If there's one constant to the Arizona State Fair each year, it's all the spectacle involved. Everything about the annual event is seemingly geared towards being attention-grabbing, thrill-seeking, or over-the-top in nature, whether it's the amped-up rides, ultra-flashy midway games, larger-than-life creatures, blockbuster concerts, or the non-stop buffet of grease-laden guilty pleasure eats.
The 2013 version of the fair, which kicks off today and runs through November 3, is no exception as there's a large amount of attractions and distractions afoot, and big-time fun. Besides getting the opportunity to be shot into the sky or trek through the final frontier, visitors can experience more down-to-earth fun like watching demolition derbies, monster trucks, or sideshow-style performances.
Check out our list of some of the things we'll be seeing and doing while out at the fair.
The IceMen To most people, ice is merely something to be plopped into a cooler or beverage. To the artists of IceMen, however, it's raw material to be transformed into unique (albeit temporary) art pieces. These craftsmen will chip, chisel, grind, and chainsaw away at slabs of frozen water to create fantastical ice sculptures inside the South Hall of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum during daily demonstrations (two will be held on weekdays and three take place on weekends) for the amazement of fair patrons.
Exhibition Halls: One of our favorite things to check out at state fair isn't located in the midway or even outdoors for that matter. It's all the various and sundry crafts, creations, and works that fill portions of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as well as the more homespun offerings and livestock that are found in the exhibition halls dotting the south end of the fairgrounds.
Almost the entirety of the coliseum's lower level features a number of photos, paintings, and illustrations made by Arizona artists. Other curiosities are in abundance, running the gamut from model rockets and battleships to treasure troves of items assembled by local collectors. Quaint handmade efforts like quilts, woodworking, and clothing are found in the Home Arts Center. And if you can stomach the, um, fragrance of farm animals and the fair's usual bestiary in the Agriculture Center, there's overdose of fuzziness and cuteness to be seen.
Great American Duck Race Those in the mood for more of an up-close experience with an animal (without having to poke any fingers through wire mesh) should consider participating in one of the interactive duck races that will be held daily outside of the Commercial Hall. A few fairgoers will be chosen and given the chance to grab ahold one of four mallards before releasing the feathered creature to race down a water track once the starting horn goes off. Three sessions of five races each will be held each day and prizes will be given to those whose ducks are speedy enough to win.
High Fly'n Zip Lines Feeling daring? The state fair has always offered opportunities for the brave and the bold to test their mettle, whether it's bungee jumping or the chance to feast on creepy crawlers. This year, wanna-be daredevils can get an adrenaline kick after climbing a 55-foot tower, getting latched into a harness, and taking a heart-pounding 700-foot-long flight over their fair grounds via a zip-line.
All-Star Monster Trucks The fair-going masses pack into the seats of the Grandstand every year to witness fearsome-looking monster trucks engaging in all manner of wheelie popping, hump jumping, and obstacle dodging while thundering around a gigantic dirt track. This year, these massive machines will perform for the delight of the crowds over the course of three days and nights from Friday, November 1, to Sunday, November 3. As always, admission is free.
Demolition Derby Also taking place at the grandstand will be this three-night orgy of roaring motors, twisted steel, and automotive destruction, which takes place Friday, October 11, through Sunday, October 13, in the grandstand area. It's been an hallmark of the state fair for decades and packs plenty of old-school fun to boot as drivers smash their rattletraps into each other to determine who's the king of the car-crunching competition. Local artist Corey Busboom has also been a regular participant (and has previously created custom cars devoted to his favorite band DEVO) and will be one of the competitors involved in this year's derbies.
United States Arm-Wrestling Championships Since we're on the subject of lowbrow competitions, attendees packing some serious muscle can participate in the annual arm-wrestling tournaments open to men and women on Saturday, October 26. The Hangout entertainment venue will host battles between pairs of dudes and dames eager to score a trophy, a national ranking, and glory. There will be five different weight classes (from lightweight to heavyweight) and two for women. Registration is at 11 a.m. and the competitions being at 1 p.m. Participation is free.
The Secret Circus Although the true identities of Agent Butterfly and Honeymoon are probably classified, their mission at the fair is less secretive. The pair, who reportedly possess a "license to thrill" will entertain the masses with comedic stunts during their daily spy-themed shows at The Avenue along the southern end of the fairgrounds utilizing a seven-foot "stealth cycle," a bow and plunger-arrow, skateboard catapult, and other gags.
The Rides One of the most quintessential parts of any state fair experience, next to the deep-fried eats and herds of barn animals, is arguably the rides that light up the place with color, energy, and noise. While some can be either daunting or dizzying (like the intimidatingly named G-Force, Mach 1, and Insanity rides) and others are a bit more gentle in nature (the Ferris wheel, Euroslide, and carousel), every single ride lining the midway is guaranteed to offer entertainment of some sort.
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Star Trek: The Exhibition In the fictional final frontier of Star Trek, the right to sit in the captain's chair requires years of training and experience. At the Arizona State Fair, however, it only takes $5. A full-scale mockup of the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, which patrons can visit with their cameras in tow, is one of the highlights of this collection of props, costumes, models, memorabilia, and screen-used items from the intergalactic franchise that will be on display as a part of the massive exhibition. Local Trekkers should try to resist the temptation to grab a phaser or tricorder to add to their collection, however, since we're guessing security will be tight.
The Arizona State Fair runs from Friday, October 11, until Sunday, November 3. Gates open at noon on Wednesdays through Fridays and at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.) Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids 5 to 13 and seniors, and free for those under 5.