They say all good things must come to an end, but goodbyes are never easy. As Big Tex bids his final farewell for the year, it’s hard to believe that the 2016 State Fair of Texas is coming to a close. This year the Fair welcomed 2,408,032 people through the gates. Proving to be the most successful year in Fair history, the 2016 event brought big crowds and an even bigger community impact. With the majority of funds going to participating vendors, the Fair generated in excess of $56 million in gross coupon sales for food, beverages and rides – an all-time record, making the event the most successful in its 130-year history.
This year’s results serve as proof of the Fair’s continuous growth, however the measurement of success goes far beyond these numbers. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization the Fair aims to support the community, both locally and statewide. The net proceeds from the Fair are reinvested in Fair Park, in the form of capital improvements; given as scholarships to deserving youth throughout the state of Texas; used to support Fair Park museum facilities and community outreach programs; and used to improve the State Fair’s operation. A successful 24-day run for the Fair means more support for the surrounding community.
“We appreciate the continued support of our fairgoers from both near and far in helping to make this year’s Fair a success,” says Mitchell Glieber, State Fair of Texas president. “A successful Fair allows us to fulfill our mission of celebrating all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment. With 130 years under our Texas-sized belt buckle, we look forward to continuing the Fair tradition in Fair Park for many future generations.”
With at least a $2.4 million increase over 2015’s record total in gross coupon sales, the proceeds from this year’s Fair will provide more support to the local community than ever before. When broken down into separate components, the Fair itself is a collection of small businesses – comprised of independent vendors, concessionaires, ride owners and operators, artists, entertainers and more. The Fair partners with a wide variety of entrepreneurs, giving them the opportunity to operate their individual businesses here in Fair Park for the event’s 24-day run. By showcasing small businesses and providing job opportunities to more than 6,000 seasonal employees every year, the Fair encourages economic growth in the surrounding area.
Bringing the traditional lineup of food, festivities and family fun, the 2016 State Fair also threw a few new additions into the mix. The Hall of State welcomed approximately 225,000 fairgoers through its doors to visit the “The Taylor Swift Experience™,” as well as four other exhibits dedicated to the Lone Star State and its history; “Six Nations over Texas,” “Ways of the West,” “Eugene Butler & the Progressive Farmer” and “Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy.” Mundo Latino presented “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel – The Exhibition” as its annual exhibit in the Women’s Museum. Appearing in America for the first time ever, this one-of-a-kind showcase recreated one of the world’s greatest artistic achievements through photographic reproduction displayed in its original size. Bringing the tale of the American West to the Fair, the all-new Lone Star Stampede featured quintessential Western themes like stagecoaches, horses, cowboys and a longhorn cattle drive. Visitors learned all about various breeds of horses and their unique qualities at the Majesty of the Horse, another new show featured at the 2016 Fair.
The Lords of Gravity Basketball Slam Dunk Show joined the list as another new show at the 2016 Fair. Hailing from Budapest, Hungary, the acrobatic basketball team brought jaw-dropping hoop skills and high-ﬂying stunts to the court. The action continued with Xpogo, another extreme sports show new to the Fair this year. The action-packed performance featured pogo professionals showing off their skills with gravity-defying tricks, flips and spins. Free concerts on the Chevrolet Main Stage remained a fairgoer favorite, with the largest crowds at Kacey Musgraves, AB Quintanilla y los Kumbia King All Starz, Cody Johnson, Ben Rector, Nelly, Skillet and La Energía Norteña. Community members got crafty with more than 9,000 entries in the Fair’s Creative Arts competitions. Another State Fair staple was the largest new car auto show in the Southwest, giving visitors the chance to check out the hottest 2017 models. The Chevrolet Ride & Drive generated more than 52,000 test drives. After a successful debut in 2015, the Thrifty Thursdays food discount program returned for the 2016 Fair, with almost double the number of concession items offered at a discounted price. Fairgoers flocked to participating food vendors on Thursdays, who offered one of their signature menu items at a reduced price, ranging from mini versions to regular-size items. “Bark at Fair Park,” the dog adoption booth run by local rescue organization DFW Rescue Me, was another success this year – 60 dogs were adopted during the Fair and now have forever homes.
To show appreciation for our military and first responders, the Fair hosted two special days in their honor for the first time ever this year – Military Appreciation Day and First Responders Day. With more than 9,600 members of the military and their families redeeming vouchers for free admission at the gates as well as special programming throughout the grounds, it’s safe to say the inaugural Military Appreciation Day was a success. Hosting military veterans from conflicts dating back to World War II at the 2016 Opening Ceremony, the Fair wanted members of our military and their families to feel our appreciation for their service and sacrifice on Opening Day this year. On Friday, October 14, almost 12,000 first responders and their families visited the Fair for free on First Responders Day as part of a special tribute to their public service and dedication.
As a nod to its agricultural roots and the organization’s mission statement, the Fair chose “Celebrating Texas Agriculture” as its 2016 theme. With this year’s theme in mind, the State Fair implemented more agricultural-related activities around the grounds, in addition to the many exhibits and events that have been around for years. At the all-new exhibit “I Spy Texas,” fairgoers got to experience the different wildlife and natural resources unique to each region of Texas. City-dwellers caught a glimpse of life on the farm by attending one of the Fair’s daily Milking Demonstrations, which moved to a new location next to Big Tex’s Farmyard. Educational opportunities also included Farm Day at the Fair, a TEKS-based program providing in-class lesson plans focused on the importance of agriculture. Farm Day at the Fair is open to 3rd and 4th graders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and includes a learning excursion to the Fair to build upon their in-classroom lessons. The Livestock 101 Stage marked another new agriculture initiative, offering daily presentations from resident livestock experts. With an 18% increase from last year, the 2016 State Fair hosted a total of 12,708 livestock entries. Overall participation numbers increased by 35%, with 7,500 students competing in the Fair’s livestock and agricultural shows. The annual Youth Livestock Auction raised more than $1.4 million in scholarships and prizes for Texas youth. Another record was set when III Forks Steakhouse and the Big Tex Champion Club purchased the Grand Champion Market Steer for $131,000 at the Youth Livestock Auction. The Fair’s Ag Awareness Day also brought record numbers – with more than 8,100 students representing 206 chapters of 4-H, FFA and FCCLA participating in the canned food drive, more than 30,000 pounds of food were collected and donated to the North Texas Food Bank.
With agriculture, education and community involvement at the heart of every decision, the State Fair passionately pursues opportunities to expand and build upon its mission. Connecting all three of these components, the Fair’s Youth Scholarship Program supports students attending schools in the Fair Park area, as well as students across the state pursuing a future in agriculture. In 2016, the Fair awarded more than $1.2 million in college scholarship to 201 graduating seniors throughout the Lone Star State. Over its 24 year history, the Youth Scholarship Program has awarded college scholarships to more than 1,800 students for a total of more than $8.7 million. The Fair encourages eligible high school seniors to go online to BigTex.com/scholarship and apply now for a 2017 scholarship. In addition to the scholarship program, the Fair also works to support many other educational initiatives, including a TEKS-aligned curriculum for elementary and high school students. After launching a fourth through eighth grade curriculum last year, the State Fair expanded its classroom initiatives to the high school level, with a new curriculum for ninth through twelfth graders. In partnership with Big Thought, the Fair offers a TEKS-aligned program that focuses on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) along with other core disciplines like social studies, English, language arts and visual design. The online curriculum connects classroom learning with student experiences at the Fair, including in-class lesson plans as well as materials and activities for out-of-school time. The Fair hosted a wide age-range of students taking their class trip to the Fair as part of the Big Thought curriculum.
Through its partnerships with charities like Canstruction® and the North Texas Food Bank™, the Fair is able to accomplish two goals simultaneously – supporting the community and providing fairgoers with quality entertainment. Thanks to Kroger and the North Texas Food Bank, visitors had the chance to participate in the “It’s a Fair Deal” program and attend the Fair for $4 on Wednesdays. By donating four canned food items, fairgoers could enter the gates at a significant discount, with all donations going to feed local families in need. Through these weekly specials, along with the Coca-Cola promotion on Opening Day and the canned food drive held on Ag Awareness Day, the State Fair helped raise more than 267,000 pounds of food – all of which has been donated to the North Texas Food Bank. Thanks to fairgoers who participated in these community efforts, this year’s total number of cans collected translates into 222,773 meals. Returning for the third year in a row, the Canstruction exhibit once again served as one of the Fair’s free attractions. Guests of all ages enjoyed the beautiful structures created entirely of canned food, all of which will be donated to the North Texas Food Bank. Through its partnership with Canstruction, the State Fair collected an additional 158,000 canned food items.
As one of its new initiatives, the State Fair of Texas has partnered with Goodwill Industries of Dallas, Inc. to host the Inaugural Big Tex Postseason Job Fair on Friday, October 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Fair Park Coliseum. More than 60 local companies will be taking applications and interviewing for employment positions across a broad range of skill sets. A list of participating organizations and additional details can be found at BigTex.com/JobFair.
The success of this year’s Fair would not be possible without the continuous support of fairgoers. Visitors include lifelong fans and first-time guests, coming from both near and far to experience the 130-year tradition. From the familiar faces of those returning for their annual trip to the Fair, to new Texas transplants who are visiting the Fair for the first time, each and every guest contributes to the Fair’s community impact simply by attending the event. Attracting visitors of all ages, the Fair means something different to each person who steps on the grounds, yet one sentiment seems to be universal among all age groups – the Fair is something people hold very near and dear to their hearts. The State Fair of Texas is honored to host so many visitors year after year and hopes to see you at the 2017 exposition, running September 29 through October 22.
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About the State Fair of Texas
Since its inception in 1886, the State Fair of Texas has celebrated all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment. The State Fair of Texas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with proceeds helping to preserve and improve Fair Park and underwrite museum, community and scholarship programs for inner city youth and students pursuing agricultural careers. The 2017 exposition runs September 29 through October 22 in Fair Park. Visit BigTex.com for more information.