.
- With more than 9,000 exhibitors, the Fair’s livestock and agricultural events hosted a total of more than 16,000 livestock entries.
- New in the Go Texan Pavilion, produce carver Chef Duey carved up 24 watermelons, an assortment of 24 melons, 50 pounds of turnips, and 100 pounds of assorted fruit.
- On Friday, October 1, the 73rd Annual Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction raised a record of more than $1.7 million for youth livestock exhibitors.
- The Grand Champion Market Steer of the Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction was sold to the Jim Prewitt Memorial Fund for $126,000.
- More than 125,000 rides were taken on the iconic Texas Star Ferris wheel.
- Ag Awareness Day gathered nearly 6,400 students and leaders representing 75 chapters of 4-H, FFA, and FCCLA to participate in the canned food drive, donating more than 28,000 pounds of food to the North Texas Food Bank.
- More than 550 people were involved in several community events sponsored by the community affairs team of the State Fair of Texas, which were held throughout the 24-day run.
- More than 80,000 pounds of pure cane sugar was used to make State Fair Cotton Candy during the Fair.
- More than 360,000 plush prizes, valued at more than $1 million were won on the State Fair Midway.
- The Fair hosted the Fourth Annual Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, awarding eight individuals following in Mrs. Craft’s footsteps, making a positive impact in their community and in civil rights efforts.
- So far in 2021, Big Tex Urban Farms has donated more than 19,200 pounds of fresh produce. This equates to 194,498 servings of fresh produce donated to the South Dallas/Fair Park community. Since inception in 2016, the Farms has donated more than 80,000 pounds – equal to nearly 900,000 servings.
- Returning strongman, Mighty Mike, bent 72 horseshoes and ripped 1,344 playing cards in half during his daily performances this year.
- The Livestock Birthing Barn celebrated 54 animal births throughout the run of the Fair.
- More than 130,000 fans were in attendance for the State Fair Classic and the AT&T Red River Showdown, at the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium during the Fair.
- Approximately 8,000 mums were used to create the hanging art installation in the Día de los Muertos exhibit. The piece took seven months to complete.
- The Budweiser Clydesdales consumed around 9,600 pounds of hay during the 2021 Fair season.
- More than 900 flags were placed on the memorial’s panels at the Texas Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial to honor those Texas veterans who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War.
- Free concerts were once again held on the Chevrolet Main Stage, with Clay Walker, Black Pumas, La Energia Nortena, Grand Funk Railroad, Bill Engvall, and Charley Crockett drawing the largest crowds.
- More than 14.5 million kernels of popcorn were popped in 24 days at the Pioneer Kettle Corn stand owned by Gary Anderson.
- More than 8,500 pieces of pyrotechnics were used during the nightly Mattress Firm Illumination Sensation fireworks show.
- Forty-nine events were hosted at the Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center throughout the Fair’s 24-day run.
- With approximately 90% of fairgoers visiting the Auto Show, the 2021 Texas Auto Show attracted more than 1.98 million fairgoers throughout the 24-day run.
- Twenty-four dogs found their forever homes through the Subaru exhibit, sponsored by DFW Rescue Me, at the Texas Auto Show. Additionally, two dogs were reunited with their owners, thanks to microchip tracking.
- New concessionaire, Mac Loaded, has sold more than 5,500 bowls of mac and cheese, using more than 2,000 pounds of brisket and 2,900 pounds of noodles.
- In 2021, the Fair awarded more than $1 million in new college scholarships to more than 200 students throughout the Lone Star State.
- Nearly 66,000 people visited the Hall of State to enjoy all three exhibits, Our State Fair: 135 years of the State Fair of Texas, the Junior League of Dallas Centennial exhibit, and the Tom & Alicia Landry Family Collection.
- With college applications right around the corner, the Fair encourages eligible high school seniors and seasonal employees to go online to BigTex.com/Scholarship and apply now for a 2022 Big Tex college scholarship.
A Texas-sized thank you to each person who made their way back to the fairgrounds to celebrate all things Texan, making the 2021 State Fair of Texas a comeback for the ages. The 2022 State Fair of Texas will run from Friday, September 30 through Sunday, October 23 in Fair Park. Big Tex and everyone at the Fair will be eagerly waiting to welcome y’all back again next year!
Photo: Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas