Skip to main content

The City Journals

So…I went to the Utah State Fair for the first time

Sep 11, 2019 12:59PM ● By Justin Adams

(Flickr)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Prior to last weekend, I had somehow managed to go through nearly 27 years of life without ever attending a state fair. Not sure how that happened, but on Saturday night I decided to remedy the situation.

Upon arriving at the Utah State Fairgrounds, I immediately made my way towards the food vendors. I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I was starving, and eager to dive into the mythical world of fair food, of which I’d heard many mouth-watering rumors. As it turned out, I’d actually crossed into a frightening alternate reality where everything is twice as expensive as it ought to be.

I thought the fare from food trucks, theme parks and stadiums was overpriced. But they have nothing on the state fair. 

By the time I got to the front of the line of a pop-up barbecue joint, I’d realized that the bacon-wrapped turkey leg which I’d set my heart on was a whopping $22. And that was just for the leg. No fries. No drink. Outrageous.

I pivoted to the rib dinner plate, which was $18, but came with fries and coleslaw. A better value, I thought, and slightly less messy. Emphasis on slightly. 

As a very frugal person, I just had to close my eyes and not think about the fact that I was forking over enough money for several meals off the Wendy’s Dollar Menu in exchange for a single dinner. Much in the same way that I soon had to not think about the possibility that the ribs I was eating had come from a cute little talking pig named Wilbur who’d been fattened up for the state fair. 

I’ll say this though, those ribs were amazing. I don’t know if it was just my subconscious trying to convince myself that the pork was worth the price, but I loved every barbecue sauce-soaked second of devouring them. (Sorry, Wilbur!)

Next I decided to forego the carnival rides in favor of checking out the prize-winning animals and gourds and whatnot. 

(There are few things in this world that I trust less than carnival rides. It seems like every summer you hear about someone dying at a county fair because a worker forgot to tighten a screw all the way. Granted, my risk of dying on a carnival ride is probably a lot less than my risk of having a heart attack after consuming approximately 6,000 calories worth of ribs, candy, roasted corn and various fried foods throughout the night. Not that I did that…)

Anyways, seeing all the prize-winning agricultural submissions was quite the eye-opening experience. First of all, I didn’t even know what half the fruits and vegetables even were. I mean, who needs those when deep-fried Snickers bars are a thing? 

Second, I had NO idea that cows were so big. I must have only ever seen petting zoo cows before, because those prize-winning behemoths were massive. Those giants with their big boney booties have haunted my dreams ever since. 

Third, I learned that there is a prize awarded for the best grain. Yeah. There was a ziplock baggie of wheat or barley or something with a ribbon on it. I had so many questions. How does one judge one bag of grain against another? Is that a hotly-contested category? How does one get involved in competitive grain-harvesting? 

Overall, the agriculture portion seemed to me like the forgotten part of the state fair, a dying art that fewer and fewer people can appreciate because of the commercialization of the industry. Maybe things will turn around in the coming years when cannabis is inevitably legalized and it gets included as a category of its own. That would probably draw a crowd. 

I very much enjoyed my first time at the Utah State Fair, and would recommend it to anyone else who has yet to attend the event. Whether you’re into organically grown prize-winning vegetables or deep fried bacon-wrapped candy bars, you’ll find something to enjoy.