By Darren Nelson, feature writer for My Local Utah
The longest-running event in the state of Utah is here—the Utah State Fair. Great fun for the whole family, with plenty to see and do! Here is where you can find all your fair favorites like the rides, the entertainment, and the food. The fair begins the first Thursday after Labor Day, September 8, and runs until Sunday, September 18th.
The Fair Grounds
The Utah State Fair is held at the Utah State Fairpark, located at 155 North 1000 West in Salt Lake City. The fairgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fair takes place each year starting on the first Thursday after Labor Day and typically lasts for 11 days. Parking can be found on and around the fairgrounds.
Fairs are a fun experience for families. You can learn and have some hands-on memories you don’t get anywhere else. At the fair, you can visit the barns where animals for the competition are kept. The Barnyard Friends exhibit lets you see and touch baby farm animals. The award-winning exhibit “Little Hands on the Farm” lets kids participate in an agricultural setting. Don’t forget to check out the 800-pound butter cow sculpture on display every day at the fair.
Concerts, comedy, rodeo, and demolition derbies are also on the schedule for an additional fee. Utah’s Own PRCA Rodeo is a big event that spans three days of the fair, and the demolition derby is a blast! Cole Swindell and Flo Rida (with special guests Ying Yang Twins) perform in concert, while Jeff Dunham’s comedy will bring a smile to your face. Top it all off with the Monster Truck Insanity Tour, the Utah State Fair is a one-stop venue for entertainment.
One of the fun things about the fair is seeing the exhibits and competitions that showcase local talent. There is something here for everyone. Agriculture is the centerpiece the fair was built on. Recently, the arts and cooking competitions have become a big draw. Competitions and exhibits include Living Arts, 4-H Food and Clothing, Agriculture, Creative Arts, Fine Arts, Floriculture, Home Arts, Indoor Cook-offs, Outdoor Cook-offs, Photography, Livestock, Jr. Livestock, Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Goats, Poultry, Rabbits, Sheep and Swine.
Cooking competitions will feature the Rhodes Bake-N-Serve, Utah Cattlewomens Beef Recipe Cook-off, Ag-venturous KIDS Cupcake Contest, Oakdell Eggs Omelette Cook-off, and the getting’ Jiggy Jell-O Contest. So, drop by and see who the ribbon winners will be.
In addition to the exhibits, concerts, and rodeo, the fair offers several free entertainment options throughout the park. An aerial bungee and trampoline show, a wild-west comedy gunfight and stunt show, a frog and amphibians’ presentation, a timed laser fast draw competition, a wild west fun park, and a kids pedal tractor pull are all at set locations throughout the park. Roaming entertainment also travels throughout the park during fair hours. Free stages (Gazebo Stage and South Plaza Stage) offer free shows from music, to magicians, to comedy—all day, every day at the fair.
A fair is a great place to sample different kinds of fair food. There is a variety, and it changes every year. There is more to fair food than corn dogs, but what would a visit to the fair be without a corn dog? The other thing about fair food is you can find something that everyone will eat, including the picky eaters in your family. Don’t miss the Beef Feast. It is a carnivore’s paradise where grill masters are cooking up mouth-watering steak sandwiches. So come with an appetite for some tantalizing treats and stay for the funnel cake.
The Carnival Rides
What would the fair be without a spin on a tilt-a-whirl, a trip down a slide, or a visit to a house of mirrors? The Utah State Fair has all these attractions and more—a total of approximately 3 dozen attractions to choose from. Each ride requires a set number of ride tickets or an all-day wristband pass. I recommend the “Thunderbolt” or “Star Tower” for a fun ride.
Admission for adults (ages 13 – 61) is $12.00, Senior Ages (61 and over), and kids 6-12 is only $8.00. Children 5 and under are free. All-you-can-ride wristbands, good from opening to closing, are also available for $25 each. Other individual events that have an additional cost are the Monster Truck Insanity Tour ($24), Day of “Wreck”oning Demolition Derby ($26), and Utah’s Own PRCA Rodeo ($28 per day, 3 days). Concerts like Flo Rida ($37 – $57), Cole Swindell ($37 – $57), and the Jeff Dunham “Seriously?” comedy special ($45 – $65). Some events include fair admission and discounts if buy early online.
The fair and carnival open anywhere from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, depending upon the day. It closes at 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm, also depending on the day. For a complete schedule of hours, click here.
Odds and Ends
Outside food is allowed at the Fair, but not alcoholic beverages. No pets are allowed on the grounds unless you have a physician’s prescription with an assistance animal. You can be removed from the park for several reasons, including abusive or foul language, offensive clothing, intoxication, and offensive actions. For a list of rules, click here.
Oh, How the Fair Has Grown
Originally named “The Deseret Fair,” the first fair was held in October of 1856. It was held in the Deseret Store and Tithing Office in downtown Salt Lake City across the street from the eventual home of the Salt Lake City Temple. Among the competition winners was Brigham Young, who won both “Best Stallion” and “Best Celery.”
As the Utah territory was remote and the residents of the area needed to be self-sufficient to survive. The Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing (D.A.M) Society was incorporated by an act of the Territorial Legislature on January 17, 1856. The first act of the society was to create an exhibition event, and thus, the first fair was born. Geographically isolated from manufacturing centers on the United States East and West coasts, early residents relied upon the society and the annual exposition to learn new and better methods of farming and manufacturing.
The early days of the fair were financed heavily by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and held on church property. A lifetime membership drive for the fair took place after the 1856 General Conference of the church. The awards given out included religious images and phrases. In 1896, Utah officially became a state, and the Deseret Agriculture Society came under the direct control of the new state government. Church involvement decreased now that the fair was a “State Fair.”
In 1902, the state purchased the 65 acres for the fairpark, originally named Agriculture Park, and the Utah State Fair has gone on ever since, with only a brief hiatus during the two world wars.
Utah State Fair Organization was privatized by the Utah State Legislature in 1995, giving the gubernatorial-appointed board of directors a mandate to make the Fair profitable to where it no longer is subsidized by taxpayers.
Today, the Utah State Fair is a much more robust event than it started out as. Utah’s agricultural system has evolved and is no longer geographically isolated. Today, the fair serves a public relations and commercial purpose by expanding our state’s goods and services to a larger audience. The agricultural foundation of the fair still remains, but there are carny rides, corn dogs, and concerts now to fill out the schedule.