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State Fair Activities: Fun and Challenges

Where can you find cows, candy apples, country singers, and Cajun cooking -- all in one place? You'll see all of those things, and more, at a typical state fair. A tradition in many states, these fairs bring people together to celebrate their heritage and enjoy the fun things in life.

You and your students can't actually experience fairs in far-away states, but you can do the next best thing: Visit the Web sites for five of the biggest and best state fairs!

Check out those five fairs below and on the Web. For each fair listed, you'll find an interesting and educational activity based on the site.

STATE FAIR OF TEXAS

The State Fair of Texas is as big and bold as the state itself. Located in Dallas, the fair debuted in 1886, the same year the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor. Back then, 14,000 people attended the opening day of the fair. Now, the fair draws millions. The 2005 fair will take place September 30 through October 23.

Big Tex is the symbol of the State Fair of Texas, and, boy, is he large! (You can find out more about him and see photos of him by clicking Big Tex on the home page.) This 52-foot giant cowboy represents the fair and, in a sense, represents the way Texans see themselves.

Create a fair symbol for your state. Now, invite students to create a fair symbol for your state. First, arrange your class into small groups. Have students brainstorm and list key traits of your state. Then invite students to brainstorm ideas about which object or person might symbolize one or more of your state's important characteristics. When students decide what their symbol will be, have them do the following:

  • write a profile of their symbol, telling what it or he or she looks like and stands for;
  • sketch the symbol, to show what it looks like;
  • share their profile and sketch with their classmates.

STATE FAIR OF WEST VIRGINIA

Music is just one aspect of the State Fair of West Virginia, but that alone is reason for people to attend. Contests that fairgoers can participate in include a Livestock Show and a Home Arts and Crafts Show. A large number of arts-and-crafts objects also will be displayed. The fair dates for 2005 are August 12 through 21.

Plan Exhibits for Your State Fair. OK, let's say your students have the job of planning fair exhibits for your state fair. The categories of exhibits might include:

  • Animals,
  • Cooking,
  • Flowers,
  • Vegetables,
  • Hobbies, and
  • Photography.
Other exhibits that students come up with are fine, too. Invite students to think of catchy, appropriate titles for each exhibit. Encourage students to have fun with their titles. Have students share their exhibit titles with each other.

IOWA SATE FAIR

The 151st annual Iowa State Fair takes place August 11-21,2005, in Des Moines. Billed as "Still the One," the Iowa celebration includes butter sculptures, llama competitions, cooking contests, midway rides, diverse food, and a variety of other attractions.

Write and Illustrate a Fair Brochure. Let's say the Iowa State Fair committee has asked each of your students to design a 4-page brochure for the fair.

  • First, have students find material for their brochure by clicking the categories under General Info, Entertainment, Competition,and Camping.
  • Instruct students to list information and pictures they want to include in their brochure.
  • Then have them decide which information and pictures will be used on each of the four pages. (Require at least one picture, which they can print from the Web site or sketch.)
  • Next, students will write their brochures, which might include such categories as About the Fair, Event Calendar, and Grandstand Line-up.
  • Display students' finished brochures on a bulletin board.

MARYLAND STATE FAIR

From August 26 through September 5, 2005, the Maryland State Fair, a classic state fair, takes place in Timonium, Maryland. Each year, a mix of agricultural and livestock shows, home arts and farm and garden demonstrations, 4-H exhibits, rides, and entertainment draws people from all around.

Design a Fair 'Photo' Album. Have students explore the site to see photos of the Maryland State Fair. Then:

  • Invite students to imagine what their state fair would be like: What kinds of exhibits, demonstrations, shows, and entertainment, as well as rides, would make up their state fair? Have them make a list of the imaginary state fair's highlights.
  • Then have students brainstorm what they would photograph at their state fairs.
  • Finally, instruct them to design a Fair 'Photo' Album with drawings that they create in the place of photographs.

TULSA STATE FAIR

In 2005, the theme of the Tulsa State Fair, which runs from September 29 through October 19, is "It's A Scream!" Fair exhibits feature arts and crafts, art, collectibles, caricatures, quilts, antique bottles, leather, cloth dolls, pumpkins, and sugar art. And that's only the start!

Make a Fair Poster. This fair boasts a huge array of exhibits, so have students click the categories Exhibitors and Creative Arts to get a list of them. Invite students to make a poster about the fair with the purpose of publicizing it. Have them review the list of exhibits and choose no fewer than three and no more than six exhibits as basic subjects for a poster. Then ask students to write a few sentences describing what they want their posters to show. Next, have students sketch their posters in pencil. Finally, students will be ready to make a fair poster. Display the finished products on a bulletin board in your classroom.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE

State Fair Directory Interested in exploring other state fairs? This site provides links to state fairs across the United States.

Article by Sharon Cromwell
Education World®
Copyright © 1998, 2005Education World

08/17/1998
Updated 5/23/2005