Tradition is the gravity that pulls us to the State Fair

If you’ve ever attended the State Fair of Texas, even once in the event’s 126-year history, you know the talking points.

There’s the landmark spectre of Big Tex calling out “HOW-dee” to passersby while talking up fair activities and, in general, just being a super-huge mascot.

There’s the acreage-eating car show, which doesn’t feature every car and truck made for passengers, but it certainly feels like it walking through the two auto buildings.

There’s the livestock, which city folks treat as curiosities even as the people who know animals marvel at the specimens in their stalls and cages.

There’s the Midway, with row after row after row of fun-looking games that can be tough to win and scream-inducing rides that can be tough to stomach.

And there’s the fried food, which by reputation spreads Texas’ name farther and wider each fall as vendors scramble over each other to come up with new things to fry that are even more over-the-top than cactus, Coke, beer and cookies.

But when you talk with people about the fair, all of that stuff isn’t really what they remember, particularly if they’re longtime attendees who make the trek annually to the country’s most attended fair.

Sure, they talk about the fried food they ate or the stuff they heard Big Tex say, but that’s not what brings them back. Instead, they’re wandering the fairgrounds year after year because it’s a tradition, one maybe that was started by a grandparent or a parent, maybe begun in high school or college, or maybe kicked off themselves when they were married or had kids of their own.

Most people don’t attend the State Fair of Texas because it’s the sexiest, coolest thing going. They show up at the fair because it’s a part of their lives, something they can’t miss any more than they can miss birthdays or anniversaries or first days of school.

Our story in this month’s magazines chronicles some of our neighborhood’s biggest fair-lovers, people who spend the fair’s entire off-season thinking of ways to cook or sew or build their way to glory in Creative Arts contests. But it’s the rare person who sits in a darkened room working on his or her fair plans alone; most of these people, as you’ll note from the story, make this a family affair, with daughters joining mothers and sons helping fathers, and grandparents throwing in their 2 cents, too.

It doesn’t really make any difference to these people if the weather is hot, if the grease has been around awhile, if the corny dog line is too long, or even if they win a coveted ribbon for their efforts.

They’re not coming to the fair for something to do; they’re coming to the fair because it’s what they do.

And I’ll be there, too.