For Jack Pyland, the State Fair of Texas is about more than fun.
It’s business and family tradition.
Pyland’s father, Jack Pyland III, began operating french fry stands at the first fair after World War II. The Pylands have been a part of the fair since. At one time, Jack’s father had 30 percent of the food stands at the event.
“The saw dust is in my blood,” Jack says.
Jack had his first stand when he was 12-years-old. He sold hot dogs, french fries, Coke and beer. In high school, his teachers at Bryan Adams would give him his assignments for October early. He would complete them before the Fair started and spend the month at his family booths.
“You make friends,” Jack says of the fair. “You build a camaraderie. I’ve done it all my life. I don’t know any better.”
Today, Jack has one Mexican food stand and two french fry stands. He still uses his father’s french fry recipe – fresh potatoes rolled in a mixture of spices, then deep fried. Jack’s two stands will go through about 600 100-pound bags of fresh potatoes during a fair.
From Labor Day weekend, to the end of October, Jack is at the fair grounds everyday. He contracts with the State Fair to set up the 20 booths in the Food Court Plaza. One of the first things he sets up at the grounds is his “Dog House,” a small wood building that is about four feet by six feet. During the fair, Jack sleeps in a hammock in the house.
His three children, Jack, Wendy and Tommy also help out at the fair. However, this year his son, Jack, won’t be there as much since he is on the Lake Highlands High School varsity football team, his father says.
But Wendy plans to help out on the weekends, as does Tommy, whom Jack says has a natural talent for the fair operation.
“He’ll be the one running the fair,” Jack says.
In With the New
If Jack Pyland represents the old at the State Fair, then neighborhood resident Terry Pope represents the new.
This is Pope’s third year to sell his Tex Cakes at the fair. The cake is a pastry he created several years ago.
“It’s different from a funnel cake,” Pope says. “I love funnel cakes, but they’re too greasy.”
“It’s kind of a take-off from a Mexican pastry, but I just enhanced it.”
The Tex-Cake is served with a butter almond glaze and vanilla ice cream. Pope used to make the dessert for his friends and family. Then one year a friend talked him into selling the cake at some of the smaller festivals around Dallas.
“Then I thought: If I’m going to do this, I should go to the Big Daddy – the State Fair,” Pope says.
He made some samples of his Tex Cake for the State Fair staff and before he knew it he had a booth at the event. His booth is located in the middle of the Midway, close to the Ferris wheel.
In addition to selling his cakes at the fair, Pope also caters events throughout the year. His cakes can be made in just about any shape a customer wants. He has made dollar signs, airplanes and company logos.
Pope’s family moved to Lake Highlands in 1958, when he was in the fourth grade. He graduated from Lake Highlands High School in ’67.
When he was 13, he started marching in the State Fair parade as a member of the Lake Highlands Junior High Band. He marched in the parade for several years, even through college where he played in the National Guard. Most of his career has been in music – writing jingles and playing in bands.
A few years ago, he started his own computer consulting business and began promoting his Tex Cakes more aggressively.
“If anybody had asked if I would be in the food industry, I would say no,” Pope says. “But you know what they say, never say never.”
The State Fair runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 22 at Fair Park. It is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Tickets are $8 for adults; children under four feet tall and senior citizens are $4. Children younger than two are free.